Question: In a criminal case, 12 persons are charged for the murder of B. There is only one eye-witness of the occurrence. Neither is there any other direct evidence nor is there any circumstantial evidence against the accused persons. Should the court convict all the 12 accused persons only on the basis of a single eye-witness? Give reasons… Read More »

Question: In a criminal case, 12 persons are charged for the murder of B. There is only one eye-witness of the occurrence. Neither is there any other direct evidence nor is there any circumstantial evidence against the accused persons. Should the court convict all the 12 accused persons only on the basis of a single eye-witness? Give reasons and also refer to the case law, if any, on the point. Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [In a criminal case, 12 persons...

Question: In a criminal case, 12 persons are charged for the murder of B. There is only one eye-witness of the occurrence. Neither is there any other direct evidence nor is there any circumstantial evidence against the accused persons. Should the court convict all the 12 accused persons only on the basis of a single eye-witness? Give reasons and also refer to the case law, if any, on the point.

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [In a criminal case, 12 persons are charged for the murder of B. There is only one eye-witness of the occurrence… Should the court convict all the 12 accused persons only on the basis of a single eye-witness?]

Answer

Evidence is weighed and not counted. The Supreme Court has in a number of cases sustained convictions on the basis of the testimony of a sole witness. It has opined that it is the quality (veracity) and not the quantity of evidence that matters. The testimony of a single witness if it is straightforward, cogent and if believed is sufficient or wholly reliable to prove the prosecution case, the conviction can be based on it

Situations may arise and do arise where only a single person is available to give evidence in support of a disputed fact. The court naturally has to weigh carefully such testimony and if it is satisfied that the evidence is reliable and free from all taints which tend to render oral testimony open to suspicion, it becomes its duty to act upon such testimony.

In the case of Vadivelu Thevar v. State of Madras, 1957 SCR 981, the following propositions may be safely stated as firmly established:

  1. As a general rule, a court can and may act on the testimony of a single witness though uncorroborated. One credible witness outweighs the testimony of a number of other witnesses of indifferent character.
  2. Unless corroboration is insisted upon by statute, courts should not insist on corroboration except in cases where the nature of the testimony of the single witness itself requires as a rule of prudence, that corroboration should be insisted upon, for example in the case of a child witness, or of a witness whose evidence is that of an accomplice or of an analogous character.
  3. Whether corroboration of the testimony of a single witness is or is not necessary, must depend upon facts and circumstances of each case and no general rule can be laid down in a matter like this and much depends upon the judicial discretion of the Judge before whom the case comes.

The Court proceeded to state:

“It is not seldom that a crime had been committed in the presence of only one witness, leaving aside those cases which are not of uncommon occurrence, where the determination of guilt depends entirely on circumstantial evidence. If the Legislature were to insist upon a plurality of witnesses, cases where the testimony of a single witness only could be available in proof of the crime would go unpunished. It is here that the discretion of the presiding judge comes into play.

The matter thus must depend upon the circumstances of each case and the quality of the evidence of the single witness whose testimony has to be either accepted or rejected.

If such testimony is found by the court to be entirely reliable, there is no legal impediment to the conviction of the accused person on such proof. Even as the guilt of an accused person may be proved by the testimony of a single witness, the innocence of an accused person may be established on the testimony of a single witness, even though a considerable number of witnesses may be forthcoming to testify to the truth of the case for the prosecution.”

In Bhimappa Chandappa v. State of Karnataka, (2006) 11 SCC 323, this Court held that testimony of a solitary witness can be made the basis of conviction. The credibility of the witness requires to be tested with reference to the quality of his evidence which must be free from blemish or suspicion and must impress the Court as natural, wholly truthful and so convincing that the Court has no hesitation in recording a conviction solely on his uncorroborated testimony. From the aforesaid discussion, it is clear that the Indian legal system does not insist on a plurality of witnesses.

Any conviction is not influenced by the quantity of the witnesses but by the quality and credibility of witness testimonies. Thus, convictions can be based on the evidence of a single eyewitness if otherwise found reliable [Chacko v. State of Kerala AIR 2004 SC 2688].


Important Mains Questions Series for Judiciary, APO & University Exams

  1. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-I
  2. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-II
  3. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-III
  4. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-IV
  5. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-V
  6. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-VI
  7. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-VII
  8. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-VIII
  9. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-IX
  10. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-X
Updated On 2021-11-15T10:17:47+05:30
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