Showing posts with label cross examination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cross examination. Show all posts

07 February 2021

Falsely implicating husband and his family in domestic violence case with intention to ensure that the parties were sent to counselling in order to settle their disputes amounts to mental cruelty entitling husband to seek divorce

Allegations of cruelty in divorce case should be specifically challenged in cross examination

    Now, given that matrimonial disputes rarely involve production of concrete evidence in documentary or audio-visual form, and mostly proceed on the relative strength of the opposing allegations made by the parties, the entire process of leading and recording evidence has a significant role to play in establishing one's case. Thus, notwithstanding her denials in the written statement, the appellant was expected to properly and specifically cross-examine the respondent to prove her allegations of cruelty against him and disprove those he had levelled against her. The importance of properly discharging this function of cross-examination was discussed by the Supreme Court in the following paragraphs of its decision in Rajinder Pershad Vs. Darshana Devi (2001) 7 SCC 69:
"4. The only point urged albeit strenuously on behalf of the appellant by Mr P.S. Mishra, the learned Senior Counsel is that as there has been no valid service of notice, so all proceedings taken on the assumption of service of notice are illegal and void. He has invited our attention to the judgment of the learned Rent Control Tribunal wherein it is recorded that Exhibit AW 1/6 dated 5-8-1986 was sent by registered post and the same was taken by the postman to the address of the tenant on 6-8-1986, 8-8-1986, 19-8-1986 and 20-8-1986 but on those days the tenant was not available; on 21-8-1986, he met the tenant who refused to receive the notice. This finding remained undisturbed by both the Tribunals as well as the High Court. Learned counsel attacks this finding on the ground that the postman was on leave on those days and submits that the records called for from the post office to prove that fact, were reported as not available. On those facts, submits the learned counsel, it follows that there was no refusal by the tenant and no service of notice. We are afraid we cannot accept these contentions of the learned counsel. In the Court of the Rent Controller, the postman was examined as AW 2. We have gone through his cross-examination. It was not suggested to him that he was not on duty during the period in question and the endorsement "refused" on the envelope was incorrect. In the absence of cross-examination of the postman on this crucial aspect, his statement in the chief examination has been rightly relied upon. There is an age-old rule that if you dispute the correctness of the statement of a witness you must give him opportunity to explain his statement by drawing his attention to that part of it which is objected to as untrue, otherwise you cannot impeach his credit. In State of U.P. v. Nahar Singh (1998) 3 SCC, a Bench of this Court (to which I was a party) stated the principle that Section 138 of the Evidence Act confers a valuable right to cross-examine a witness tendered in evidence by the opposite party. The scope of that provision is enlarged by Section 146 of Evidence Act by permitting a witness to be questioned, inter alia, to test his veracity. It was observed: (SCC p. 567, para 14) "14. The oft-quoted observation of Lord Herschell, L.C. in Browne v. Dunn [(1893) 6 R 67 (HL)] clearly elucidates the principle underlying those provisions. It reads thus:
'I cannot help saying, that it seems to me to be absolutely essential to the proper conduct of a cause, where it is intended to suggest that a witness is not speaking the truth on a particular point, to direct his attention to the fact by some questions put in cross-examination showing that that imputation is intended to be made, and not to take his evidence and pass it by as a matter altogether unchallenged, and then, when it is impossible for him to explain, as perhaps he might have been able to do if such questions had been put to him, the circumstances which, it is suggested, indicate that the story he tells ought not to be believed, to argue that he is a witness unworthy of credit. My Lords, I have always understood that if you intend to impeach a witness, you are bound, whilst he is in the box, to give an opportunity of making any explanation which is open to him; and, as it seems to me, that is not only a rule of professional practice in the conduct of a case, but it is essential to fair play and fair dealing with witnesses.' (emphasis supplied)[Para No.11]

