Examination of Witnesses under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
The examination of witnesses is a fundamental part of any legal proceeding. It helps in establishing claims and discovering the truth. In this article, we will explore the three stages of witness examination under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872: examination-in-chief, cross-examination, and re-examination.
Examination-in-Chief (Section 137)
Examination-in-chief is the initial examination of a witness by the party who calls him. The witness answers questions asked by the party who has called him before the court. The testimony is strictly confined to the facts relevant to the issues only.
Cross-Examination (Section 137)
Cross-examination is the examination of a witness by the adverse party. After the examination-in-chief, if the opposite party wants to, they can take over the witness and cross-question him about his previous answers. The opposite party may ask him any question regarding all relevant facts and not merely the facts discussed during the examination-in-chief.
Re-Examination (Section 137)
Re-examination is the examination of a witness, subsequent to the cross-examination by the party who called him. If inconsistencies or discrepancies arise out of cross-examination, the party has the right to re-examine his own witnesses. However, in case of re-examination, no new question or fact shall be permitted to be asked without the court’s consent.
Leading Questions (Section 142 and Section 143)
A leading question is one that suggests the answer within the question itself. According to Section 142 of the Indian Evidence Act, leading questions may not be asked in examination-in-chief or in a re-examination, except with the permission of the Court. However, leading questions can be asked in cross-examination. The reason behind this is to prevent any influence on the witness’s testimony and to ensure that the witness provides their own unbiased account of events.
Section 143 further stipulates that if a witness is asked a question which he would be entitled to refuse to answer under Section 132 or 133, he may ask it in any form which it may suggest to him; but if such question relates to a matter not relevant to the suit or proceeding, except insofar as it affects the credit of the witness by injuring his character, it must be asked in a form not suggesting the answer.
Relevancy (Section 5)
Relevancy is determined based on whether a fact or question helps establish a fact in issue. Under Section 5 of the Indian Evidence Act, evidence is admissible only when it supports a relevant fact in issue. The judge may ask the parties if the evidence they have adduced deals with a relevant fact or not. For evidence to be admissible in Court, the judge must be convinced that the evidence is relevant and does help establish a relevant fact in issue.
Kartar Singh vs State Of Punjab
The Supreme Court of India held that cross-examination is an acid-test of truthfulness.
Rammi Alias Rameshwar Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh
This case highlighted that re-examination should not be confined to clarification of ambiguities that arose in cross-examination.
Simrin Singh v. Amrit Srinivasan and Ors.
This case held that in the garb of ‘explanation of matters referred to in cross-examination,’ a witness cannot be recalled for re-examination in a routine manner.
The examination of witnesses is a crucial part of any legal proceeding. It helps in establishing claims and discovering truth. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides a comprehensive framework for examining witnesses while case laws provide practical insights into how these principles are applied in real-life scenarios. Always consult with a legal professional for advice pertaining to a specific legal matter.