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Separating grain from the chaff in Criminal Jurisprudence


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H.C. Underhill writes in his Book “A Treatise on the Law of Criminal Evidence” that the judges shall determine the weight to be given to the testimony of witness by their demeanour in the stand, their interest in the case, the probability and improbability of their testimony, its corroboration, the facts bearing on their credibility, their intelligence and knowledge and not the mere number of the witness. Conflicting evidence should be reconciled by the jury, if possible, and, if they cannot reconcile it, they may base their verdict on that part of the testimony which they consider worthy of credit and reject that which they deem to be unworthy of belief. In consistencies and contradictions in the testimony of a witness do not make it inherently improbable. The jury cannot arbitrarily reject the evidence but the testimony of one witness or any part of his testimony as against a great number of witness. They may disregard the testimony of an un-impeached witness and they are not bound to believe un-contradicted evidence which is incredible.

The Courts in India do not follow the maxim “Falsus in Uno in Omnibus” which means false in one, false in all.

The Court weigh the evidence carefully in each case and not adopt any arbitrary formula or yardstick in meaning its worth or worthlessness. In State of Punjab v. Harisingh [AIR 1974 SC 1168] and S.G.P. Committee v. M.P. Dass Chela [AIR 1998 SC 1978] the Supreme Court has held that the maxim ‘Falsus in Uno Falsus in Omnibus” is not acted upon by Indian Courts.

In Uga Ahir v. State of Bihar [AIR 1965 SC 277], the Supreme Court observed that the maxim is neither a sound rule of law nor a rule of practice. It may be difficult to come across a witness whose evidence does not contain a grain of untruth or at any rate, exaggeration, embroidery or embellishment. It is the duty of the court to scrutinize the evidence carefully and separate the grain from the chaff. But the Court cannot selectively pick and choose and reconstruct a story of its own. if  apart of evidence of a witness is found unreliable, the rest of his evidence must be scrutinize with caution and care. If the substratum of the prosecution care remains unaffected and remaining part of the evidence is trustworthy, the prosecution case should be accepted to the extent it is considered safe and trustworthy. The court must disengage truth from falsehood and accept what it finds to be true. If truth and false are so intermingle to make it impossible to separate them, the entire evidence may be rejected. The court can also reject one part of the evidence and accept other part based on trustworthiness of the evidence. the counsel shall in attempt to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt shall never forget to co0llect some core evidence on which makes the chain of truth so clear that it would be prudent to draw a conclusion based on those evidences.

The grain must be separated from the chaff in the light of evidence, surrounding circumstances and probabilities. If the grain cannot be separated from the chaff, the entire evidence of the witness must be thrown away. However, the court has full discretion to believe or throw away the evidences, and therefore it is the responsibility of the prosecution to introduce trustworthy evidences and the large number of evidences.


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