Ponnam Chandraiah Vs.
State of A.P. Rep. by Public Prosecutor  INSC 1256 (30 July 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1182 OF 2008
(Arising out of SLP (Crl. ) No. 6715 OF 2006) Ponnam Chandraiah ...
State of A.P. ...Respondent With CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1183 OF 2008 (Arising out
of SLP (Crl.) No.6792 OF 2006)
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
question correctness of the judgment rendered by a Division Bench of the Andhra
Pradesh High Court.
persons including the appellants faced trial for alleged commission of offences
punishable under Sections 147,148, 448 read with Sections 149, 302 read with
Section 149 and Section 324 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code,
1860 (in short the `IPC') Learned III Additional Sessions judge, Karimnagar for
each one of them guilty. In appeal, High Court upheld the conviction of A1, A3,
A7 to A9, A12 and A13 and sentence of imprisonment for life as imposed by the
trial court. Rest of the accused persons were acquitted. The present appeals
are by A7 to A9 and A 13. Background facts in a nutshell are as follows:
PW-1 is the wife,.
PW-2 is the father, PW-3 is the mother, PW-4 is the brother and PW-5 is the sister-in-law
of the deceased. The accused, deceased and the material witnesses are residents
of Neerukulla village. The deceased purchased an Auto and was plying in between
Sulthanabad and Neerukulla. On 02-07-2003 at about 9-00 PM, the deceased
returned to his house from Sulthanabad and informed PWs.l to 3 that when he
requested A-1 and A-2 to travel in his Auto as per the serial number, they
refused to travel in his Auto and beat him. On 03-07-2003 morning, PW-1 and the
deceased went to the house of the Sarpanch and raised a dispute. 'The Sarpanch
called A-1-and informed about the incident. A-1 admitted his guilt in the
presence of PWs.9 and 10. On the same day at about 6-00 PM, A-1 to A-16 came to
the house of the deceased and attacked him. A-1 beat the deceased with a stick.
The deceased ran into the house and bolted the door. In the meanwhile, when
PW-2 intervened to rescue the deceased, A-1 beat him with a stick. A-3 broke
the doors and all the accused entered the house and beat the deceased. Some of
the accused were armed with iron rods and axes. They beat the deceased
indiscriminately. Then the deceased ran out from the house. The accused chased
and beat him indiscriminately. Finally, the deceased fell down at the Gram
panchayat office on receipt of the injuries. Later, the deceased was taken in
an Auto to the Government Hospital, Sulthanabad. On the advise of the Doctor,
they went to the Police Station and gave Ex P-1 report. On the basis of Ex.P-1,
the police registered a crime for the offences under Sections 147, 148, 448,
307, 327 read with 149 of I.P.C. Thereafter, the deceased and PW-2, who
received injuries, were referred to the Government Hospital, Karimnagar. The
deceased, while undergoing treatment, succumbed to the injuries. After the
death of the deceased, the Sections of law were altered in the crime through
the alteration memo. The Inspector of Police took up investigation, prepared
the rough sketch, observed the scene of offence, held inquest over the dead
body of the deceased, seized M.Os.1 and 2 and later sent the dead body for
postmortem examination. The accused were arrested and weapons were recovered.
After completion of the investigation, the police laid the charge sheet. The
accused denied the charges and claimed for trial.
prosecution, in order to prove the guilt of the accused, examined PWs.1 to 22
and marked Exs.P-.1 to P-39. On behalf of the defence, no oral evidence was
adduced, but Ex.D-1, a portion of Section 161 Cr.P.C. statement of PW-3 was
marked. High Court by a common judgment disposed of four appeals numbered as
Criminal Appeal Nos. 1114, 1128, 1130 and 1155 of 2005.
support of the appeals learned counsel for the accused persons submitted that
the conviction is based primarily on the evidence of witnesses who were related
to the deceased.
the accusations even if accepted in toto do not make out a case relatable to
Section 302 IPC.
counsel for the respondent State on the other hand supported the judgments of
the Courts below.
regard to the interestedness of the witnesses for furthering the prosecution
version, relationship is not a factor to affect the credibility of a witness.
