Kaur Vs. Union Territory of Chandigarh  INSC 312 (3 November 1987)
M.N. (J) VENKATACHALLIAH, M.N. (J) SEN, A.P. (J)
1988 AIR 139 1988 SCR (1) 745 1988 SCC (1) 1 JT 1987 (4) 239 1987 SCALE (2)1019
Evidence Act, 1872: Section 114 111. (b) and 133-Accomplice's
evidence-Credibility of-Nature and extent of corroboration-Necessity for-accuser’s
conviction-on uncorroborated evidence-Effect of.
Procedure Code, 1973: Section 313-Approver's testimony-To be put to accused in
The prosecution alleged that the married life of the appellant, who was said to
be 151/2 years of age, was in a serious disarray, that she and the
non-appealing accused were on terms of illicit intimacy, that she also
submitted herself to PW 2 in an extra-marital relation, that on 13.11.73 she
implored the non-appealing accused and PW 2 to free her from a cruel husband by
doing away with him, that she agreed that she would, thereafter live with the
non- appealing accused as his wife, that the three designed and conspired to do
away with the deceased, in pursuance of which the appellant persuaded her
husband to go to the bus stand at Chandigarh at 9.30 a.m. On 14th November,
1973, where the non-appealing accused and PW 2 were waiting for him as
pre-arranged, and took him to Pinjore by bus, where they consumed liquor
together and the non-appealing accused purchased Ghotna, that while all the
three were walking back to Chandigarh and climbed the way side hill the non-
appealing accused gave blows on the head of the unsuspecting deceased with the
Ghotna, while PW 2 pinned him down, that they concealed the clothes and body of
the deceased in the nearby bushes, that both of them returned to Chandigarh by
night fall, and the non appealing accused informed PW 2 that he, in turn, had
informed the appellant of the death of her husband, that the mother of the
deceased, PW 19, lodged a complaint on 13.12.73 about her missing son in
writing with the Senior Superintendent of Police, Chandigarh, alleging that she
had learnt that a certain person of the village Lahor Khoda with his two sons
and the Sarpanch with his two other relatives had killed her son, the motive
being that her son had developed illicit relations with the daughter of the
person, that after coming to know of her husband's death the appellant misled
her mother-in-law PW 19. into making a H 746 report to the police containing
false and misleading information in an attempt to draw a red-herring across the
non-appealing accused was arrested on 3.4.75. On his information Ex. P8, a pair
of shoes, purse, 25 pieces of bones including an incomplete human skull were
appellant and PW 2 were arrested on 8.5.75.
completing the investigation, charges were brought against the appellants and
the two accused for conspiracy and murder. PW 2, who was one of the co-accused,
trial court on the basis of the approver's testimony as corroborated by other
evidence held the non- appealing accused and the appellant guilty of the
offences under sections 302 and 120-B of the I.P.C. and sentenced them to
imprisonment for life. The High Court dismissed their appeals and confirmed the
convictions and sentence.
the appeal to this Court, it was urged that the evidence of the approver
insofar as the compicity of the appellant was concerned, lacked corroboration
on material particulars and that no conviction could be sustained on such
uncorroborated accomplice's testimony.
the question as to: (1) the nature and extent of corroboration of an
accomplice's evidence; and (2) the procedure for the trial of offences by a
'child' under the East Punjab Children's Act, 1949, ^
1.1 An accomplice, by long legal tradition, is a notoriously infamous witness,
one who being parties criminis, purchases his immunity by accepting to accuse
others. Section 114, illustration (b) of the Evidence Act envisages the
presumptive un-credit worthiness of an accomplice. But, then section 133
provides that a conviction is not illegal merely because it rests upon an
accomplice's uncorroborated testimony. [753C- D]
In indictments, particularly of serious crimes, counsel of caution and the rule
of prudence enjoin that it is unsafe to rest a conviction on the evidence of a
guilty partner in a crime without independent corroboration on the material
particulars. Judicial experience was, thus, elevated to a rule of law. lt is a
practice which deserves all the reverence of law. [753D-E] l.3 The nature and
extent of the corroboration must necessarily 747 vary with the nature and
circumstances of each case.
