07 June 2020

Sterling Witness

Who can be said to be Sterling Witness?

Held: If the version of witness is unassailable, capable of being accepted for its face value without any hesitation then such witness is called as Sterling Witness.

Sterling Witness
In the present case, an eight year girl (PW-1) was raped. She not only identified the accused-appellant during trial but supported the prosecution in its totality. She remained consistent and unshaken during detail cross examination and narrated entire occurrence and manner of sexual assault. Medical evidence corroborates ocular evidence. This solitary witness inspires confidence. It is a settled principle that conviction in a rape case could be based on the sole testimony of the victim without corroboration, if the witness is a 'sterling witness'.

   12. In a recent judgment of Santosh Prasad @ Santosh Kumar vs. State of Bihar, reported in 2020 SCC Online SC 194, the Apex Court held that :-

   "5.4 Before considering the evidence of the prosecutrix, the decisions of this Court in the cases of Raju (supra) and Rai Sandeep @ Deepu, relied upon by he learned Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant-accused, are required to be referred to and considered.

   5.4.1 x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x 5.4.2 In the case of Rai Sandeep alias Deepu (supra), this Court had an occasion to consider who can be said to be a "sterling witness". In paragraph 22, it is observed and held as under:

   "22 In our considered opinion, the "sterling witness" should be of a very high quality and calibre whose version should, therefore, be unassailable. The court considering the version of such witness should be in a position to accept it for its face value without any hesitation. To test the quality of such a witness, the status of the witness would be immaterial and what would be relevant is the truthfulness of the statement made by such a witness. What would be more relevant would be the consistency of the statement right from the starting point till the end, namely, at the time when the witness makes the initial statement and ultimately before the court. It should be natural and consistent with the case of the prosecution qua the accused. There should not be any prevarication in the version of such a witness. The witness should be in a position to withstand the cross-examination of any length and howsoever strenuous it may be and under no circumstance should give room for any doubt as to the factum of the occurrence, the persons involved, as well as the sequence of it. Such a version should have co-relation with each and every one of other supporting material such as the recoveries made, the weapons used, the manner of offence committed, the scientific evidence and the expert opinion. The said version should consistently match with the version of every other witness. It can even be stated that it should be akin to the test applied in the case of circumstantial evidence where there should not be any missing link in the chain of circumstances to hold the accused guilty of the offence alleged against him. Only if the version of such a witness qualifies the above test as well as all other such similar tests to be applied, can it be held that such a witness can be called as a "sterling witness" whose version can be accepted by the court without any corroboration and based on which the guilty can be punished. To be more precise, the version of the said witness on the core spectrum of the crime should remain intact while all other attendant materials, namely, oral, documentary and material objects should match the said version in material particulars in order to enable the court trying the offence to rely on the core version to sieve the other supporting materials for holding the offender guilty of the charge alleged."[Para No.11 & 12]

Allahabad High Court

State Of U.P.

Decided on 05/06/2020

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