Chandigarh, September 29
In a significant judgment liable to change the way “victims” of sexual offences take a U-turn, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that the prosecution is required to examine in witness box the magistrate who affirmed the voluntary nature of the statement recorded before him under Section 164 of the CrPC.
Purpose of Section 164, CrPC
- The purpose of recording the statements of witnesses, including the victims, under Section 164, CrPC, is to discourage them from shifting versions during the trial
- It is admissible in evidence and can be used to corroborate or contradict a statement subsequently made in court
- The judgment deals with situations where the witnesses go back on their statements, claiming that the same was made under pressure.
The ruling by the Bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur and Justice Kuldeep Tiwari came in a case where the veracity of a sodomy victim’s statement before a magistrate came under scrutiny as doubts about its voluntariness were raised during cross-examination. The trial took an unexpected turn when the victim claimed that the statement was not voluntary made by him.
The Bench took note of the fact that the statement by the “victim” under Section 164 before the magistrate concerned was produced before the trial judge in a sealed envelope. The “victim” during the cross-examination did not deny making the statement, but said it was not made voluntarily.
The Bench asserted an attempt might have been made to rip apart the denial as there was a statutory certification by the magistrate concerned declaring that the victim’s statement was made before him voluntarily without coercion or pressure becoming exerted upon him.
As a part of the endeavour, it became imperative upon the public prosecutor concerned to cast an application under Section 311 of the CrPC, seeking the court’s permission to ensure that the judicial magistrate concerned stepped into the witness box for being confronted with the statement made by the victim in his cross-examination whereby he “belied the statutory certification by the judicial officer concerned”.
Referring to the facts of the case in hand, the Bench asserted the public prosecutor concerned did not choose the recourse. The certification made on the statement became shrouded in doubt as evidently the recourse was not adopted by the public prosecutor concerned.
“The further consequence thereof is that the denial by the victim during his cross-examination that the statement was voluntarily recorded and did not narrate the true facts and events in respect of the crime event, thus, enjoys an aura of credibility,” the Bench observed, while acquitting the accused sentencing to 20 years imprisonment by the trial court
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