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Report No. 185

Section 153

This Section refers to the subject "Exclusion of evidence to contradict answers to questions testing veracity". It reads as follows:

"153. When a witness has been asked and has answered any question which is relevant to the inquiry only in so far as it tends to shake his credit by injuring his character, no evidence shall be given to contradict him; but if he answers falsely, he may afterwards be charged with giving false evidence.

Exception .- If a witness is asked whether he has been previously convicted of any crime and denies it, evidence may be given of his previous conviction.

Exception I.- If a witness is asked any question tending to impeach his impartiality, and answers it by denying the facts suggested, he may be contradicted."

There are four illustrations (a) to (d) below Section 153.

In the 69th Report, after referring to Section 6 of the (UK) Criminal Evidence Act, 1865, no recommendation is made for amendment (see para 85.12).

In Ram Reddy v. V.V. Giri, 1970 (2) SCC 340 Section 153, Exception II was considered. In Bhaskaran Nair v. State of Kerala, 1991 Crl LJ 23, (Ker), it was held that Section 153 cannot be overcome by giving evidence in advance on matters shaking the credit or injuring the character of a witness yet to be examined.

We may here point out that in Phipson (15th Ed, 1999, para 19.26) after referring to the above and to Section 1(3)(ii) of the Criminal Evidence Act, 1898, the author refers to other exceptions. He refers to the (UK) Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 1974 under which one must take account of the impact of the 'spent convictions'. In civil proceedings, question cannot be put about 'spent convictions'. (see also para 18.79, 18.80 of Phipson) This is a special provision in a special Act and need not be brought into our Evidence Act.

In para 18.79, it was stated by Phipson that it is now accepted that once a person's convictions have acquired a certain age, particularly if they relate to the youthful period, it is less reasonable to hold them against that person or to take them as demonstrating present bad character. In the case of someone aged 21 or over, Section 16(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963 provides that:

"any offence of which he was found guilty while under the age of fourteen shall be disregarded for the purposes of any evidence relating to his previous convictions."

The provision goes on to say that he may not be cross-examined about them under the 1898 Act.

Such a provision, in our view, need not be made here because they will be covered by Section 148(2) being questions relating to a matter 'remote in time'. In R v. Ghulam Mustafa, ILR 36 All 371 it was clearly held that a magistrate should refuse to allow a question as to a previous conviction to be put, upon the ground that it related to a matter which had happened 30 years ago and was so remote in time that it ought not to influence his decision as to the fitness for being a surety.

We are of the view that Section 153 need not be amended.

Review of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Back

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