Witness under The Indian Evidence Act

Meaning of Witness

Witness is a person who witnesses any act or series of acts or a scene taking place. A witness may be any person who has the ability to perceive a fact through his senses. A competent witness may perceive any act from his eyes or ears or smell or sensation or touch or any other reasonable mode.

As per section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act, a competent witness is one who has the capacity and ability to understand the questions put to him by the court. If he has the understanding of questions and the ability to give rational answers, then he is a competent witness.

Any person can be a witness. There’s no restriction as to who can be a witness. A person, either male or female, a child or aged, can be a witness. The only restriction is that if a person does not understand the questions and is not able to answer rationally, then he is not a competent witness.

Kinds of Witness Under Evidence Act:

A witness may be classified into different categories. The mode of perceiving any act may not be similar. A person may see a thing or hear a thing. Different kinds of witness are as follows:
  1. Interested Witness
  2. Chance Witness
  3. Stock Witness
  4. Eye Witness
  5. Official Witness
  6. Related Witness

What is Interested Witness?

An interested witness is a person who wants the accused to be behind bars for the crime he committed. Any person may be an interested witness like a friend of the prosecution, or any other person who wants the culprit to be punished.

For example, A is a family doctor of B. B is a person who has committed so many crimes but never caught in the hands of the law. And A for the reason of being doctor always treated B for illness and injuries. Now for a crime, B is tried in the court. Here A can be an interested witness as to previous acts of B, which shall prove that he is a habitual offender. A is an interested witness here. He has no link or ties with the case but wants the culprit to be punished.

What is Chance Witness?

Any person who, by coincidence or chance, is present at the scene of a crime or is passing by the scene of a crime is called a chance witness. If such a person gives testimony in court, he is treated as a chance witness.

For example, A and B, renowned businessmen are making a deal of drugs in an old house where no one resides or generally visits. C, a news reporter, passing through that lane, was once told about the meetings taking place there. So he reached there for a general inspection. As soon as C reaches there, he saw that A is holding a gun against B and kills B. Here, C is a chance witness. C was not supposed to be there, but by chance, he reaches there and witnesses the crime scene.

What is Stock Witness?

The word stock means something which is stored or kept in for future use as per the availability. Stock witness is a person who remains at the backfoot of police and comes in front as per directions of police. Their testimony is not very reliable, and the court always opts not to stand on his testimony. Such witnesses are highly disfavored by the judges.

It is the court’s duty not to rely on or consider the testimony of a stock witness. The court must make possible attempts to sustain the prosecution case on other pieces of evidence, excluding stock witness evidence.

For example, A works for the police as a witness to the crime. If a crime takes place and police or prosecution does not have any strong witness to support their case, then the police may invite A for giving testimony in favour of prosecution that he saw accused committing crime or any other testimony against accused. Such kind of witnesses are generally prosecution favored witnesses, and judges do not consider much to such stock witness.

What is Eye Witness?

A person who, from his eyes, witnesses any act or scene of crime, is an eye witness to that offence. An eye witness may be any person like a stranger or relative or any other person. From the perspective of evidence, an eye witness is important evidence in solving a case. It is generally said that anything can betray but not the eyes.

For example, A is a shopkeeper and sits in his shop till 12 midnight. One day B and his brothers in a feeling of revenge reach C’s place. B and his brothers push C out from his house and beat him very badly. In some time, C’s head starts bleeding. Looking at it, B and his brothers ran away from the place, leaving C on the floor. Here, A, a shopkeeper, is an eye witness who saw the crime taking place and can give testimony against B in court.

What is Official Witness?

When a person from the police force gives testimony in the court of law, it is an official witness. It is termed an official witness because a person on duty gives evidence in favour of the prosecution. It is said that evidence of the police witness should not be discarded merely because a person belongs to the police force, and therefore he can be biased towards prosecution in making the case strong. His credibility cannot be doubted in this manner.

The court must scrutinize the witness strictly in accordance with the law, and if his testimony corroborates with the other pieces of evidence, then it is no harm in accepting it. If the official witness is trustworthy and credible, there is no reason for denial.

For example, A, a respectable police officer on night duty, saw a drunk man running towards a lane. A follows that man. The moment A reaches there, he saw that drunk man has attacked his wife with a knife and wife is lying down on the ground. Here A can be an official witness, and his testimony can be relied on if corroborated with other pieces of evidence after strict scrutiny.

What is Related Witness?

If a person to be a witness in court is a relative of the person who called him to be produced as a witness, is related witness. When a person is related to a person, his statement shall not be discarded or rejected due to the reason that he is his relative, and he may be biased in the case. It should not be presumed that a related witness will always favour his relative and not the truth.

If, after strict scrutiny, a related witness seems to be trustworthy and credible of giving testimony, then his evidence must be appreciated in court.

For example, Any person like a husband, wife, sister, brother, mother, father, or any relative of a person can be a related witness. If a person is related to the party, then general prudence says that the testimony of such a person must be construed strictly, and every attempt must be made to bring out the truth.

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