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The Court cannot discard the whole evidence given by witnesses merely because it’s exaggerated: Supreme Court

A Court of law, being mindful of such distinction is duty bound to disseminate ‘truth’ from ‘falsehood’ and sift the grain from the chaff in case of exaggerations. It is only in a case where the grain and the chaff are so inextricably intertwined that in their separation no real evidence survives, that the whole evidence can be discarded. This was said in the case of Achhar Singh v State of Himachal Pradesh [CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 1144 of 2010] by Justice Surya Kant, J in the Supreme Court of India.

The facts of the case date back to 12.05.2010/27.05.2010 when the High Court set aside the acquittal order passed by the Sessions judge. The two appellants are convicted for offences under Sections 452, 326 and 323 of IPC and Sections 302 and 452 IPC. Aggreived by the judgment of the High Court, the appellants filed an appeal

The appellants contended that the statements made by the prosecution witnesses contained exaggerations and therefore it was wrong to convict him on the basis of such statements. According to the FIR, the deceased died owing to a single axe blow inflicted by the accused and the post­mortem report also showed only one head injury on her person. However, three prosecution eyewitnesses, deposed that the first accused gave two axe blows on her head and then co ­accused also hit the also hit the deceased’s left ear with an axe twice.

The State contended that the credibility of the witnesses cannot be questioned merely because they were related to the deceased or because there were minor discrepancies or exaggerations. Inconsistent   evidence   by   the prosecution witnesses against one accused cannot be capitalised to give the benefit of doubt to another.

The Court after analysing the contentions from the appellant side, opined that “Cambridge Dictionary defines “exaggeration” as “the fact of making something larger, more important, better or worse than it really is”. Merriam¬Webster defines the term “exaggerate” as to “enlarge beyond bounds or the truth”.  These   expressions   unambiguously   suggest   that   the genesis of an ‘exaggerated statement’ lies in a true fact, to which fictitious additions are made so as to make it more penetrative. Every exaggeration, therefore, has the ingredients of ‘truth’ Oxford   Concise   Dictionary   states   that   “false”   is “wrong;   not   correct   or   true. An exaggerated statement contains both truth and falsity, whereas a false statement has no grain of truth in it”.

Referring to Hari Chand v. State of Delhi (1996) [9 SCC 112], the court said that “while appreciating the evidence of witnesses in a criminal trial especially in a case of eyewitnesses the maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus cannot apply and the court has to make efforts to sift the grain from the chaff”.

Furthermore, the Court said that “It is equally well settled that there is no bar on the High Court’s power to re­appreciate evidence in an appeal against acquittal. The CrPC does not differentiate in the power, scope, jurisdiction or limitation between appeals against judgments of conviction or acquittal and that the appellate Court is free to consider on both fact and law, despite the self-restraint that has been ingrained into practice while dealing with orders of acquittal where there is a double presumption of innocence of the accused”. Hence, the Court upheld the conviction order of High Court”.

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