of any general rule, valid for all occasions is, at once, unwise and
The corroboration has to be of two kinds; first belonging to the area of
reassurance of the credit of the approver himself as a trustworthy witness; and
the second- which arises for conclusion after the court is satisfied about the
creditibility of the approver-as to the corroboration in material particulars
not only of the commission of the crime but also of the complicity of other
accused-person in the crime. If on the first area the court is not satisfied,
the second does not arise. However, the two areas of corroboration are not two
separate, watertight compartments. The evidence as a whole will have to be
examined to reach conclusions on both aspects. [757G-H; 752C] Sharvana Bhavan
v. State of Madras, AIR 1966 SC 1273 referred
The controversy in the present case in the ultimate analysis, belongs to the
second area, whether the approver's testimony as to appellant's complicity in
the conspiracy could safely be held to have been corroborated by independent
evidence on the material particulars. [758F-G] There was a considerable lapse
of time between the death of decease and the arrest of the appellant and the
non-appealing accused. There is no evidence to show that, in the interregnum,
there was any liasion between the two. The incriminating circumstances in the
evidence of the approver appearing against the appellant that on 13.11.1973
appellant wept and implored the non-appealing accused and PW 2 to do away with
the deceased and that appellant also agreed that she would, thereafter, live
with the non-appealing accused had had to be put to the appellant m the course
of her examination under section 313 Cr. P.C. but this has not been done.
Appellant was not afforded an opportunity to submit an explanation to it. That
part of the evidence must for that reason, be excluded from consideration. [759C-E]
Harijan Magha Jesha v. State of Gujarat,  3 SCC 474, referred to.
a consideration of the entire matter, the approver's evidence in regard to the
complicity of the appellant in the conspiracy lacks corroboration on certain
material particulars necessary to connect the 748 appellant. A little more
reassurance than is afforded by the state of evidence in the case is perhaps
necessary to convict appellant. The appellant in the circumstances would be
entitled to the benefit of doubt. [759F] At the time of the commission of the
offence, the appellant, even on the basis of the observations made by the
sessions court, was about 15 years of age and was a 'child' within the meaning
of East Punjab Children's Act, 1949. The sessions court invoked the proviso to
section 27 of the Act and held that the appellant was so depraved a character
that none of the other methods mentioned in the section in which the case could
legally be dealt with was suitable in her case. [759G; 760C] In view of the
finding that the appellant is entitled to the benefit of doubt, any examination
of the legality or propriety of the procedure adopted in the case in the matter
of trial of a 'child' under the East Punjab Children's Act, 1949 and the
correctness of the view of the sessions court in appealing to the proviso to
section 27, and sentencing appellant to imprisonment for life is not necessary
. [760 C-D] Appeal allowed. Conviction and sentence of the appellant set aside
and appellant directed to be set at liberty. However, conviction and sentence
of the other non- appearing accused left undisturbed. [760E] Wigmore on
Evidence: 3rd Editition Vol. VII para 2054, Rex v. Bhaskerville,  2 KB
658, Rameshwar Kalyan Singh v. State of Rajasthan AIR 1952 SC 54, Director of
Public Persecutions v. Kill bourne,  Appeal A.C. 729/All England law
reports 1982(1) page 815(g), R. v. Beck,  1 All ER 807(CA), R. v.
Spencer,  2 All ER 928, R. v. Donat,  2 Cr. App. R. 1973, Attorney
General of Hongkong v. Wong Muko Ping  2 W.L.R. 1033 and Halsbury's Laws
of England IV Ed. Vol. II p. 268, para 454 referred to.
Appellate Jurisdiction: Criminal Appeal No. 742 of 1979.
the Judgment and order dated 16.1.1979 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in
Crl. A.No. 656 of 1976.
Sohal and P.N. Puri for the Appellant. Kiran Choudhri and T. Sridharan for the
Judgment of the Court was delivered by 749 VENKATACHALIAH J. This appeal, by
Special Leave, preferred against the Judgment dated April 26, 1976 of the High
Court of Punjab & Haryana affirming the judgment dated 26 4 1976 of the
Sessions Judge in S.C. No. S of 1976 convicting appellant for offences under
Sections 302 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and sentencing her to
imprisonment for life, raises certain questions as to the nature and extent of
corroboration of an accomplice's evidence; and as to the procedure for the
trial of offences by a "child" under the East Punjab Children's Act
Kaur was said to be 15 1/2 years of age at the time of the commission of the
offence alleged against her.
