Contradiction and Corroboration
Contradiction is the act of saying something that is opposite or very different in meaning to something else what is said earlier. In trials, while cross examination a contradiction happens when a witness under oath says something that is opposite or very different in the meaning or other wise to what is mentioned in the previous statement recorded.
Corroborating evidence (or corroboration) is evidence that tends to support a proposition that is already supported by some initial evidence, therefore confirming the proposition. For example, W, a witness, testifies that she saw X drive his automobile into a green car. Meanwhile, Y, another witness, testifies that when he examined X’s car, later that day, he noticed green paint on its fender. There can also be corroborating evidence related to a certain source, such as what makes an author think a certain way due to the evidence that was supplied by witnesses.
Credibility of testimony of witness
The testimony of the witness shall create and inspire confidence in the mind of the sitting judge. Omissions and contradictions come in the way of inspiring confidence about credibility of the witness and the evidence. The terms contradiction and omission are not defined anywhere in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (the Evidence Act) or the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C) but a diminutive reference is perceived under Section 155 of the Evidence Act. Section 155(3) reads as “by proof of former statements inconsistent with any part of his evidence which is liable to be contradicted”. U/sec. 157 the former statement of witness may be proved to corroborate the later testimony given in the court during the examination– in-chief and cross examination as of the same fact. As such, only in statement made by a witness as substantive piece of evidence before the court can be corroborated with the former statement made by him but the question arises when it contradicts the earlier version. Then by conjointly reading section 155(3) its credit gets impeached.
Recording of Contradiction and Omission
Steps for how and when shall the counsel record the Contradiction during the evidence.
- When the Witness is called for his testimony, the advocate for defense may ask the witness any question in order to dig up the contradictions in the statement of the witness recorded before the investigating officer and of what he is deposing in the court. If any such part of his statement u/s 161 of Cr.P.C is found contradictory the said part of his statement shall be brought to the notice of witness himself and he shall be further questioned to the truthfulness of the same. If the witness admits the said contradiction, then it is proved; if he denies to the said contradiction then the presiding judge shall mark the said part of the statement for identification, commonly called as “Portion mark or passage mark”.
- In order to prove the contradiction, the advocate shall put questions to the investigating officer who recorded the statement of the witness U/s 161, as to whether the Portion marked is true extract and was it recorded by him. If there is some additional information or any contradictory statement by the witness which is different from what has been stated in his statement u/s 161 of Cr.P.C then a question to that effect as why is such an information was not recorded by the investigating officer may be put to him in order to prove the contradiction. Likewise, the contradiction of the statement can be proved. Hon’ble Supreme Court, in V. K. Mishra and another Vs. State of Uttarakhand and another, has laid down the procedure of bringing on record contradictions and omissions.
Para-18 of the said citation reads as under – “Under Section 145 of the Evidence Act when it is intended to contradict the witness by his previous statement reduced into writing, the attention of such witness must be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him, before the writing can be used. While recording the deposition of a witness, it becomes the duty of the trial court to ensure that the part of the police statement with which it is intended to contradict the witness is brought to the notice of the witness in his cross-examination. The attention of witness is to be drawn to that part and this must reflect in his cross-examination by reproducing it. If the witness admits the part intended to contradict him, it stands proved and there is no need to further proof of contradiction and it will be read while appreciating the evidence. If he denies having made that part of the statement, his attention must be drawn to that statement and must be mentioned in the deposition. By this process the contradiction is merely brought on record, but it is yet to be proved. Thereafter, when investigating officer is examined in the court, his attention should be drawn to the passage marked for the purpose of contradiction, it will then be proved in the deposition of the investigating officer who again by referring to the police statement will depose about the witness having made that statement. The process again involves referring to the police statement and culling out that part with which the maker of the statement was intended to be contradicted. If the witness was not confronted with that part of the statement with which the defence wanted to contradict him, then the court cannot suo moto make use of statements to police not proved in compliance with Section 145 of Evidence Act that is, by drawing attention to the parts intended for contradiction.”
Importance of brining contradiction and omission on record and how can it effect the case
The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in case of Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai vs. State of Gujarat held that:
“Discrepancies which do not go to the root of the matter and shake the basic version of the witnesses cannot be annexed with undue importance. More so, when the all important “probabilities factor” echoes in favor of the version narrated by the witnesses”
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of U.P. vs. M. K. Anthony, has held that:
“Appreciation of evidence, the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole, appears to have a ring of truth. Once that impression is formed, the Court should scrutinize the evidence keeping in view the deficiencies, drawbacks and infirmities pointed out in the evidence as a whole and evaluate them to find out whether it is against the general tenor of the evidence given by him and whether the earlier evaluation of the evidence is shaken as to render it unworthy of belief. Minor discrepancies on trivial matters not touching the core of the case, hyper-technical approach by taking sentences torn out of context here or there from the evidence, attaching importance to some technical error committed by the investigating officer not going to the root of the matter would not ordinarily permit rejection of the evidence as a whole”
Witnesses are key sources for obtaining evidence and corroboration. Neighbours, friends, and customers may have information and are probable witnesses at trial. Investigators should interview all of these people immediately to avoid the possibility that they might coordinate their stories to discount the victim’s experience and might destroy evidence. Prosecutors often issue grand jury subpoenas for all of the following potential witnesses to nail down their statements under oath and to avoid surprises at trial:
- Traffickers’ Family and Friends. Most of the traffickers’ family members and friends will be defense witnesses, but some may still be able to corroborate details of the victim’s story, such as employment in the household and timeframe when they knew the trafficker. In domestic servitude cases, prosecutors should identify and interview every person who lived or visited the trafficker’s house while the victim lived and worked there.
