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EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF THE TESTIMONY OF A HOSTILE WITNESS

INTRODUCTION

Witnesses play an important part in legal proceedings, exposing reality and supplying evidence. However, hostile witnesses who express hostility might face particular challenges in seeking justice, making it vital for witnesses to give testimony. In English law, evidence often arises from called witnesses, and laws limit the forms of testimony and witness inquiry. Hostility is an instance of dishonesty[1].This article examines the evidentiary value of hostile witness testimony as per the Evidence Act[2] and presents the points to be considered when determining the legitimacy of a hostile witness.

THE CONCEPT OF HOSTILE WITNESS

A hostile witness is a witness who refuses to offer fair evidence and often shows unclear responses. It may arise from personal bias, fear of consequences, loyalty, or an impulse to ruin the investigation. It is necessary to understand that identifying a witness as hostile will not instantly disqualify their testimony[3]. Hostile witnesses often pose challenging problems in the courts because their evidence has both evidential worth and possible dangers. Their hostility may imply knowledge or details that might risk the other party’s case, but their lack of support may create moral and ethical concerns. Throughout observation, a hostile witness pleads against an opponent. The judge possesses the authority to declare an individual hostile to the examiner’s petition[4].

EVALUATING THE EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF TESTIMONY FROM HOSTILE WITNESSES

Hostile witness testimony affects the legitimacy of judicial proceedings. However, it is critical to confront the witnesses’ bias and rivalry. To judge their reliability, consider their honesty, origin, and possible causes for hostility. When examining testimony, consider personal hostility, monetary interests, and competing claims into account. Hostile witnesses’ evidence, which frequently reveals ulterior motives, can be evaluated using expert examination to ensure the reliability of their statements and expose any inconsistencies or conflicts. Hostile witnesses often give evidence using actual proof, which can be supported with extra proof to ensure reality and avoid lies. Examining the components that influence the evidence can provide helpful insight into its validity and accuracy.The witness’s hostile evidence proved unreliable in court, proving an absence of belief in the law[5].Lastly, legal scholars must evaluate the evidentiary value of hostile witness evidence using an elaborate plan that includes the account of legitimacy, cross-examination strategies, validation, and context research. This enables people to make wise choices based on the testimony’s value.

POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN DETERMINING THE LEGITIMACY OF A HOSTILE WITNESS

The reliability of hostile witnesses is critical when dealing with their testimony since their hostility towards the case or party has a considerable effect on the evidentiary value of their comments, and a proper evaluation involves various factors to be considered. Primarily considering hostile witness preferences and pasts critical are in determining their reliability and resolving possible disputes in their relationship with the investigation. Secondly, the similarity of previous claims has significant effects on the validity of a witness since any differences in those claims might call the testimony into question. Thirdly, examining their expressions and gestures during testimony can reveal crucial insights into a witness’s honesty and trustworthiness, suggesting if they are purposely hiding information or influencing truth. Furthermore, the credibility of the testimony is determined by the witness’s remembrance and recall, taking into account elements such as nearness to the event, visual conditions, and possible prejudices, providing a reliable evaluation of their memory capabilities. Lastly, the credibility of testimony from witnesses and actual proof is critical in determining the legitimacy of the hostile witness account. In conclusion, a hostile witness’s legitimacy can be appropriately evaluated by considering factors such as objectives, recollection abilities, and claim reliability, which allows a deeper evaluation of their testimony’s evidentiary value.

 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CORROBORATING EVIDENCE WHEN DEALING WITH HOSTILE WITNESSES

A hostile witness’s remarks can be confirmed by other evidence, so it is critical to supply confirming evidence in circumstances when the witness’s testimony is hesitant or questionable.So, when encountering hostile witnesses, it is critical to corroborate their testimonies with further proof[6]. Corroborating evidence, such as physical documents, video films, or other witnesses’ statements, improves the validity of a hostile witness’ testimony, making the case compelling and less dependent on their trustworthiness.Firstly, corroborating evidence challenges opposing counsel’s claims of hostile witness motivations, making it more difficult for them to damage the witness’s credibility purely based on the rivalry by offering further evidence that supports their account of events. Secondly, corroborating evidence provides a complete story, allowing investigators to reach more accurate conclusions. It reduces the risk of depending simply on hostile witness testimony by providing a larger context and various views, thereby improving the validity of the account. Finally, corroboration of evidence can considerably damage the other party’s position while increasing the reliability of the testimony when it opposes or challenges their statements. In my opinion, corroborating evidence is necessary in hostile witness cases to support testimony, counter objections, and enhance the case’s credibility. Testimony can be obtained from various sources.

