Friday 7 August 2020

How to appreciate evidence of witnesses if there are large numbers of assailants?

Identification in a Crowd of Assailants:

22. In cases where there are a large number of assailants, it can be difficult for a witness to identify each assailant and attribute a specific role to him. In Masalti v. State of Uttar Pradesh MANU/SC/0074/1964 : AIR 1965 SC 202, this Court held as under:

Where a crowd of assailants who are members of an unlawful assembly proceeds to commit an offence of murder in pursuance of the common object of the unlawful assembly, it is often not possible for witnesses to describe accurately the part played by each one of the assailants. Besides, if a large crowd of persons armed with weapons assaults the intended victims, it may not be necessary that all of them have to take part in the Actual assault. In the present case, for instance, several weapons were carried by different members of the unlawful assembly, but it appears that the guns were used and that was enough to kill 5 persons. In such a case, it would be unreasonable to contend that because the other weapons carried by the members of the unlawful assembly were not used, the story in regard to the said weapons itself should be rejected. Appreciation of evidence in such complex case is no doubt a difficult task; but criminal courts have to do their best in dealing with such cases and it is their duty to sift the evidence carefully and decide which part of it is true and which is not.

[Emphasis added]

23. A similar view was taken by this Court in Kallu alias Masih and Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh MANU/SC/0271/2006 : (2006) 10 SCC 313; and Viji and Anr. v. State of Karnataka MANU/SC/8134/2008 : (2008) 15 SCC 786 observing that in such a case it is not possible that all the witnesses may specifically refer to the Acts of each assailants.

24. In Bhag Singh and Ors. v. State of Punjab MANU/SC/1308/1997 : (1997) 7 SCC 712, while dealing with a similar contention, this Court observed:

It is a general handicap attached to all eyewitnesses, if they fail to speak with precision their evidence would be assailed as vague and evasive, on the contrary if they speak to all the events very well and correctly their evidence becomes vulnerable to be attacked as tutored. Both approaches are dogmatic and fraught with lack of pragmatism. The testimony of a witness should be viewed from broad angles. It should not be weighed in golden scales, but with cogent standards. In a particular case an eyewitness may be able to narrate the incident with all details without mistake if the occurrence had made an imprint on the canvas of his mind in the sequence in which it occurred. He may be a person whose capacity for absorption and retention of events is stronger than another person. It should be remembered that what he witnessed was not something that happens usually but a very exceptional one so far as he is concerned. If he reproduces it in the same sequence as it registered in his mind the testimony cannot be dubbed as artificial on that score alone.
25. In the instant case, a very large number of assailants attacked Chand Khan and Shabir (deceased), caused injuries with deadly weapons to them. The incident stood concluded within few minutes. Thus, it is natural that the exact version of the incident revealing every minute detail, i.e., meticulous exactitude of individual acts cannot be given by the eye-witnesses.

Criminal Appeal No. 1243 of 2007

Decided On: 14.09.2010

 Abdul Sayeed  Vs.    State of Madhya Pradesh

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan, JJ.

Citation: MANU/SC/0702/2010,(2010) 10 SCC 259.

Read full judgment here: Click here
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