Legal value of a statement

Statement given or made before Police by a person when investigation of the case is going on is inadmissible before the court of law. In other words, court will not take or consider these statements as evidence.

During investigation police record statements of witnesses under section 161 Code of Criminal Procedure, commonly known as CrPC. The purpose of recording these statements is to gather the oral evidence against accused.

After completion of investigation, Police submits charge-sheet before the competent court and copies of it along with all prosecution witness statements are also supplied to accused. This is to make accused enable to understand the allegations against him and the evidence which prosecution relied upon and would produce before court against accused.  It is also to make accused enable to make his defense.

On the basis of statements made by witness, court can frame charge and take cognizance of alleged crime. At this stage, prosecution and defense counsels argue if any offense appears to have been prima facie committed or if the charge-sheet meets the ingredients of the offence alleged to have been committed by accused.


What is the use of statements recorded under 161 CrPC

Statements made before police during investigation can be used to corroborate or contradict the witness. Section 162 CrPC bars courts to take or consider statements made before police as evidence.

When a witness appears before court, he states what he knows about the alleged offense or the facts how accused is connected with the crime.

While witness whose statement has been earlier reduced to writing by Police, if examined in the court, defence can question his truthfulness invoking the provisions of Section 145 of Evidence Act.  Section 145 of Evidence Act describes how to contradict witness.

In every criminal trial, prosecution has to produce its witness or witnesses in order to prove its case against the accused. After appearing before court, the witness makes statement which is known as Examination-in-Chief. Here witness states what he knows or believes about alleged crime.

Then, the witness is being examined by defence, it is known as cross examination. In Cross examination, the defence tries to impeach the credibility of witness and to tell court that witness is not reliable. There are many ways to impeach the credibility of witness. However, we will limit it only to “Contradictions” today.

Proving Contradictions:

As per Section 155 (3) Indian Evidence Act, the credit of a witness may be impeached by the adverse party or with the consent of the court by the party who calls him, by contradicting former statement (made before Police) which is inconsistent or any part of his evidence which is liable to be contradicted. Hence, proving the omissions and contradictions in criminal trial is one of the modes to impeach the credibility of the witness.

Proving of contradictions is a strong weapon in the hands of defence counsel to get acquittal of the accused. Whenever there is no defence available in the prosecution case, the proof of the contradiction is certainly assisting the accused to get the acquittal of the charges. Hence, proof of the contradictions is very important for the defence in order to get the acquittal.

On the basis of proved contradictions during the examination of each of the witnesses in court, the defence counsel submits before court that the prosecution witnesses are not worthy to be relied upon. The testimony and evidence of all the prosecution witness should be discarded in toto. The prosecution witnesses are not reliable. They are deposing falsely before the court.

Therefore, on the basis of proved contradictions, the defence counsel submits that there are several contradictions on material points and oral evidence by prosecution witness have no merit in the eye of law.

Contradiction

According to Oxford dictionary ‘contradiction’ means to offer the contrary. If a witness deposes in the court that a certain fact existed but he has not stated accordingly in his statement before the police, it is a case of conflict between the deposition in court and statement before the police. Therefore statement before the police can be used to contradict his deposition before the court.

Omission

If a witness has deposed in the Examination-in-Chief a certain thing which he has omitted to state before the Police in his statement it is called omission. If the omission is on minor points, it is not contradiction and court will not take cognizance of those omissions. Court will take cognizance of those omissions which are on material point and which are called contradictions by way of omissions. In order to prove the omissions, it is necessary to find out as to what he has deposed before the court in the Examination-in-Chief and omitted to state in his statement before Police.

It is necessary to prove the omissions and contradictions as per procedure laid down in Section 145 and Section 137 of Indian Evidence Act. If the contradiction is not proved, it is of no use to argue before the court that a particular witness has stated something else before the court and something else or contradictory before the police.

The Supreme Court has held in Tahsildar Singh Versus State that “relevant and material omissions amount to vital contradictions which can be established by Cross- Examination and confronting the witness with his previous statement.”

The Supreme Court further held that an omission to state a fact or circumstance in the case may amount to contradiction if certain conditions as are fulfilled.

It is for the trial judge to decide in each case, after comparing the part or parts of the statement recorded by police with that made in the witness box, to give a ruling having regard to the principles whether the recital intended to be used for contradiction satisfies the requirements of law.

However, there are exceptional cases where law permits courts to admit statements made before Police as evidence.

Mudasir Yaqoob is Senior Correspondent Greater Kashmir. He covers sub-ordinate Court proceedings. The views expressed in this article are his own.