    Although the appellant, in the grounds adopted in the appeal, has assailed the reliance of the learned Family Court on the decision in State of U.P. v. Nahar Singh (1998) 3 SCC 561 to contend that the same was a criminal case and the precedent arising therefrom could not apply to cross examinations in matrimonial proceedings, which are civil proceedings by nature, there is no merit to this opposition; especially in the light of the observations of the Supreme Court in Darshana Devi's case which was a civil proceeding. In fact, the standard of proof in a matrimonial proceeding- which is also in the nature of a civil proceeding is not as strict, as in criminal proceedings. Thus, the case is required to be proved on preponderance of probabilities and not the legal standard of being beyond a reasonable doubt. Keeping in view the aforesaid, it is evident that there was a crucial responsibility placed on the shoulders of the appellant which was to ensure that she challenged the specifics of the allegations raised by the respondent and establish their lack of veracity. Paragraphs 44 to 46 of the impugned judgment clearly show that the appellant had not cross-examined the respondent/husband on these important aspects, and, thus, completely failed to draw out the facts as claimed by her. In fact, even before us, the appellant, other than contending that the onus of proving cruelty rested upon the respondent, has failed to provide any cogent reasons for failing to cross-examine the respondent in support of her own case, or to challenge his allegations of cruelty. It is a settled proposition of law that the Court would normally accept unchallenged and uncontroverted assertions of fact. The failure of the appellant to effectively cross-examine the respondent shows that she neither seriously challenged his version of the factual position, nor established her own version. Therefore, in our view, the Family Court was justified in accepting the unrebutted testimony of the respondent.[Para No.12]

    When we view this in addition to the fact that in her written statement, the appellant had admitted to having levelled false allegations against the respondent and his family under the DV Act, we find there were plenty of holes in the appellant's story. Her feeble explanation for this ill-thought out act of falsely implicating the respondent and his family was that the same was not done malevolently, but only with an intention to ensure that the parties were sent to counselling in order to settle their disputes. That explanation barely comes to the aid of the appellant considering that the Supreme Court in K. Srinivas Rao Vs. D.A. Deepa 2013 III AD (SC) 458 has already held that any act of making unfounded complaints to the police shall be treated as an act of mental cruelty. The relevant extracts of this decision read as under:
"14. Thus, to the instances illustrative of mental cruelty noted in Samar Ghosh, we could add a few more. Making unfounded indecent defamatory allegations against the spouse or his or her relatives in the pleadings, filing of complaints or issuing notices or news items which may have adverse impact on the business prospect or the job of the spouse and filing repeated false complaints and cases in the court against the spouse would, in the facts of a case, amount to causing mental cruelty to the other spouse.

31 August 2020

Where a party to the suit does not appear in the witness-box and does not offer himself to be cross-examined by the other side, a presumption would arise that the case set up by him is not correct

The fact remains that there is no evidence on record to hold that defendant No.1 Dashmat Bai admittedly, firstly married Kunjilal, but there is no evidence on record to hold that whether he or she divorced each other and marriage between Kunjilal and Dashmat Bai had ever been validly dissolved. Similarly, it is the further admitted position on record that Dashmat Bai entered into marriage with Latel, but there is no evidence that divorce ever took place between them and thirdly, the alleged third marriage of Dashmat Bai with Sukhdev i.e. she has lastly married Sukhdev in Chudi form. Father of defendant No.1 Dashmat Bai namely, Jaitram (DW-1) has categorically stated that he was not present at the time when Dashmat Bai allegedly entered into marriage in Chudi form with Sukhdev. It is quite unnatural that father will not remain present at the time of such an important ceremony i.e. marriage of his daughter with a person namely Sukhdev. Similarly, Dashmat Bai herself could have entered into the witness-box and offered herself for cross-examination in absence of which adverse inference could be drawn against her.[Para No.20]

