SC opposes caustic remarks against witnesses by courts

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New Delhi, Oct 18 (UNI) The Supreme Court has cautioned lower courts against making caustic and disparaging remarks against witnesses in their orders, even if it is not inclined to believe the version of a witness.

The note of caution was sounded by a bench comprising Justices C K Thakker and P Sathasivam while dismissing the appeal of Kishan Singh and Bachni Rani, in-laws of the deceased Reeta Kumari, who had died of poisoning when she was 12 weeks pregnant in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, for dowry.

The appellants were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1000 each on April 30, 2002.

The apex court, while ordering the deletion of the remarks made by the trial court against a prosecution witness noted, ''It is unfortunate that the trial court has made a caustic remark that there was ''falsehood'' on the part of PW-4 Gopal Singh as to demand of dowry by the accused No 1 Manmohan Singh. A court of law may not accept a particular part of the evidence considering the other facts and circumstances on record. But this does not necessarily mean that what was stated by the witness was 'false'. In fact PW-4 Gopal Singh was believed by the trial court as well as by the High Court.

It may be that the witness had committed some mistakes in giving the period during which dowry demand was made by the accused No 1 Manomhan Singh, husband. If that part of the evidence is not consistent with the facts on record, the court may not accept it.

But only for that reason the court should not make disparaging remark as has been done by the court.'' The court also observed, ''While dealing with a matter the presiding officer of a court may extend benefit of doubt to the accused in the light of omissions, contradictions or discrepancies in deposition of prosecution witnesses. He may also offer comments on the conduct of parties or witnesses. He may as well make necessary observations keeping in view their demeanour.

It has been rightly said that the judges are flesh and blood mortals with likes and dislikes, preferences and prejudices and they also have normal human traits.'' It concluded by noting that, ''At the same time however, it cannot be overlooked that judicial restraints and disciplines are equally necessary to orderly administration of justice. In our considered opinion, however, it was certainly not a case of making scathing remarks against the witness. All those remarks are, therefore, ordered to be deleted from the record.'' Gopal Singh is a cousin of the deceased who had died on June 20,1999.

UNI

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