It is more often than not that a relation would not conceal the actual culprit
and make allegations against an innocent person. Foundation has to be laid if a
plea of false implication is made. In such cases, the court has to adopt a
careful approach and analyse evidence to find out whether it is cogent and
Dalip Singh and Ors. v. The State of Punjab (AIR 1953 SC 364) it has been laid
down as under:- "A witness is normally to be considered independent unless
he or she springs from sources which are likely to be tainted and that usually
means unless the witness has cause, such as enmity against the accused, to wish
to implicate him falsely. Ordinarily a close relation would be the last to
screen the real culprit and falsely implicate an innocent person. It is true,
when feelings run high and there is personal cause for enmity, that there is a
tendency to drag in an innocent person against whom a witness has a grudge
along with the guilty, but foundation must be laid for such a criticism and the
mere fact of relationship far from being a foundation is 6 often a sure
guarantee of truth. However, we are not attempting any sweeping generalization.
Each case must be judged on its own facts. Our observations are only made to
combat what is so often put forward in cases before us as a general rule of
prudence. There is no such general rule. Each case must be limited to and be
governed by its own facts."
above decision has since been followed in Guli Chand and Ors. v. State of
Rajasthan (1974 (3) SCC 698) in which Vadivelu Thevar v. State of Madras (AIR
1957 SC 614) was also relied upon.
may also observe that the ground that the witness being a close relative and
consequently being a partisan witness, should not be relied upon, has no
substance. This theory was repelled by this Court as early as in Dalip Singh's
case (supra) in which surprise was expressed over the impression which
prevailed in the minds of the Members of the Bar that relatives were not
Vivian Bose, J. it was observed:
"We are unable
to agree with the learned Judges of the High Court that the testimony of the
two eyewitnesses requires corroboration.
If the foundation for
such an observation is based on the fact that the witnesses are women and that
the fate of seven men hangs on their testimony, we know of no such rule.
If it is grounded on
the reason that they are closely related to the deceased we are unable to
concur. This is a fallacy common to many criminal cases and one which another
Bench of this Court endeavoured to dispel in - `Rameshwar v. State of
Rajasthan' (AIR 1952 SC 54 at p.59). We find, however, that it unfortunately
still persists, if not in the judgments of the Courts, at any rate in the
arguments of counsel."
in Masalti and Ors. v. State of U.P. (AIR 1965 SC 202) this Court observed: (p.
209-210 para 14):
"But it would,
we think, be unreasonable to contend that evidence given by witnesses should be
discarded only on the ground that it is evidence of partisan or interested
witnesses.......The mechanical rejection of such evidence on the sole ground
that it is partisan would invariably lead to failure of justice. No hard and
fast rule can be laid down as to how much evidence should be appreciated.
Judicial approach has to be cautious in dealing with such evidence; but the
plea that such evidence should be rejected because it is partisan cannot be
accepted as correct."
the same effect is the decision in State of Punjab v. Jagir Singh (AIR 1973 SC
2407) and Lehna v. State of Haryana (2002 (3) SCC 76). Stress was laid by the
accused- appellants on the non-acceptance of evidence tendered by some
witnesses 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). This 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, notwithstanding acquittal
of number of other co-accused persons, his conviction can be maintained. It is
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 to prove guilt of other
Falsity of particular
material witness or 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 witnesses cannot be branded as liar. 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 Ali v.
The State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1957 SC 366).
above position was elaborately discussed in Sucha Singh and Anr. v. State of
Punjab (2003 (6) JT SC 348), and Israr v. State of U.P. (2005 (9) SCC 616)
S. Sudershan Reddy v. State of A.P. (AIR 2006 SC 2716), it was observed;
Relationship is not a factor to affect credibility of a witness. It is more
often than not that a relation would not conceal actual culprit and make
allegations against an innocent person. Foundation has to be laid if plea of
false implication is made. In such cases, the court has to adopt a careful
approach and analyse evidence to find out whether it is cogent and credible.
Criminal appeal Nos. 222 of 2007, this Court has occasioned to deal with the
cases of some of the co-accused persons. In that case it was concluded as
"If the evidence
on record is considered on the touchstone principles set out above the
inevitable conclusion is that the proper conviction would be Section 304 Part I
IPC instead of Section 302 IPC. The conviction of the appellants is accordingly
altered from Section 302 read with Section 149 to Section 304 Part I read with
Section 149 IPC. Custodial sentence of 10 years would meet the ends of justice.
The findings of the guilt in respect of other offences and the sentences
imposed do not warrant interference. The sentence shall run concurrently."
view of what has been stated in the aforesaid Criminal Appeal, the appeals are
allowed to the aforesaid extent.
appeals are partly allowed.
...............................J. (Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)