SC: Act as Participants in Pursuit of Truth, Not as Mere Tape Recorders

The Supreme Court of India has refused to entertain

While presiding over an appeal by a man convicted of murdering his wife, the Apex Court remarked that the judges are expected to act like participants in the pursuit of truth rather than mere tape recorders of whatever is being said by witnesses.

The Case History

These observations came when the bench, comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice J. B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, came to a judgment while upholding the conviction and life sentence awarded to a man for murdering his wife in 1995. Anees, who challenged the Delhi High Court’s decision, was found guilty by the trial court of killing his wife and given a life sentence for an incident on December 12, 1995. Their 5-year-old daughter, the sole eyewitness, turned into a hostile witness and did not cooperate with the prosecution.

Justice Pardiwala emphasized that if the public prosecutor’s questioning lacks skill, as seen in this case, the state may fail to uncover the truth from the child witness. He asserted that it’s the court’s responsibility to uncover the truth and ensure justice is served.

The apex court rejected the appeal and held the appellant guilty, relying on the other evidence and his cruel actions of inflicting 12 knife wounds on an unarmed and vulnerable victim. The court concluded that the lower court’s decision to uphold the conviction for the murder of the appellant’s wife was justified.

The Role of the Public Prosecutor

The definition of a public prosecutor is defined in Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A public prosecutor is seen as the state’s representative in the criminal justice system, tasked with safeguarding the rights and interests of the general public. Noting the incompetence on the part of the public prosecutor in the above case, the bench said that it is the duty of the public prosecutor to cross-examine a hostile witness in detail and try to elucidate the truth and also establish that the witness is speaking a lie and has deliberately resiled from his police statement recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC.

Stressing the importance of the role of a public prosecutor, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud noted that the judiciary and the public prosecution service play a vital role in the criminal justice system. He further said that the Supreme Court has consistently stressed that appointments to positions such as public prosecutor should not be influenced by political factors but should instead be based on merit and legal considerations.

Final Observations

In its verdict issued on Friday, the bench emphasized the court’s responsibility to uncover the truth and serve justice. It stressed that courts must actively engage in trials rather than simply recording witness statements like passive observers.

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About the Author: Hemansh Tandon