It for witnesses turning hostile in the course of

It is highly perceived that witnesses turn hostile due to outside
pressure which consequently crumbles the case of prosecution. Our prestigious
legal system has seen it all, from crumbling of cases involving corruption
charges of the powerful to genocide. With the burden to prove the guilt on
prosecution, the instances of repudiation of statement made before the police
has grown to be an issue before the system of criminal justice.

The threat to the
lives of witnesses is the principle reason for rescinding of their earlier
statements during the trial. Political pressure, autogenous fear of police and
the legal system, absence of fear of the law of perjury, a compassionless law
enforcement machinery and corruption are some of the other reasons for
witnesses turning hostile in the course of trial.1

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The Supreme Court
in the case of Krishna
Mochi v. State
of Bihar2 observed
that society suffers by wrong convictions and it equally suffers by wrong
acquittals. In this case the Supreme Court observed in cases involving people
who are high up in government of have strong political, economic or even muscle
the witnesses do not dispose due to threat to their own and their family’s

The Best Bakery trial3
is an obstructive example of miscarriage of justice where the witnesses turned
hostile due to external pressure. The prime eye witness and complainant Zaheera
Sheikh in the case turned hostile along with 36 other witnesses during the
trial held in a Vadodara court. Consequently the court let off all 21 accused.4
It needs to be noted here that this case was one among the many cases
registered in the courts at time of 2002 Godhara Riots in which 2000 Muslims
were ruthlessly murdered. The incident fits in the definition
of genocide given by the UN. In Jessica Lal case,5
the BMW Hit and Run Case,6
and a host of other cases involving high profile personalities have exposed
the sickening truth that the rich and powerful operate criminal
justice by menacing and coercing the witnesses.

Another factor
responsible for this prevalent phenomenon is the sluggish working of the
judicial process. In Swaran Singh’s Case,7
the Supreme Court said:

“It has become more or less a fashion to have a criminal case
adjourned again and again till the witness tires and he gives up. It is the
game of unscrupulous lawyers to get the adjournments for one excuse or the
other till a witness is won over or is tired, (omitted).In adjourning the
matter without any valid cause a Court unwittingly becomes party to miscarriage
of justice. A person abhors becoming a witness. It is the administration of
justice that suffers.”

Witnesses tend to
be frustrated because of being summoned repeatedly only to find that the date
is moved ahead/adjourned.

1 B R Saini, Protection of
witness under law of evidence: a comparative study, 156 (2012) accessed from

2 Krishna Mochi v. State of Bihar  AIR 2003 SC

3 (2004) 4 SCC 158, the first track trial began on May 9 and was
completed on June 29, 20003. Twenty one persons were named accused in the case
and the prosecution mainly depended on the testimony of the
survivor Zahira Sheikh. Before the newlyinstituted court, she refused to
identify any of the accused and was contrary to her previous statement of the
police and theNational Human Rights Commission. The Court recorded a verdict
that the prosecution had called to prove the charges. LaterMs. Sheikh assaulted
that she lied to the court under threat and fear for her life. Due to the
pressure from various groups, theState Govt. has filed an appeal against the
acquittal before the High Court.


5 2008 INDLAW SC 846, Jessica Lal was allegedly shot dead at point
blank range by a drunk Manu Sharma, the son of a Minister in the Narsimha Rao
Government , for her refusal to serve a drink to him. Jessica Lal was working
there as a celebrity barmaid. At that moment the room was of people who
witnessed the incident. As the trial progressed a number of witnesses turned
hostile before the court and retracted from the statements, which they had
earlier 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. Nanda
had allegedly run over sleeping pavement dwellers in Delhi. Three people died
on the spot to received serious injuries. As the trial progressed a large
number of witness turned hostile- Monoj Mallick , the lone survivor of the
Hit and run, told the court that he was hit by a truck. Key witness Hari
Shankar 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.)