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Hostile Witnesses: Trial court judge need not be a ‘meek spectator’, says HC
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 16
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that the trial court judge need not be a “meek spectator” and watch witnesses turn hostile without initiating action. A high court Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia also passed strictures against Ambala’s Additional Sessions Judge (ad hoc), Fast Track Court, for not “taking action under law” as witnesses backtracked in the fake currency case allegedly involving Punjab’s senior superintendent of police Gurcharan Singh Pherurai.

The bench also came down heavily on the state director-general of police (DGP) and the home secretary (HS) for failing to take corrective measures. They have also been directed to file affidavits.

Notices have also been issued to Pherurai and his brother Gurmel Singh, along with all the witnesses backing out of their statements. The order is significant as it is expected to have a bearing on the graft case pending against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and others. A substantial number of witnesses in the case have already been declared hostile.

The 12-page order, passed after Justice Ranjit Singh took suo-motu cognizance of a news-report on Pherurai’s acquittal, says, “What is shocking our conscious is the total break of rule of law and failure of administration of criminal justice caused before Ambala’s Additional Sessions Judge (ad hoc), Fast Track Court.

The ASJ, vide judgment dated October 6, 2007, acquitted the accused. What disturbs us is that he was a meek spectator and under his authority and command of law, witnesses were declared hostile; and he did not take any action as per law, for which there are ample provisions. We are amazed at the inaction on the part of the ASJ. Enquiry under Section 340 of the CrPC can even be conducted after the conclusion of trial”.

The bench added: “We are also of the considered opinion that there is a total inaction on the part of the Punjab DGP and the HS to take corrective measures when responsible officers of their offices have resiled from their statements in the court.

“We are also of the view that there is a total breach of rule of law. If the official witnesses had falsely implicated the accused - one of them was SSP - what was the hesitation on the part of the authorities to dispense with the services of such kind of officers, who had falsely implicated the accused.

Otherwise, if the accused were rightly found to have committed the offence during investigation, then as to why the witnesses have resiled in the court of law, should be a matter of grave concern for the authorities of the state of Punjab.

Referring to the report of Indian Security Press, the Judges observed the currency recovered was counterfeit. “The economy of our nation is being ruined by the circulation of counterfeit currency. Section 489 C and B are very serious offences, which are against the integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Who abetted and from where the counterfeit currency came, is another issue. If the same is not found from the possession of the accused, then the police officials had obtained the same and planted it upon the accused. If the accused are absolved as to why the police officials are not guilty of offence under Section 489 C and B, is another concern”.

Virtually spelling out the law, the Bench ruled: “We are, prima facie, of the view that the grave offences i.e. under Sections 193, 194, 195, 197, 198, 203, 211, 218 and 220 of the IPC are made out against the witnesses and inquiry under Section 340 of the CrPC ought to have been conducted by the trial court. If he came to the conclusion that the offence has been committed, a complaint to this effect ought to have been filed. The trial court in such a case ought to have taken recourse under Section 340 of the CrPC, read with Section 195 of the CrPC.



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