08, May 2017
The Times of
India 23 November 2004
false evidence is rare
By Swati Deshpande /
Mumbai : Traditionally,
courts in India are reluctant to prosecute for perjury when a subsequent
statement made by a witness, though contradictory, is a true statement.
This, say judges, is to encourage people to speak the truth.
court, while castigating the rampant practice of perjury, had also warned
that if the system had to survive, effective action was Â“the need of the
timeÂ”. It had also recommended a change in the criminal procedure code
(that deals with perjury). However, things have not changed.
factor for the overburdened courts is that perjury is an offshoot of the
main matter before the judges. A retired supreme court judge quipped, Â“If
people are prosecuted for perjury, the number of cases in courts could
prosecutes for perjury? In the apex court and high courts, it becomes a
criminal case, with the judges directing the courtÂ’s senior officer to
initiate necessary action with the police. But in the trial courts, the
magistrate has to sign the complaint, a deterring factor for most.
statutes are not lacking when it comes to proscribing false evidence. Â“The
Indian Penal Code contains elaborate provision defining offences and
fixing sentences for a variety of situations where false evidence is
given,Â” says lawyer Pranav Badheka. But prosecution for false evidence is
rare and the fear of such prosecution even rarer.
Can hostile witness be
hauled up for perjury?
experts are divided on the issue. At present, the police record the
witnessÂ’ statement, but this has no evidentiary value in courts. Witnesses
do not sign the statements and often retract from their stand. A helpless
court goes by what the witness says from the witness box. The Mallimath
committee had recommended that witnesses record their statement before a
magistrate, but this has not translated into law. So, as of now,
prosecution witnesses rescinding their statements cannot be prosecution
for perjury unless the falseness of their depositions can be supported by
Singapore, which has modelled its laws on Indian statutes, had modified
this particular rule and made it mandatory for witnesses to sign the
PERJURY is wilfully
giving or fabricating false evidence in a judicial proceeding on oath.
It is important that the false
statement be material to the case.
It is not considered perjury,
for example, to lie about your age, unless your age is a key factor in
proving the case.
Punishment for giving false
evidence can be up to ten years.
Perjury provisions under the IPC
are both non-cognisable and bailable. Non-cognisable means that
prosecution can only be commenced by a magistrate and not directly by the
Prosecution for perjury is a
long drawn out process about which no court is enthusiastic.
Such prosecutions consume the
stateÂ’s resources in terms of judicial time and the time of state counsel.
The judges should however be
empowered to impose punitive fines or costs in such cases.
In the last high profile perjury
case, the SC in 2001 directed that a complaint be filed against R Karuppan,
president of the Chennai advocatesÂ’ association, for giving false evidence
about then Chief Justice of India (CJI) A S AnandÂ’s date of birth.
Had the aggrieved party not been the CJI himself, perhaps, KaruppanÂ’s
perjury may have also slipped untackled.
KaruppanÂ’s perjury was that he had filed a pettion challenging the CJIÂ’s
date of birth in spite of knowing that the issue had already been settled
by the President of India.
On any day in court blatantly
incorrect or misleading statements are made by state and public
authorities and they get away with, at best, some strictures.