Meaning of Hostile witness in evidence.
Evidence-Trap witnesses and witnesses with bad antecedents-Necessity for corroboration by independent evidence. Evidence Act (1 of 1872) ss. 8 and 154-‘Hostile’ witness-Weight of evidence of-Silence as conduct. Code of Criminal Procedure (Act S of 1898) s. 162- Statements recorded during investigation.
(a) Unlike the law in England, in India, the grant of permission to cross examine his own witness by a party is not conditional on the witness being declared ‘adverse’ or ‘hostile’. In fact, in the order granting such permission it is preferable to avoid such expressions as “declared ‘hostile,” “declared unfavorable” etc. Whether it be tho grant of permission under s. 142, Evidence Act, to put leading questions or leave under s. 154 to ask questions which might be put in Cross-examination by the adverse party, the Indian Evidence Act leaves the matter entirely to the discretion of the Court. The discretion is unqualified and untrammeled
apart from any question of hostility. It is to be liberally exercised whenever the court from the witness’s demeanour temper, attitude, bearing, or the tenor and tendency of his answers, or from a perusal of his previous inconsistent statement or otherwise, thinks that the grant of such permission is expedient to extract the truth and to do justice. The grant of such permission does not amount to an adjudication by the court as to the veracity of the witness. The fallacy underlying the view that where a party calling the witness requests the court to declare him a “hostile” witness and with the leave of the court cross-examines the witness, the latter’s evidence should be excluded altogether in criminal cases, stems from the assumption that the only purpose of cross-examination of a witness is to discredit him. There is another equally important object of cross-examination, namely to elicit admissions of facts which would help build the case of the cross-examiner. When a party with the leave of 13
Section 154 speaks of permitting a party to put to his own witness questions which might be put in cross- examination. It is not necessarily tantamount to crossexamining the witness. Cross-examination, strictly speaking, can only be by the adverse party. Therefore, neither the party calling human, nor the adverse party is, in law, precluded from relying on any part of the statement of such a witness