Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh  Insc 454 (27 July 2006)
Pasasyat & Lokeshwar Singh Panta
Out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 2787 of 2005) ARIJIT PASAYAT, J.
in this Appeal is to the judgment rendered by a Division Bench of the Andhra
Pradesh High Court upholding the conviction of the appellant for an offence
punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the
trial court had found the appellant guilty of murdering his wife on 10.1.1994.
The accused was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life. Accused challenged
the conviction and sentence by filing an appeal before the High Court which was
numbered as Criminal Appeal No. 511 of 1997. Initially by order dated 30.4.1998
a Division Bench of the High Court allowed the Appeal. The respondent-State
filed an appeal before this Court. Since the order passed by the High Court was
practically unreasoned, without expressing any opinion on merits, the judgment
was set aside and the matter was remitted to the High Court for fresh disposal.
The High Court by the impugned judgment dismissed the appeal confirming the
order of the conviction and sentence passed by learned Session Judge, Guntur.
background facts, as projected by prosecution during trial in a nutshell are as
Lakshmi (hereinafter referred to as the "deceased") was living with
the appellant (hereinafter referred to as the "accused") since about
15 years and gave birth to two children. On 10.1.1994, at about 10.A.M. while
the deceased, her father-Durbhakula Venkateswarlu (PW1), her brother, Durbhakula
Ramu (PW2) and her sister, Durbhakula Kumari (PW3) were talking in their house,
the accused came there, abused the deceased in filthy language and questioned
the deceased as to why she returned to her father's house without informing him
and why she gave information to the Railway police about his movements. By that
time Gopisetty Nagamani (PW6) had reached there. He grew wild, caught hold of
her hair and stabbed with a knife causing multiple injuries. When PWs. 1 to 3
came to her rescue, the accused fled away from the scene of offence pushing and
threatening them with dire consequences.Makkalla Ankulu and Mekala Krishnavenamma
(PW4) came out their house and noticed the incident. Mothati Setharavamma and Mekala
Venkaiah, who were the immediate neighbours of PW-1 noticed the accused fleeing
away from the scene of offence.
strength of Ex.P-1 report given by PW1, i.e. Crl. No.1/94 for alleged
commission of offence punishable under Section 302 I.P.C. was registered by T. Murli
Krishna, SI (PW11) and K. Suba Rao (PW12) took up investigation, visited the
scene of offence, prepared Ex.P-20 rough sketch of the scene, prepared Ex P-7
observation report and conducted inquest over the dead body of the deceased
under Ex.P-8- panchanama, in the presence of C.K. Reddy (PW7) and others.
inquest, Exs. P-13 to P-16 photographs of the deceased were taken. Exs. P-9 to
P-12 are the corresponding negatives.
also seized blood stained earth and control earth (M.Os. 2 and 3) and also a
pair of hawai chappals (M.O.-1) from the scene of offence. Dr. K.P. Rao (PW10),
Medical Officer conducted autopsy over the dead body and issued Ex.P-17- Post
Mortem Certificate. The accused who was found lodged in Adoni Sub Jail in
another case was produced before the trial Court. The trial court framed a
charge against the accused for commission of offence punishable under Section
302 I.P.C., to which the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried.
prove its case, the prosecution in all, examined 12 witnesses, namely PWs. 1 to
12 and marked Exs. P-1 and P-27 and M.Os 1 to 6. Exs.D-1 and D-2 are the
contradictions marked in Section 16 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in
short the 'Code') statement of PW-6. After completion of trial and after
hearing both sides and on considering the material available on record, the
learned Sessions Judge found the accused guilty for the offence under Section
302 I.P.C., and accordingly convicted and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment
for life. The Trial Court found that evidence of all other so-called eye
witnesses did not help the prosecution as they departed from the version given
during investigation and the case hinged on the evidence of PW1. His evidence
noted above, an appeal was filed before the High Court questioning correctness
of the judgment of the trial court.