From 14.11.1973 the whereabouts of appellant's husband Pritam Singh, a
police-constable, were not known.
mother Mukhtiar Kaur (P.W. 19) reported this fact and expressed her
apprehensions in the matter in her complaint to the Superintendent of Police.
Appellant was arrested on 8.5.1975. Nand Singh and Ram Sarup were also arrested
on 8.5. 1975. Ram Sarup became an approver. Appellant's defence was one of
The judgment of the High Court under appeal is common to Criminal Appeal No.
676 of 1976 preferred by Nand Singh who was convicted under Sections 302, 364,
201 and 120-B of I.P.C. and also sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Appellant's husband, Pritam Singh for whose murder appellant and the said Nand
Singh had been arraigned, was, at the relevant time, a police-constable at the
Police Station West, Sector-11 Chandigarh. Nand Singh was another constable at
the same Police Station. Nand Singh's brother Bhag Singh and Pritam Singh were
neighbours, residing in adjacent Government-quarters in Sector 20-A,
Chandigarh. Ram Sarup, who later turned approver, was another police- constable
on Guard duty at the Punjab Raj Bhavan, Chandigarh.
The married life of Appellant and Pritam Singh, according to the prosecution,
lacked connubial felicity and was marked by constant bickerings and quarrels,
the cause for this discord being the addiction of Pritam Singh to liquor. It is
the prosecution case that Pritam Singh was a dipsomaniac and was constantly
subjecting appellant to corporeal intransigence. It was further alleged that
appellant had developed illicit intimacy with Nand Singh.
Sarup, in the course of his visits 750 to Bhag Singh's house met, and became
friendly with Nand Singh and the two become accustomed to take liquor together.
Sarup also knew deceased Pritam Singh. It is alleged that on occasions Nand
Singh, when he lost self-control under the influence of liquor, used to confide
in Ram Sarup of his illicit sexual exploits with appellant. This appears to
have tempted Ram Sarup to ask Nand Singh to introduce Ram Sarup also to
appellant for a similar intrigue.
On November 13, 1973, in the afternoon when Ram Sarup was off-duty, Nand Singh
took Ram Sarup to his own quarters in Sector 20 A-said to be at a short
distance from the appellant's residence-and the two had liquor together.
Nand Singh is stated to have taken Ram Sarup to the residence of, and
introduced him to the appellant and persuaded her to gratify the desire of Ram
and Ram Sarup are stated to have indulged in acts of illegal intimacy.
the same afternoon, the three met again at appellant's home when, it would
appear, appellant while narrating the privations and hardships endured by her
at the hands of her husband broke-down and implored Nand Singh and Ram Sarup to
do away with Pritam Singh. She appears to have also offered that after Pritam
singh's death she would marry and live with Nand Singh, who was then unmarried.
According to the prosecution, it was agreed amongst the three that the
appellant should persuade her husband to reach Chandigarh bus-stand the
following day i.e. November 14, 1973 and that Nand Singh and Ram Sarup, who
would be present three, would entice him away to Pinjore with the inducement of
liquor and, do away with him there.
Pursuant to this design and conspiracy, appellant is stated to have persuaded
her husband to go to the bus-stand at Chandigarh at 9.30 a.m. On 14.11.1973
where Nand Singh and Ram Sarup who were waiting for him as pre-arranged took
him to Pinjore by bus. There, all the three cumsumed liquor together. Nand
Singh is also stated to have purchased "Ghotna" on the pretext that
his sister-in-law had asked for the purchase of one. Thereafter, all the three
agreed to go back Chandigarh on foot which took them along a 'dandi' passing by
the side of the Pinjore gardens. They reached the railway line near Surajpur
Cement Factory and took the foot- path towards Chandigarh. When the three
reached a distance of almost 2 miles from Surajpur, Nand Singh suggested that
they should climb up a hill on the way side to enjoy a panoramic view of
Chandigarh. Accordingly, all the three started climbing. Ram Sarup (P.W. 2) was
ahead; Pritam Singh was in 751 the middle with Nand Singh following behind him.
Nand Singh is stated to have suddenly administered 2-3 Ghotna blows on the head
of the unsuspecting Pritam Singh and told Ram Sarup (P.W. 2) to pin the
tottering Pritam Singh down. Ram Sarup pulled Pritam Singh down whereupon Nand
Singh gave 8 to 10 more blows with the Ghotna on the person of Pritam Singh.
