The Supreme Court while hearing the case of Balu Sudam Khalde And Another Versus The State Of Maharashtra dismissed the appeal filed by two murder convicts and reiterated certain important principles on the appreciation of oral evidence of injured eye-witnesses during the trial stage. The bench stated, “The evidence of injured witnesses has greater evidentiary value and unless compelling reasons exist, their statements are not to be discarded lightly.” Moreover, the presence of an injured eye-witness at the time and place of the occurrence can’t be doubted unless there are material contradictions in his deposition.
The Court was hearing an appeal of two murder convicts challenging a judgement of the Bombay High Court upholding the sentence imposed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Pune convicting them for offences under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The allegations were regarding the severe assault on the deceased by use of a sickle and sword.
The Court further said, “There is no fixed or straight-jacket formula for appreciation of the ocular evidence”. Also, the court noted some judicially evolved principles for appreciation of ocular evidence in a criminal case as under:
- While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole appears to have a ring of truth
- When an eye-witness is examined at length it is quite possible for him to make some discrepancies. But courts should bear in mind that it is only when discrepancies in the evidence of a witness are so incompatible with the credibility of his version that the court is justified in jettisoning his evidence
- By and large, a witness cannot be expected to possess a photographic memory and to recall the details of an incident.
The Court further relied on the principles enumerated in State of Andhra Pradesh v. Rayavarapu Punnayya and Another which laid down the distinction between murder and culpable homicide and based on the deposition of the one petitioner witness opined that the accused had used dangerous weapons while assaulting the deceased. Therefore, while dismissing the appeal cancelled the bail(s) granted to the appellants and ordered to send them to judicial custody to serve their sentences.