High Court noticed that except PW1, the father of the deceased, no other
witnesses supported the prosecution version. However, the High Court found that
the evidence of PW1 i.e. the father of the deceased, was sufficient enough to
fasten the guilt on the accused. Accordingly the appeal was dismissed.
support of the appeal, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the
High Court itself noticed that the evidence of PW1 was not fully credible as he
was speaking half truth and was giving an exaggerated version. Though the
evidence was found to be largely inconsistent, yet it was held that the same
was sufficient to hold the accused guilty. It was pointed out that the approach
of the High Court is clearly unsustainable. The evidence of PW1 is full of
contradictions and after having held that he was not speaking the truth and/or
was exaggerating, the High Court should not have placed reliance on his
evidence to hold the appellant guilty. It was further submitted that only on
the version of a single witness whose evidence was discarded to a large extent,
the trial court and the High Court should not have held the accused-appellant
response, learned counsel for the respondent-State submitted that even if it is
accepted, as was observed by the High Court, that PW1 was not speaking the
truth yet his evidence was sufficient to establish that the accused was guilty.
was laid by the accused-appellants on the non- acceptance of evidence tendered
by PW1 to a large extent to contend about desirability to throw out entire
prosecution case. In essence prayer is to apply the principle of "falsus
in uno falsus in omnibus" (false in one thing, false in everything).
plea is clearly untenable. Even if major portion of evidence is found to be
deficient, in case residue is sufficient to prove guilt of an accused, his
conviction can be maintained.
the duty of Court to separate grain from chaff. Where chaff can be separated
from grain, it would be open to the Court to convict an accused notwithstanding
the fact that evidence has been found to be deficient, or to be note wholly
credible. Falsity of material particular would not ruin it from the beginning
to end. The maxim "falsus in uno falsus in omnibus" has no
application in India and the witness or witnesses cannot
be branded as liar(s). The maxim "falsus in uno falsus in omnibus"
has not received general acceptance nor has this maxim come to occupy the
status of rule of law. It is merely a rule of caution. All that it amounts to,
is that in such cases testimony may be disregarded, and not that it must be
disregarded. The doctrine merely involves the question of weight of evidence
which a Court may apply in a given set of circumstances, but it is not what may
be called 'a mandatory rule of evidence. (See Nisar Alli v. The State of Uttar Pradesh [AIR 1957 SC 366]. In a given case,
it is always open to a Court to differentiate accused who had been acquitted
from those who were convicted where there are a number of accused persons. (See
Gurucharan Singh and Anr. v. State of Punjab [AIR 1956 SC 460]. The doctrine is a dangerous one specially in India for if a whole body of the
testimony were to be rejected, because witness was evidently speaking an
untruth in some aspect, it is to be feared that administration of criminal
justice would come to a dead-stop.
just cannot help in giving embroidery to a story, however, true in the main.
Therefore, it has to be appraised in each case as to what extent the evidence
is worthy of acceptance, and merely because in some respects the Court
considers the same to be insufficient for placing reliance on the testimony of
a witness, it does not necessarily follow as a matter of law that it must be
disregarded in all respect as well.
evidence has to be shifted with care. The aforesaid dictum is not a sound rule
for the reason that one hardly comes across a witness whose evidence does not
contain a grain of untruth or at any rate exaggeration, embroideries or
embellishment. (See Sohrab s/o Beli Nayata and Anr. v. The State of Madhya Pradesh [1972 (3) SCC 751] and Ugar Ahir
and Ors. v. The State of Bihar [AIR 1965 SC 277]. An attempt has
to be made to, as noted above, in terms of felicitous metaphor, separate grain
from the chaff, truth from falsehood.
it is not feasible to separate truth from falsehood, because grain and chaff
are inextricably mixed up, and in the process of separation an absolutely new
case has to be reconstructed by divorcing essential details presented by the
prosecution completely from the context and the background against which they
are made, the only available course to be made is to discard the evidence in toto.