Nand Singh threw away the Ghotna and the two, namely, i.e. Nand Singh and Ram
Sarup, hastened towards Chandigarh.
after the two had gone 2 furlongs or so, Nand Singh urged Ram Sarup (P.W. 2)
that they both go back to find out whether Pritam Singh was really dead or not.
They, accordingly, returned and ensured that Pritam Singh had died. They
removed the pants and Bush-shirt of the deceased and concealed them in a bush.
Then, the body of Pritam Singh was also concealed in the nearby hushes. The
turban of the Pritam Singh had fallen down at the spot.
the two returned to Chandigarh by night- fall. Next day, i.e. On 15.11.1973,
Nand Singh came to Raj Bhavan where Ram Sarup was on duty and told the latter
that he had, in turn, informed Balwant Kaur of the death of Pritam Singh. This,
in substance is the prosecution case as unfolded in the evidence of the Ram
Sarup (P.W. 2) who turned approver.
On 13. 12.1973, Mukhtiar Kaur (P.W. 19), the mother of deceased-Pritam lodged a
complaint about her missing son in writing with the Senior Superintendent of
Police, Chandigarh. In that, it was stated that she had learnt from Pandit Sita
Ram that a certain Naik Singh and his two sons of the village Lahor Khuda and
Dev Singh, the Sarpanch of that village along with two other relatives of the
Sarpanch had killed Pritam Singh, the alleged motive was that deceased Pritam
Singh, when he was earlier serving in Lahorkhuda had developed illicit
relations with Naik Singh's daughter, Prito. At the trial Mukhtiar Kaur was
examined to establish that this complaint was engineered by the appellant and
Nand Singh to put the investigation on a wrong scent.
nothing was heard of the matter for along time till 3.4.1975, when Nand Singh
was arrested by ASI Gulzara Singh (P.W. 24) on his information Exg. P. 8, a
pair of shoes, a purse, 25 pieces of bones including an incomplete human skull
were recovered. Dr. Inderjit Dewan (P.W. I) examined the bones and was of the
opinion that they were the remains of a well-built adult, but not old, male of
a height of about S-9. According to P.W. 1, the person had died more than 4
months previously. The death was ascribed in all probability to the injuries to
the skull administered by a blunt weapon. P.W. 1 could 752 not, however confirm
whether the injuries were ante-mortem or not.
was arrested by ASI Subhash Chander (P.W. 23) on 8.5.1975 and Ram Sarup was
also arrested the same day.
the completion of the investigation charges were brought against them for
conspiracy and murder. The trial court on the basis of the approver's testimony
as corroborated by other evidence, held both Nand Singh , and the appellant
guilty of the offences they were charged with and sentenced them to
imprisonment for life. The High Court has dismissed their appeals and has
confirmed the convictions and the sentences.
Shri A.S. Sohai, Learned counsel appearing in support of the appeal urged that
the evidence of the Approver in so far as the complicity of appellant is
concerned, lacked corroboration on materials particulars and that no conviction
could be sustained on such uncorroborated accomplice's testimony.
The development of the law touching the competency and credit of an accomplice
as witness against others is not without its interesting antecedents.
in the background of the political trials since the time of Henry VIII where
'King's Evidence' was the main dependence of the crown in its prosecutions, the
question of the very admissibility of the evidence of the accomplice loomed
large. In the 17th and the 18th centuries, it was ruled repeatedly by the
English courts that an accomplice was a competent witness. His 'credit' or the
sufficiency of his evidence as a quantitative conception, however, remained in
the background. Those were days when 'form' pre-dominated over the 'substance'
and the oath had a dead-weight of its own. It was for this reason that struggle
was made to keep-out this evidence even at the threshold. On the further
development in the law which slowly began to recognise the distinction between
'competency' and 'credit', Wigmore says: Wigmore on Evidence: 3rd Edition Vol.
