It government of have strong political, economic

It is highly perceived that witnesses turn hostile due to outsidepressure which consequently crumbles the case of prosecution. Our prestigiouslegal system has seen it all, from crumbling of cases involving corruptioncharges of the powerful to genocide. With the burden to prove the guilt onprosecution, the instances of repudiation of statement made before the policehas grown to be an issue before the system of criminal justice. The threat to thelives of witnesses is the principle reason for rescinding of their earlierstatements during the trial.

Political pressure, autogenous fear of police andthe legal system, absence of fear of the law of perjury, a compassionless lawenforcement machinery and corruption are some of the other reasons forwitnesses turning hostile in the course of trial.1The Supreme Courtin the case of KrishnaMochi v. Stateof Bihar2 observedthat society suffers by wrong convictions and it equally suffers by wrongacquittals. In this case the Supreme Court observed in cases involving peoplewho are high up in government of have strong political, economic or even musclethe witnesses do not dispose due to threat to their own and their family’slives.The Best Bakery trial3is an obstructive example of miscarriage of justice where the witnesses turnedhostile due to external pressure. The prime eye witness and complainant ZaheeraSheikh in the case turned hostile along with 36 other witnesses during thetrial held in a Vadodara court.

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Consequently the court let off all 21 accused.4It needs to be noted here that this case was one among the many casesregistered in the courts at time of 2002 Godhara Riots in which 2000 Muslimswere ruthlessly murdered. The incident fits in the definitionof genocide given by the UN.

In Jessica Lal case,5the BMW Hit and Run Case,6and a host of other cases involving high profile personalities have exposedthe sickening truth that the rich and powerful operate criminaljustice by menacing and coercing the witnesses.Another factorresponsible for this prevalent phenomenon is the sluggish working of thejudicial process. In Swaran Singh’s Case,7the Supreme Court said: “It has become more or less a fashion to have a criminal caseadjourned again and again till the witness tires and he gives up. It is thegame of unscrupulous lawyers to get the adjournments for one excuse or theother till a witness is won over or is tired, (omitted).In adjourning thematter without any valid cause a Court unwittingly becomes party to miscarriageof justice. A person abhors becoming a witness. It is the administration ofjustice that suffers.” Witnesses tend tobe frustrated because of being summoned repeatedly only to find that the dateis moved ahead/adjourned.

1 B R Saini, Protection ofwitness under law of evidence: a comparative study, 156 (2012) accessed from 2 Krishna Mochi v. State of Bihar  AIR 2003 SC8863 (2004) 4 SCC 158, the first track trial began on May 9 and wascompleted on June 29, 20003. Twenty one persons were named accused in the caseand the prosecution mainly depended on the testimony of thesurvivor Zahira Sheikh.

Before the newlyinstituted court, she refused toidentify any of the accused and was contrary to her previous statement of thepolice and theNational Human Rights Commission. The Court recorded a verdictthat the prosecution had called to prove the charges. LaterMs. Sheikh assaultedthat she lied to the court under threat and fear for her life. Due to thepressure from various groups, theState Govt. has filed an appeal against theacquittal before the High Court.

4 2008 INDLAW SC 846, Jessica Lal was allegedly shot dead at pointblank range by a drunk Manu Sharma, the son of a Minister in the Narsimha RaoGovernment , for her refusal to serve a drink to him. Jessica Lal was workingthere as a celebrity barmaid. At that moment the room was of people whowitnessed the incident.

As the trial progressed a number of witnesses turnedhostile before the court and retracted from the statements, which they hadearlier made to the police.6 2003 (10) SCC 670, On January 10, 1999, a BMW driven by Sanjeev Nanda,grandson of the former Chief of Naval Staff and arms dealer admiral S.L.

Nandahad allegedly run over sleeping pavement dwellers in Delhi. Three people diedon the spot to received serious injuries. As the trial progressed a largenumber of witness turned hostile- Monoj Mallick , the lone survivor of theHit and run, told the court that he was hit by a truck. Key witness HariShankar refused to identify the BMW and anotherwitness absconded. In fact,none of the witness supported the prosecution.

7 Swaran Singh Vs. State of Punjab 2000 Cr.L.J 2780 (S.C.)


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