(See Zwinglee Ariel v. State of Madhya Pradesh [AIR 1954 SC 15] and Balaka Singh and Ors. v. The State of Punjab [1975 (4) SCC 511]. As observed by
this Court in State of Rajasthan v. Smt Kalki and Anr. [1981 (2) SCC
752], normal discrepancies in evidence are those which are due to normal errors
of observation, normal errors of memory due to lapse of time, due to mental
disposition such as shock and horror at the time of occurrence and those are
always there however honest and truthful a witness may be. Material
discrepancies are those which are not normal, and not expected of a normal
person. Courts have to label the category to which a discrepancy may be
categorized. While normal discrepancies do not corrode the credibility of a
party's case, material discrepancies do so.
aspects were highlighted in Krishna Mochi and Ors. v. State of Bihar etc. [2002
(6) SCC 81] and in Sucha Singh v. State of Punjab [2003 (7) SCC 643]. It was further illuminated in the Zahira H. Sheikh
v. State of Gujarat [2004 (4) SCC 158], Ram Udgar Singh
v. State of Bihar [2004(10) SCC 443], Gorle S. Naidu
v. State of Andhra
Pradesh [2003 (12)
SCC 449] and in Gubbala Venugopalswamy v. State of Andhra Pradesh [2004 (10) SCC 120].
background of principles set out above it is to be seen how far the evidence of
PW1 is cogent and credible.
because he was the solitary witness who claimed to have seen the occurrence,
that cannot be a ground to discard his evidence, in the background of what has
been stated in Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872 (in short the ' Evidence
Act'). No particular number of witnesses are required for the proof of any
fact, material evidence and not number of witnesses has to be taken note of by
the courts to ascertain the truth of the allegations made. Therefore, if the
evidence of PW 1 is accepted as cogent and credible, then the prosecution is to
succeed. It is to be noted that PW1-father of the appellant, claimed to have
set law into motion. The testimony of PW1 was to the effect that after
witnessing a part of the occurrence he had run to the police station and had
come back within about five minutes. The evidence on record dis- proves
veracity of this part of his evidence. The occurrence is alleged to have taken
place and at about 10 P.M. the FIR was lodged at the police station at about
11.30 P.M. PW1 and the investigating officer accepted that it will take nearly
one hour for somebody on foot to reach the police station considering the
distance of the alleged place of occurrence and the police station. There is
another interesting factor PW1 accepted in the cross examination that the
report (Ex.B1) was written in the police station in the presence of sub
inspector and a constable. But in his examination-in-chief, he had stated that
he had got written the report by somebody at a hotel and the person normally
writes petitions. No particulars of this person who allegedly scribed the
report, not even his name, was stated by PW1. His evidence is further to the
effect that he alone had come to the police station where the report was lodged
and that is how he admitted that the report was written at the police station.
This may not appear to be that important a factor considering the illiteracy of
PW1. But there is another significant factor which completely destroys the
prosecution version and the credibility of PW1 as a witness. He has indicated
four different places to be the place of occurrence.
examination in chief he stated that the occurrence took place in his house. In
the cross-examination he stated that the incident took place at the house of
his wife-the deceased's mother. This is a very important factor considering the
undisputed position and in fact the admission of PW1 that he and his wife were
separated nearly two decades ago, and that he was not in visiting terms with
his wife. Then the question would automatically arise as to how in spite of
strained relationship he could have seen the occurrence as alleged in the house
of his wife. That is not the end of the matter. In his cross examination he
further stated that the incident happened in the small lane in front of the
house of his wife.
is at clear variance with the statement that the occurrence took place inside
the house where allegedly he, the deceased, his son-PW2 and daughters PWs. 3
and 6 were present. That is not the final say of the witness. He accepted that
in the FIR (Ex. B1) he had stated the place of occurrence to be the house of
the deceased. Though the FIR is not a substantive evidence yet, the same can be
used to test the veracity of the witness. PW1 accepted that what was stated in
the FIR was correct. When the place of occurrence itself has not been
established it would be not proper to accept the prosecution version.
being the position the High Court was not right in lightly brushing aside the
apparent inconsistencies and discrepancies by making a general observation that
the PW1 is an illiterate person. Above being the position the impugned judgment
of the High Court is set aside. The accused be set at liberty forthwith unless
he is required to be in custody in connection with any other case.