VII para 2054. G "As time went on, and the modern conception of testimony
developed, the possibility of admitting a witness and yet discriminating as to
the qualitative sufficiency of his testimony became more apparent; and the way
was open for the consideration of this question. In a few instances, as the
1700s wore on, and even before then, judicial suggestions are found as to
feasibility of such a discrimination. But not until the end of that century
does any Court seem 753 to have acted upon such a suggestion in its directions
to the jury. About that time there comes into acceptance a general practice to
discourage a conviction founded solely upon the testimony of an accomplice
was this practice founded on a rule of law? Never, in England,-until modern
times. It was recognised constantly that the judge's instruction upon this
point was a mere exercise of his common- law function of advising the jury upon
the weight of the evidence, and was not a statement of a rule of law binding
upon the jury".
An accomplice, by long legal tradition, is a notoriously infamous witness, one
who being parties-criminis, purchases his immunity by accepting to accuse
others. Section 114 Illus: (b) of the Evidence Act envisages the presumptive
uncredit-worthiness of an accomplice. But then, Section 133 provides that a
conviction is not illegal merely because it rests upon an accomplice's
indictments, particularly of serious crimes, the counsel of caution and the
rule of prudence enjoin that it is unsafe to rest a conviction on the evidence
of a guilty partner in a crime without independent corroboration on the
material particulars. Judicial experience was, thus, elevated to a rule of law.
"It is a practice" it is said "which deserves all the reverence
of law." The nature and extent of the corroboration must necessarily vary
with the nature and circumstances of each case. Enunciation of any general rule,
valid for all occasions is, at once, unwise and unpractical. The aspect as to
the extent and content of independent corroboration is, again, an interesting
area of study. One view was that independent evidence tending to verify any
part of the testimony of the accomplice should suffice. The other view required
that the corroborative evidence should not only show that part of the
accomplice testimony is true; but should go further and also implicate the
other accused. In R. V. Bhaskerville, the Court of Criminal appeal in England
favoured and adopted the second view.
years ago, Bose J referring with approval to the principles in Bhaskerville
said that this branch of the law in India is the same as in England and that
the lucid exposition of it given by Lord Reading, cannot be bettered.
The felicitous formulation of the law on the matter by that great master of
phrase, Bose J, which has now become classical, may be re-called:
... But to this extent the rules are clear:
First, it is not necessary that there should be independent confirmation of
every material circumstance in the sense that the independent evidence in the
case, apart from the testimony of the complainant of the accomplice, should in
itself be sufficient to sustain conviction.
Secondly, the independent evidence must not only make it safe to believe that
the crime was committed but must in some way reasonably connect or tend to
connect the accused with it by confirming in some material particular the
testimony of the accomplice or complainant that the accused committed the
crime. This does not mean that the corroboration as to identity must extend to
all the circumstances necessary to identify the accused with the offence.
Thirdly, the corroboration must come from independent source and thus
ordinarily the testimony of one accomplice would not be sufficient to
corroborate that of another (24) Fourthly, the corroboration need not be direct
evidence that the accused committed the crime. It is sufficient if it is merely
circumstantial evidence of his connection with the crime .... " (See
Rameshwar Kalyan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1952 SC 54).
Rex v. Bhaskerville,  2 KB 658 Lord Reading, CJ noticed the different
views as to the extent and scope of reasonable corroboration:
The difference of opinion has arisen in the main in reference to the question
whether the corroborative evidence must connect the accused with the crime. The
rule of practice as to corroborative evidence has arisen in consequence of the
danger of convicting a person upon the unconfirmed testimony of one who is
admittedly a criminal .. " 755 Resolving the difference of opinion it was
hold that evidence in corroboration must be independent testimony which affects
the accused by connecting or tending to connect him with the crime. In other
words, it must be evidence which implicates him, that is, which confirms is
some material particular not only the evidence that the crime has been
committed, but also that the prisoner committed it. The test applicable to
determine the nature and extent of the corroboration is thus the same whether
the case falls within the rule of practice at common law or within that class
of offences for which corroboration is required by statute".
Halsbury's (IV Edition Vol. II para 454) the following passage obtains:
of a witness's testimony must be afforded by independent evidence which affects
the defendant by connecting or tending to connect him with the offence charged.
It must be evidence which implicates him, that is which tends to confirm in
some material particular not only that the offence was committed, but also that
the defendant committed it".
As to independent nature of the corroboration learned Chief Justice observed in
.. Again, the corroboration must be by some evidence other than that of an
accomplice, and therefore one accomplice's evidence is not corroboration of the
testimony of another accomplice: Rex v. Noakes .. " As to the extent of
the requisite reassurance by way of corroboration, learned Chief Justice said:
.. .It is sufficient if there is confirmation as to a material circumstance of
the crime and of the identity of the accused in relation to the crime.
