08, May 2017
The Times of
India 23 November 2004
Perjury : In
India, nobodyÂ’s in the same quiver as Archer
By Swati Deshpande / TNN
Mumbai : Former US president Bill Clinton was
accused of it. Millionaire author and peer in the UKÂ’s House of Lords,
Jeffrey Archer, was punished for it. But in India, it is difficult to
recall anybody, celebrity or otherwise, who has been convicted for it.
Perjury, or wilful lying on oath in a judicial
proceeding Â– the crime that got Lord Archer a four Â– year jail term and a
fine of 175,000 pounds in 2001 Â– is so widespread in India that no less an
institution than the supreme court observed in 2000 that it had Â“become a
way of life in the law courtsÂ”. The most recent and glaring example of
in-your-face perjury was the stunning turnaround of Zahira Shaikh, the
star witness in the Best Bakery retrial, which could invite suo motu
action from the supreme court.
Zahira, in her petition before the
apex court, had stated that she had lied under threat during the original
trial. Her testimony, along with those of several others, had led to the
acquittal of 21 persons accused of burning alive 14 people in a Baroda
bakery during the post-Godhra riots in 2002. But with the heat turned on
the accused in the retrial, Zahira has again backtracked, although she has
still to depose.
US federal judge Charles Breyer,
who was in Mumbai for a law seminar on Sunday, told TOI, Â“Perjury is not
rampant in the US courts because if discovered, the entire proceeding is
set aside.Â” Judges here privately admit that the Indian judiciary should
be stricter, especially with greater reliance now being placed on
affidavits in civil cases.
While Â“knowingly misleadingÂ”
affidavits are filed daily with impunity, it is very rare, even in the
high court, for a show cause notice to be issued to ask why no action can
be initiated for perjury.