Report No. 77
6.4. Prolix examination of witnesses.-
A very important, if not the most important, stage in the trial of a case is the recording of evidence. There is, it is said, a tendency in India to over-prove allegations. This is true not only of essential allegations, but also of allegations which are not very essential. This results in considerable time of the court being taken up in the recording of oral evidence even at the point of examination-in-chief in a large number of cases.
If that be true of examination-in-chief, the position is much worse in cross-examination. Cross-examination of witnesses often tends to be unduly prolix. Some clients are inclined to judge the proficiency of the counsel by the length of his cross-examination of a witness. This attitude reveals a pathetic ignorance of the technique of effective cross-examination. We may also in this context refer to the observations of the Civil Justice Committees:1
"The impression created in the minds of those who are acquainted with the procedure in English Courts of Law, as to the production of evidence in courts in India is that there is a tendency in India to over-prove essential allegations. There is further a tendency to prove and to over-prove unessential allegations. Such observers wonder at the extraordinary elaboration with which the examination-in-chief is conducted.
Every sort of detail, however distant may be its bearing upon the value of the evidence of the witnesses, is brought out, and much time is taken up in eliciting and recording unessential particulars to which no reference is usually made in argument, and to which no reference can be made usefully.
Even more surprising is the cross-examination. It is not too much to say that cross-examination frequently extends over a period which is more than six times as long as is necessary to produce useful results. The waste of time is most noticeable in cases of larger value, especially in which the dispute relates to valuable landed property. It is difficult to exaggerate the unnecessary labour and the delays caused thereby.
It is not easy to devise a remedy. The litigants prefer that examination and cross-examination should be conducted in this manner, and the methods are the traditional methods of many District Bars. We feel that we should not be justified in suggesting alterations in the law by which presiding officers would be authorised to terminate the examination of any particular point. It seems only possible to wait, till litigants begin to see for themselves that in their own interests there should be expedition. At present we must leave the solution to the good sense of the Bench and Bar."
1. Rankin Committee.