B gave this opinion as a result of twenty- five years' practice; it was
accepted by the other judges; and has been much relied upon in later cases ..
" 756 " .... Indeed, if it were required that the accomplice A should
be confirmed in every detail of the crime, his evidence would not be essential
to the case it would be merely confirmatory of other and independent testimony
.... " (page 664 in Rex v. Bhaskerville) In Halsbury's Laws of England-IV
Edn.-Vol. II-page 268- this proposition is stated thus:
word 'corroboration' is not a technical term of art; it means by itself no more
than evidence tending to confirm, support or strengthen, other evidence ..
" " ... .The corroboration need not consist of direct evidence that
the defendant committed the offence nor need it amount to confirmation of the
whole account given by the witness, provided that it corroborates the evidence
in some respects material to the charge under consideration. It is sufficient
if it is circumstantial evidence of the defendant's connection with the offence,
but it must be independent evidence, and must not be vague however there were
some observations in Director of Public Prosecutions v. Killbourne (1973)
Appeal A.C. 729 which tended towards a departure from the rule in Rex v.
In Killbourne case Lord Hailsham said-and this is also the statement of the law
in Halsbury-IV Edition "Evidence which is admissible, relevant to the
evidence requiring corroboration and (if believed) conformatory of that
evidence in a material particular, is capable of being corroborative and, when
believed, is corroboration".
above passage was not wholly in consonance with what Lord Reading had earlier
For example confirmation does not mean that there should be independent
evidence of that which the accomplice relates, or his testimony would be
unnecessary Reg v. Mullins ( 1) per Maule J ...." But, in R. v. Beck., [
1982] 1 All ER 807 (CA), it was reiterated by way of clarification that
corroborating evidence need not relate to 757 the particular evidence spoken to
by a suspect-witness, and that it was merely independent testimony which
confirmed in some material particular not only the evidence that a crime had
been committed but also that the accused-person had committed it. Referring to
the statement of Lord Hailsham in Killbourne case, All England law reports
1982(1) page 815(g) it was observed:
learned editors of Archbold para 1416, after, in our judgment correctly,
stating that the corroborative evidence need not relate to the particular incident
or incidents spoken to by the "suspect witness", express the view
that 'Lord Hailsham's dictum that the corroborative evidence must be
"relevant to the evidence requiring corroboration" may be
misleading'. We agree. We do not think that Lord Hailsham LC was expressing any
support for the proposition of counsel for the appellant." The position of
law in Rex v. Bhaskerville was, thus restored.
However, a marked tendency in England towards arresting the formalism in regard
to the specific words to be used to caution the jury against the danger of
accepting the testimony of the uncorroborated accomplice is now discernible. In
R. v. Spencer [ 1986 2 All ER 928] the grievance of the convicted person was
that the trial judge, in cautioning the jury, failed to use the word
'dangerous' in describing the risks of injustice involved in convicting a
person on the testimony of an uncorroborated accomplice.
Court of appeal and the House of Lords declined to set aside-the verdict and
said that the summing up did not involve some legalistic ritual to be incanted
in the summing-up.
in regard to the quality and extent of corroboration, in R. v. Donat, [19861 2
Cr. App. R. 1973, it was reiterated that to count as corroboration, it is not
enough that a piece of evidence merely supports the accomplice's credibility,
however, convincingly and independently; but it must go a little further and
implicate the accused. (See All England Reports: Annual Review 1986 page 158).
In Sharvana Bhavan v. State of Madras, (AIR 1966 SC 1273 the corroboration was
held to be of two kinds: the first belonging to the area of reassurance of the
credit of the approver himself as a trustworthy witness; and the second-which
arises for conclusion after the court is satisfied about the credibility of the
approver-as to the corroboration in material particulars not only of the
commission of the 758 crime but also of the complicity of other accused-persons
in the crime. If on the first area the court is not satisfied the second stage
does not Arise. The position is attractively presented in Halsbury:- (IV
Edition Vol. II) Page 268.
is required or afforded only if the witness requiring or giving it
is,otherwise, credible; if testimony falls of its own inanition, the question
of his needing or being capable of giving, corroboration does not arise."