RELATING CASE LAWS

  • Sat Paul vs Delhi Administration[7]

In this case, the Anti-Corruption Department misled the accused, resulting in contradicting witness accounts. The legitimacy of these witnesses stayed unclear. The court determined that a hostile witness is unwilling to speak the truth, whereas an unfavorable witness fails to support or oppose particular evidence.

  • S. Bakshi And Ors. vs State (Delhi Administration)[8]

In this case, the court recognized enmity as a substantial factor based on the witness’s attitude and reactions. Hostile witnesses often hide facts or make inconsistent statements. If a prosecution witness becomes hostile, the court may request that the witness be treated as hostile.

  • Gura Singh v. State of Rajasthan[9]

In this case, the court considered a hostile witness as someone who refuses to speak the truth, whereas an unfavorable witness is someone summoned by a party to prove a fact but fails to do so or rejects the evidence.

CONCLUSION

Hostile witnesses provide distinct obstacles in legal procedures, frequently corrupted by bias, ulterior motives, or a desire to harm the cause. Legal professionals have to conduct their evidence with caution and strategy. Witnesses frequently become hostile during proceedings due to threats and financial benefits. They are afraid of well-connected criminals. As a result, in my opinion, protecting these witnesses is critical to avoid misleading evidence and regaining trust in the criminal justice system. This article covered techniques for dealing with hostile witness testimony, such as completing background research, spotting errors, and judging trustworthiness. It highlights the need to evaluate motives, connections, and behavior to determine credibility. Corroboration, such as supporting evidence, can add to the evidentiary value of the witness’s testimony. To summarise, navigating hostile witness testimony involves careful preparation, analytical abilities, and full awareness of the legal context. Legal experts can reveal evidential value by analyzing credibility, identifying inconsistencies, gathering evidence, and employing tactical approaches. This method results in a reasonable and equitable resolution in legal processes.

Author(s) Name: Leela Madhuri (G.S.K.M. Law College Affiliated with Adikavi Nannya University, Rajahmundry)

Reference(s):

[1] Sachin Kumar, “Hostile Witness” (Ujala Book.1.1) <https://ujala.uk.gov.in/files/9.pdf> accessed 19 January 2024

[2]The Indian Evidence Act 1872

[3] Ashok KM, “Testimony Of Hostile Witness Can Be Considered To Convict Accused, If Corroborated By Other Evidence: Supreme Court Constitution Bench” (live law, 16 Dec 2022)<https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-hostile-witness-testimony-reliable-corroborated-neeraj-dutta-v-state-gnctd-2022-livelaw-sc-1029-216865?infinitescroll=1> accessed 19 January 2024

[4]Vernita Jain, “Critical Analysis Of Laws Relating To Hostile Witnesses In India” (ipleaders, 19 January 2016) <https://blog.ipleaders.in/critical-analysis-laws-relating-hostile-witnesses-india/#_ftnref1> accessed 19 January 2024

[5]Abhay Saxena, “The Concept of Hostile Witness And its Evidentiary Value” (LEXAUXILIUM, 30 August 2020) <https://www.studocu.com/in/document/tamil-nadu-dr-ambedkar-law-university/law-of-crimes-ii-criminal-procedure-code/the-concept-of-hostile-witness-and-its-evidential-value-lex-auxilium/18594396> accessed 19 January 2024

[6] Shivangi, “The Credibility of Hostile Witnesses: Unravelling the Complexities of Testimony” (Theedulaw, 03 August 2023) <https://portal.theedulaw.com/singlearticle?uid=490#>accessed 19 January 2024

[7]R.S. Sarkaria, “Sat Paul vs Delhi Administration” (indiankanoon) <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/996233/> accessed 19 January 2024

[8]P.S. Kailasam, “G.S. Bakshi And Ors. vs State (Delhi Administration)” (indiankanoon) <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/289786/> accessed 19 January 2024

[9]Anuj Swapnil Shah, “EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF HOSTILE WITNESSES” (Journal of Legal Research and Juridical Sciences) <https://jlrjs.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/191.-Anuj-Swapnil-Shah.pdf> accessed 19 January 2024