New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that an accused can be convicted even on deficient evidence as long as the same was credible and cogent.
“It is the duty of court to separate grain from chaff. Where chaff can be separated from grain, it would be open to the court to convict an accused notwithstanding, the fact that evidence has been found to be deficient, or to be not wholly credible,” a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Mukundakam Sharma observed.
The apex court passed the ruling while dismissing the appeal of Mani alias Udattu Man and six others convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Tamil Nadu for the murder of one Prabha. The deceased was hacked to death by the accused due to previous enmity.
Even though seven of the prosecution witnesses turned hostile, the sessions court convicted the accused on the basis of the eyewitness account of Murugammal, mother of the deceased.
However, one of the accused was acquitted of the charge.The Madras High Court confirmed the sentence following which the accused appealed in the apex court.
Incidentally, the accused were acquitted in the earlier murder of Prabha’s younger brother Babu.
In the appeal before the apex court, Mani and the other accused took the plea that as seven of the witnesses failed to support the prosecution’s theory and one of the accused had been acquitted, they too were entitled to acquittal under the maxim “falsus in uno falsus in omnibus” (if part of the evidence is unbelievable then the rest should also be discarded).“
The same maxim is employed in some of the advanced countries, they argued.
Rejecting the argument, the apex court observed that the maxim has no application in India and the witness/ witnesses cannot be branded as liars.
According to the apex court, the maxim has neither general acceptance nor has occupied the status of rule of law in the country.
“It is merely a rule of caution. All that it amounts to, is that in such cases testimony may be disregarded, and not that it must be disregarded. The doctrince merely involves the question of weight of evidence which a court may apply in a given set of circumstances, but is not what may be called a mandatory rule of evidence,” the bench observed.
Evidence in each case has to be appraised as to what extent it is worthy of accpetance, the apex court said.
“Merely because in some respects the court considers the same to be insufficient for placing reliance on the testimony of a witness, it does not necessarily follow as a matter of law that it must be disregarded in all aspects,” the bench observed, while upholding the conviction and sentence.