- Neighbours. Witnesses who are neighbours almost always provide important corroboration for significant facts and may also receive a subpoena to testify before the grand jury, at trial, or both.
- Other Victims. In multiple-victim cases, the testimony of other victims allows the jury to see the similarities between the victims, to the extent that each victim’s testimony provides a slightly different perspective of the same event.
- Customers. Testimony from customers can corroborate the victim’s story.
- Cooperating Defendants and Co-Conspirators. The testimony of cooperating defendants and co-conspirators is also helpful because these individuals offer an insider’s view of the trafficking situation
Example of Corroboration
Defendant says “It was like what he/she (a witness) said but” This is Corroborative evidence from the defendant that the evidence the witness gave is true and correct.
First person walks in turns and looks back the way they had come; this allows a person to say I had a clear view of another person that enters later. Second person walks in and on some pretext starts shouting, suddenly raising arms in the air and shaking them, who notices if fists are open or closed when the eye is on the action of the arm; this can look threatening and causes added stress in already tense circumstances. This can provoke an already bad situation into violence and can be used when people need to justify their actions or their presence. We made a mistake but look what happened someone was assaulted. Later it can be said I had a clear view of the other person and my friend raised their arms in supplication or in surrender and can demonstrate this with arms raised slowly, hands open and palms out. This involves two people, is premeditated, threatening, causes fear and alarm and is also used to make corroboration work against anyone. Common line afterward whether you were baited or goaded you still did it. This works well if both people have authority and in a position where they are commonly accepted to be of good character. There is other variations on this and is often used to provoke criminal action where there has been no other disorderly conduct.
In Sheshanna Bhumanna Yadav vs. State of Maharashtra , the test of reliability of approver’s evidence and rule as to corroboration was discussed. The following discussion and conclusion are relevant which read as under:-
“12. The law with regard to appreciation of approver’s evidence is based on the effect of Sections 133 and 114, illustration (b) of the Evidence Act, namely, that an accomplice is competent to depose but as a rule of caution it will be unsafe to convict upon his testimony alone. The warning of the danger of convicting on uncorroborated evidence is therefore given when the evidence is that of an accomplice. The primary meaning of accomplice is any party to the crime charged and someone who aids and abets the commission of crime. The nature of corroboration is that it is confirmatory evidence and it may consist of the evidence of second witness or of circumstances like the conduct of the person against whom it is required. Corroboration must connect or tend to connect the accused with the crime. When it is said that the corroborative evidence must implicate the accused in material particulars it means that it is not enough that a piece of evidence tends to confirm the truth of a part of the testimony to be corroborated. That evidence must confirm that part of the testimony which suggests that the crime was committed by the accused. If a witness says that the accused and he stole the sheep and he put the skins in a certain place, the discovery of the skins in that place would not corroborate the evidence of the witness as against the accused. But if the skins were found in the accused’s house, this would corroborate because it would tend to confirm the statement that the accused had some hand in the theft.
- This Court stated the law of corroboration of accomplice evidence in several decisions. One of the earlier decision is Sarwan Singh v. State of Punjab, and the recent decision is Lachi Ram v. State of Punjab.
In Sarwan Singh case this Court laid down that before the court would look into the corroborative evidence it was necessary to find out whether the approver or accomplice was a reliable witness. The Court in Lachi Ram case said that the first test of reliability of approver and accomplice evidence was for the court to be satisfied that there was nothing inherently impossible in evidence. After that conclusion is reached as to reliability corroboration is required. The rule as to corroboration is based on the reasoning that there must be sufficient corroborative evidence in material particulars to connect the accused with the crime.”
From the above reading the importance to prove contradiction and corroboration can be symbolised. It is true that if contradictions and corroboration are proved they can change the faith of the case for the defense. The proof of the same can help an innocent accused person who must have been roped in a false case by presenting false and twisted case against him. The proof of Contradiction is vital to destroy the credibility of the case of prosecution. Proved contradictions and corroboration which can affect the case of prosecution plays a vital role while the Judge decides the faith of the case by appreciating the evidence he has recorded throughout the trial. Cross examination is an art and proving contradiction makes the art even more artistic.Authored by Sourav Sharma, Associate at Vidhiśāstras-Advocates & Solicitors.