Witnesses related to deceased cannot be termed ‘interested witnesses’ on those grounds solely

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Mukta Gupta and Navin Chawla, JJ. partly allowed an appeal, modifying the appellant’s conviction under Section 302 to Section 304 Pt. II IPC, consequently, reducing the sentence thereunder from life imprisonment to RI for 7 years while upholding the conviction and sentence under Section 25 of the Arms Act.

The brief facts of the case are that at around 9:00 p.m. on 07.03.2012, the deceased was allegedly stabbed by the appellant following a quarrel between them. Harish (PW 4), was the sole witness to the crime, while Ashok (PW 5) And Charan Pal (PW 6) had arrived shortly after the occurrence. The deceased was taken to the hospital by the trio where he was declared ‘brought dead’. PW 4 deposed that he had been taking a walk after a meal and upon reaching the 19 Block Chowk near a shop, he saw the appellant and deceased quarrelling, soon after which, the appellant raised a knife and stabbed the deceased on the chest. The resulting commotion caused the public to assemble near the crime scene, among which PW 5 and PW 6 were also present. They deposed to seeing the deceased lying in a pool of blood and also deposed to PW 4 being present there. The appellant was arrested soon after and he disclosed the location of a knife which was recovered soon after. The FSL report opined that the injury was ante-mortem, sufficient in the ordinary course to cause death, and was delivered by a single-edged sharp weapon, which could have been the recovered knife. The blood stains on the clothes of the witnesses matched with the blood of the deceased, also there was enough evidence at the crime scene to tie the occurrence to that particular place.

The appellant argued that the prosecution did not put forward any other eye witnesses except PW 4, whose deposition cannot be relied upon as he is an uncle of the deceased and hence, an interested witness. The Court rejected this argument, stating that there was nothing in PW 4’s deposition which could be doubted upon. He lived in the vicinity of the crime scene, and was out for a walk at 9:00 p.m.. Further, no reason was put forth suggesting that PW 4 would falsely implicate the appellant.

The Court relied on the Supreme Court judgment of State of A.P. v. S. Rayappa(2006) 4 SCC 512 while rejecting this contention, where the Supreme Court had elaborately stated that a testimony of witness inspiring confidence cannot be discarded on the sole ground that he, being, a relative of the deceased is an interested witness. The term ‘interested’ postulates that the person concerned must have some direct interest in seeing the accused person being convicted, either because of animosity or some other reason. The Court had further observed that it has become increasingly difficult to have witnesses depose before the Court because of various reasons including harassment and intimidation, as a result of which, criminal cases are being dragged on for years. The Supreme Court had opined that in such circumstances the only natural witness available to the prosecution would be a relative of the deceased. The Supreme Court had also shed light on the mindset of such witnesses, stating that witnesses who are related to the deceased would, in all probability, depose in such a way so as to implicate the real culprit so that the guilty is punished. The only catch being that related witnesses are to be examined cautiously.

The Court, however, agreed to the argument that there was no pre-meditation on part of the appellant and the case fell under Exception 4 to Section 300 IPC. Appeal partly allowed. Sentence modified. [Deepu v. State,  2017 SCC OnLine Del 12402, decided on 16.12.2017]

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