However, the two areas of corroboration are not two separate, water-tight
compartments. The evidence as a whole will have to be examined to reach
conclusions on both aspects.
Attorney General of Hongkong v. Wong Muko Ping,  2 W.L.R. 1033. Lord
Bridge of Harwich speaking for the Judicial Committee of the Privy-council
It is said that this two stage approach is implicitly indicated by passages
from speeches in the House of Lords in two of the leading authorities".
..... The presence or absence of corroborated evidence may assist a jury to
resolve, one way or the other, their doubts as to whether or not to believe the
evidence of a suspect witness, it must, in their Lordship's Judgment, be wrong
to direct them to approach the question of credibility in two stages as
suggested in the submission made on behalf of the defendant."
The controversy in the present case in the ultimate analysis, belongs to the
second area, whether the approver's testimony as to appellant's complicity in
the conspiracy could safely be held to have been corroborated by independent
evidence on the material particulars The facts that require sequentially to be
established are that appellant's married life was in a serious disarray:
she and Nand Singh were on terms of illicit intimacy;
she also submitted herself to Ram Sarup (P.W. 2) in an ex-marital relation;
that on 13.11.1973 she implored Nand Singh and Ram Sarup to free her from a
cruel husband by doing away with him; that she agreed that she would, 759
thereafter, live with Nand Singh as his wife and that after coming to know of
Pritam Singh's death she deliberately missed her mother-in-law, Mukhtiar Kaur
(P.W. 19) into making a report to the police containing false and misleading
information in an attempt to draw a red-herring across the trial.
evidence of P.Ws. 17 & 18 on the first two points has been discarded by the
sessions court. It is not also suggested that after the murder of Pritam Singh,
appellant began to live with Nand Singh. There was a considerable lapse of time
between the death of Pritam Singh and their arrest. There is no evidence to
show that, in the interregnum, there was any liasion between the two.
There is yet another impediment in accepting the evidence on an important area
of the alleged conspiracy. The incriminating circumstances in the evidence of
the approver appearing against the appellant had had to be put to the appellant
in her examination under Section 313 Cr. P.C. The incriminating testimony of
the approver pertaining to the case that on 13.11.1973 appellant wept and
implored Nand Singh and Ram Sarup to do away with Pritam Singh and that
appellant also agreed that she would, thereafter, live with Nand Singh has not
been put to the appellant in the course of her examination under Section 313
Cr. P.C. Appellant was not afforded an opportunity to submit an explanation to
part of the evidence must for that reason, be excluded from consideration (See
Harizan Mogha: 1979 3 SCR 474).
On a consideration of the entire matter, it appears to us that the approver's
evidence in regard to the complicity of the appellant in the conspiracy lacks
corroboration on certain material particulars necessary to connect the
appellant. A little more reassurance than is afforded by the State of evidence
in the case is perhaps, necessary to convict appellant. Appellant, in the
circumstances would be entitled to the benefit of doubt.
At the time of the commission of the offence, the appellant, even on the basis
of the observations, made by the session court, was about 15« years of age and
was a "child" within the meaning of East Punjab Children's Act 1949.
The relevant date is the date of the commission of the offence. Section 27 of
the Act provides:
Sentences that may not be passed on child- Notwithstanding anything to the
contrary contained in any law, 760 no person who as a child at the date of the
commission of the offence shall be sentenced to death or transported or
committed to prison for any offence or in default of payment of fine, damages
that a child who is fourteen years of age or upwards may be committed to prison
where the court certifies that he is of so unruly or of so depraved a character
that he is not fit person to be sent to a certified school and that none of the
other methods in which the case may legally be dealt with is suitable".
sessions court has invoked the proviso and has held that appellant was so
depraved a character that none of the other methods in which the case could
legally be dealt with is suitable in her case. An examination of the legality
or propriety of the procedure adopted in the case in the matter of the trial of
a 'child' under the East Punjab Children's Act 1949 and as to the correctness
of the view of the sessions court in appealing to the proviso to Section 27 and
in sentencing appellant to imprisonment for life may not be necessary in this
case, in view of our finding that appellant is entitled to the benefit of
In the result, this appeal is allowed and while the conviction and sentence of
the other non-appealing accused is left undisturbed, the conviction and
sentence of the appellant is set aside and appellant is directed to be set at