The Meghalaya High Court recently urged trial courts to take serious action against litigants and witnesses who give false evidence in criminal proceedings. [King Victor Ch Marak vs State of Meghalaya]
A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W Diengdoh observed that trial courts should initiate proceedings for perjury if they find cogent grounds to disbelieve witness.
“The trial court upon disbelieving the evidence of any person on cogent grounds, should also take steps for perjury. Unless Indian judges get serious with litigants and witnesses, the present trend of false affidavits being filed and false evidence being given may one day render the judiciary irrelevant,” the High Court stated, in a judgment dated June 8.
The Court made the observation while dismissing an appeal filed by a man convicted for the aggravated penetrative sexual assault of a four-year-old girl in 2014.
In July 2022, the accused was sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment for the offence of rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and for offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).
The counsel for the appellant contended that the allegations of rape were cooked up due to a property dispute between families.
The trial had dismissed this submission for lack of evidence. The High Court said that the trial court had, thereby, disregarded the ‘rather concocted version’ of events alleged by the mother of the accused-appellant.
The High Court agreed with the trial court, noting that the mother had made up this version of events in a ‘desperate attempt to rescue her recalcitrant son’.
The Court also opined that the testimony of the convict’s cousin sister, another defence witness in the case, did not inspire confidence.
The bench further noted that there was no rebuttal to a submission made by the survivor’s mother that she had been threatened by the appellant’s relatives against accusing the appellant of the crime.
The High Court proceeded to conclude that the three defence witnesses in the case were heavily tutored to favour the appellant’s case.
“In the light of the appellant not asserting that the survivor had not come to the appellant’s residence on the relevant date, the afterthought on the basis of which the three defence witnesses were tutored and made to say in court that the survivor did not come to their residence, was obvious,” the judgment stated.
The High Court conceded that the failure of the police in sending the survivor’s clothes for forensic examination was a serious lapse. All the same, it noted that this lapse mattered little in this case since other evidence and circumstances revealed the commission of the offence by the appellant.
Hence, the High Court upheld the appellant’s conviction and dismissed the appeal.
Advocates S Deb and L Nongtdu represented the appellant-convict.
Additional Advocate B Bhattacharjee, Additional Public Prosecutor S Sengupta, and Additional Senior Government Advocate AH Kharwanlang appeared for the State of Meghalaya.