Where a party to the suit does not appear in the witness-box and does not offer himself to be cross-examined by the other side, a presumption would arise that the case set up by him is not correct
   The Supreme Court in Vidhyadhar (supra) has clearly held that where a party to the suit does not appear in the witness-box and states his own case on oath and does not offer himself to be cross-examined by the other side, a presumption would arise that the case set up by him is not correct. This decision has further been followed by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Man Kaur (supra).[Para No.21]

30 July 2020

Call details marked with objection can not be considered in evidence if its issuing authority is not examined

Though the call details Ex.P.36 marked with objection, the admissibility of the said document cannot be questioned at the belated stage, but the authority, who issued the said document, has not been examined. Therefore, the same cannot be considered in the absence of any material produced to prove that there were conversations between P.W.8 and P.W.1 and P.W.8 and the deceased in view of the dictum of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Malay Kumar Ganguly v. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee reported in AIR 2010 SC 1162 wherein at paragraphs 48 and 49 it has been held as under:

Call details marked with objection can not be considered in evidence if its issuing authority is not examine
"48. It is true that ordinarily if a party to an action does not object to a document being taken on record and the same is marked as an exhibit, he is estopped and precluded from questioning the admissibility thereof at a later stage. It is, however, trite that a document becomes inadmissible in evidence unless the author thereof is examined; the contents thereof cannot be held to have been proved unless he is examined and subjected to cross- examination in a court of law.
49. The document which is otherwise inadmissible cannot be taken in evidence only because no objection to the admissibility thereof was taken. In a criminal case, subject of course, to the shifting of burden depending upon the statutes and/or the decisions of the superiors courts, the right of an accused is protected in terms of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The procedure laid in that behalf, therefore, must be strictly complied with. Exts. 4, 5 and 6, in our opinion, are not admissible in evidence in the criminal trial." [Para No.87]

23 May 2020

Examination of investigating officer; before injured or eye witness is examined, does not cause prejudice to accused in his defence

Fair trial - order of examination of witnesses by prosecution - Sec.135 of Evidence Act - Sec.230, 231, 311 of CrPC

   Does examination of investigating officer before injured or eye witness is examined, cause prejudice to accused in his defence?

Held: No

22 May 2020

Defence story has to be suggested in cross examination

Importance of putting defence story in cross examination of witness - No suggestion is given to witness in the cross examination about the story put forwarded by accused  in his statement u/s.313 of Cr.P.C.

Defence story has to be suggested in cross examination
   When the defence did not put any question to the witness in the cross-examination on a material point, it cannot subsequently raise any grievance on such point. When it is intended to suggest that a witness is not speaking the truth on a point, it is absolutely essential to direct his attention to the disputed facts and grant him opportunity to offer his explanation on that point. It is a settled legal proposition that in case the question is not put to the witness in cross-examination who could furnish explanation on a particular issue, the correctness or legality of the said fact/issue could not be raised. [Para No.19]

25 April 2020

Importance of cross examination in criminal trial

A witness is required to be cross-examined in a criminal trial to test his veracity; to discover who he is and what his position in life is; or to shake his credit, by injuring his character, although the answer to such questions may directly or indirectly incriminate him or may directly or indirectly expose him to a penalty or forfeiture (Section 146 of the Evidence Act). A witness is required to be cross- examined to bring forth inconsistencies, discrepancies and to prove the untruthfulness of the witness.[Para No.56]

   It is open to an accused to raise such reasonable doubt by cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses to discredit such witness in respect of truthfulness and veracity. However, where the statement of prosecution witnesses cannot be doubted on the basis of the touchstone of truthfulness, contradictions and inconsistencies, and the accused wants to assert any particular fact which cannot be made out from the prosecution evidence, it is incumbent upon the accused to cross- examine the relevant witnesses to that extent. The witness, in order to impeach the truthfulness of his statement, must be cross- examined to seek any explanation in respect of a version, which accused wants to rely upon rather to raise an argument at the trial or appellate stage to infer a fact when the opportunity given was not availed of as part of fair play while appreciating the statement of the witnesses.
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