Question: ‘A’, a sessions judge convicts some of the accused persons only on the basis of evidence of an accomplice who is a sole witness, in absence of any other evidence—either direct or circumstantial. In his judgment, he assigns the reason for the conviction of the accused persons that Section 134 of the Evidence Act states that no… Read More »

Question: ‘A’, a sessions judge convicts some of the accused persons only on the basis of evidence of an accomplice who is a sole witness, in absence of any other evidence—either direct or circumstantial. In his judgment, he assigns the reason for the conviction of the accused persons that Section 134 of the Evidence Act states that no particular number of witnesses shall, in any case, be required for the proof of any fact. Is the order of conviction passed by the sessions judge...

Question: ‘A’, a sessions judge convicts some of the accused persons only on the basis of evidence of an accomplice who is a sole witness, in absence of any other evidence—either direct or circumstantial.

In his judgment, he assigns the reason for the conviction of the accused persons that Section 134 of the Evidence Act states that no particular number of witnesses shall, in any case, be required for the proof of any fact. Is the order of conviction passed by the sessions judge valid? Give reasons.

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [ ‘A’, a sessions judge convicts some of the accused persons only on the basis of evidence of an accomplice who is a sole witness, in absence of any other evidence—either direct or circumstantial… Is the order of conviction passed by the sessions judge valid?]

Answer

Section 133 lays down that an accomplice is a competent witness and a conviction based on the sole testimony of an accomplice is not illegal. Contrary to this illustration (b) to Section 144, Evidence Act lays down that an accomplice is unworthy of credit unless he is corroborated in material particulars.

The established rule of law relating to the evidence of an accomplice, is “whilst is not illegal to act upon the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice, it is a rule of prudence to be universally followed as to amount to a rule of law that the courts ought not to pay any respect to the testimony of an accomplice unless he is corroborated in material particulars.

So far as the question about the conviction based on the testimony of the accomplice is concerned the law is settled and it is established rule of prudence that the testimony of accomplice if it is thought reliable as a whole, the conviction could only be based if it is corroborated by independent evidence either direct or circumstantial connecting the accused with the crime.

An approver bargains his immunity so he must prove his worthiness for credibility in court. This test is fulfilled, firstly, if the story he relates involves him in the crime and appears intrinsically to be a natural and probable catalogue of events that had taken place; secondly, when the hurdle is crossed, the story given by the approver so far as the accused on trial is concerned must implicate him in such manner as to give rise to a conclusive of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the case of Lal Chand v. State of Haryana, AIR 1984 SC 226 it was held that “An approver is undoubtedly a competent witness under the Evidence Act. But the appreciation of his evidence has to satisfy a double test:

  1. His evidence must show that he is a reliable witness and that is a test that is common to all witnesses if this test is satisfied the second test which still remains to be applied is that the approver’s evidence must receive sufficient corroboration. This test is special to cases of weak or trained evidence like that of the approver
  2. Every person who is a competent witness is not a reliable witness and the test of reliability has to be satisfied by an approver all the more before the question of corroboration of his evidence is considered by Criminal Courts.

Thus the judgment of a court would suffer from serious infirmity if in dealing with the evidence of the approver, the court does not appear to have addressed itself to the preliminary question as to whether the approver was a reliable witness or not.

Courts are naturally reluctant to act on the tainted evidence of an approver unless it is corroborated in material particulars by other independent evidence. But it would not be right to expect that such independent corroboration should cover the whole of the prosecution story or even all the material particulars.

If such a view is adopted, it would render the evidence of the accomplice wholly superfluous. On the other hand, it would not be safe to act upon such evidence merely because it is corroborated in minor particulars or incidental details because, in such a case, corroboration does not afford the necessary assurance that the main story disclosed by the approver can be reasonably and safely accepted as true.

In a case under Section 300, I.P.C. in Ranjeet Singh v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1988 SC 672 where there is plenty of corroborating evidence on record and the prosecution has been able to recover weapons of the crime from the accused at the instance of the accused and also lending reassurance by way of corroboration to the evidence of an approver, the conviction of death sentence awarded cannot, therefore, be said to be inappropriate.

Thus, in the present case at hand, when ‘A’, sessions judge convicts some of the accused persons only on the basis of evidence of an accomplice who is a sole witness, in absence of any other evidence either direct or circumstantial, the court is competent to do in view of section 134 of Indian Evidence Act which categorically makes it clear that there is no need of having a particular number of witnesses to prove any fact, even on basis of the sole witness, the conviction of the accused can be based upon.

But as far as accomplices as witnesses are concerned, it becomes crucial in view of the rule of prudence that the testimony of the accomplice is corroborated in material particulars before completely relying on his testimony and basing the conviction of the accused.

This is merely a rule of prudence to adjudge the credit of accomplice as a witness but not the law that corroboration of his testimony must be done as mentioned under section 133 of the act. Hence, considering the evidence produced with surrounding facts of the case, the order of conviction passed by the sessions judge is valid as it fulfils provisions of section 114 (b), section 133, and section 134 of the Indian Evidence Act.


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 2021-11-13T08:19:09+05:30
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