The Supreme Court has observed that it is a rule of fairness to give the witness a chance to explain the contradiction in his testimony by showing him the relevant part of his prior statement

While holding that, in this case, the trial court did not follow the correct procedure while recording the contradictions in the testimony, the Bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan observed that, "if the witness is intended to be confronted with his prior statement reduced into writing, that particular part of the statement, even before it is proved, must be specifically shown to the witness. After that, the part of the prior statement used to contradict the witness has to be proved. As indicated earlier, it can be treated as proved if the witness admits to having made such a statement, or it can be proved in the crossexamination of the concerned police officer. The object of this requirement in Section 145 of the Evidence Act of confronting the witness by showing him the relevant part of his prior statement is to give the witness a chance to explain the contradiction. Therefore, this is a rule of fairness."

The appellants, accused numbers 3, 1, 6, and 7, were convicted for the murder of Sahabuddin Choudhury under Section 302 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code for an incident that occurred on February 3, 2013.

Out of eight accused, five were convicted, one died during trial, and the High Court confirmed the appellants' conviction but acquitted accused number 5. The prosecution alleged that Md. Abdul Kadir (accused number 1) abducted the victim and killed him with a sharp weapon behind L.P. School. During the appeal, the appellants argued that the testimony of prosecution witnesses, including eyewitnesses, was unreliable due to contradictions and omissions. However, the State maintained that evidence, including the last seen together and motive, and supported the conviction upheld by the High Court.

The Supreme Court observed that, "every contradiction or omission is not a ground to discredit the witness or to disbelieve his/her testimony. A minor or trifle omission or contradiction brought on record is not sufficient to disbelieve the witness's version. Only when there is a material contradiction or omission can the Court disbelieve the witness's version either fully or partially. What is a material contradiction or omission depends upon the facts of each case. Whether an omission is a contradiction also depends on the facts of each individual case."

On examining the testimonies of the witnesses, the Court found a lack of reliable evidence, and held that the prosecution had failed to bring home the charges against the appellants. The conviction was set aside and accordingly, the appeal was allowed.

Cause Title: Alauddin & Ors vs The State of Assam & Anr.

Click here to read/download the Judgment