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No acquittal if witnesses turn hostile: Madras high court
Representative imageCHENNAI: Asserting that witnesses in a criminal prosecution turning hostile has become the norm, the Madras high court has made it clear that it can no more be a ground to acquit the accused.
“The witnesses in a case are the eyes and ears of the justice system and any manipulation of those witnesses, including threat, coercion, intimidation, lure, would definitely adversely affect the prosecution case. However, a balanced approach by segregating the grain from the chaff would, in effect, unerringly point the finger at the accused, had the accused adopted such a course,” Justice M Dhandapani said.
Witnesses are being bullied or won over by lure or lucre and they, without any moral regret, retract from their statements made previously before the police. The upshot is the acquittal of persons responsible for commission of heinous crimes — triumph of the devils and sorrow for angels, the court added.
Weeding out the culture of compromise (turning hostile) is the greatest test not only for the prosecution, but equally for the judiciary as that culture, in no way, should tilt the scales in favour of the accused, thereby allowing them to walk out scot free. The scales of justice should be maintained in balance so that the wrong doer gets punished and the innocent is freed, the judge said.
The issue pertains to an appeal moved by Radha alias Radhakrishnan challenging his conviction and 10-year sentence imposed by a trial court for attempt to murder. In his appeal, he claimed that since three prime prosecution witnesses including a victim witness turned hostile, there is nothing more with the prosecution to prove him guilty.
Opposing the appeal, additional public prosecutor Iyyapparaj explained the hardcore nature of the appellant, who is a habitual offender and against whom 35 cases are pending at various stages. He contended that there is nothing sinister in the prosecution witnesses turning hostile.
Concurring with the submissions of the prosecutor, the court said, “In the case on hand, as held by the court below, such a course adopted by the accused cannot be completely overruled and in such a scenario, the justice delivery system should break itself from its self-imposed shackles with a view to uphold the truth and majesty of justice, lest the faith in the judicial system of the common man would start dwindling.”
The trial court, on the materials available on record, and further taking into consideration the hostile attitude exhibited by the eye witnesses has come to the right conclusion that all was not well between the time they deposed in chief and the time they deposed in cross and the intervening mid-day break has been utilised by the accused to his benefit, has analysed the whole scenario coupled with the evidence and has arrived at a just and reasonable finding, which does not warrant interference at the hands of this court, Justice Dhandapani concluded