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Hostile Witness
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Hostile Witness
Hostile Witness

The hostile person is a witness who is unfriendly to the party who called them to ask the leading questions. They are always unwilling, to tell the truth. A hostile witness is a person ready to argue or fight very aggressively.

During a trial, when the counsel of prosecution calls a person to witness in his favour and that person contradict to his previous statement recorded during the investigation, it is said that the witness is hostile.

A hostile witness testifies for a witness who offers adverse testimony to the party who has called him as a witness during direct examination. The right to declare a person as a hostile is to the Judge on the examiner's request.

The term hostile witness arose in case Sat Pal vs Delhi Administration Supreme Court. It is not defined precisely in Indian Law.


Process For Hostile Witness

The Attorneys has trust in the witness called by them to testify in favour of the party. However, a witness may turn hostile and demolish the purpose of advocate and the party both. However, in such a case, the attorney requests the Judge to declare the witness as a hostile. Then he can cross-examine the witness to get a testimony more favourable for his case. In practice, when the Attorney gets the approval from the Judge for treating a witness as a hostile witness, he could usually get the freedom to question the witness. Hence, at the time of evidence, if the witness opposed to the calling party, it is open to being condemned as the conduct of witness is highly irresponsible and reprehensible.

Thus, when it is suspected that the witness can become adverse to the party who called him, the attorney calling can testify him by using the method of cross-examination to reveal the witnesses. The witness can turn hostile either in the case of defence or prosecution.  In the criminal case, the conviction of the guilty person develops the sincerity and devotion among the public.


Legal Provisions

As per Section 154 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Court in its discretion, permit the person who calls a witness to put a question to him which might be put in cross-examination by the adverse party.

Section 193 of Indian Penal Code,1860 states that the person who intentionally gives false evidence in the stage of a judicial proceeding would be liable for punishment with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend for seven years and shall be liable to fine.

Section 196 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that the person who corruptly attempts to use as valid evidence which he is aware of being false shall be punished in the same manner as he gave the false evidence.

Section 199 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that if a person bound by the law receives any evidence and makes a false statement, which is false in nature and such statement touches upon any material or a specific point, should be punishable in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.


The Jessica Lal case

Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma Vs. State (NCT of Delhi)

In this case, the 80 witnesses had turned hostile before the Court. Jessica Lal was a model working in an unlicensed bar at Delhi. By midnight, the bar ran out of liquor, and she refused to serve Manu Sharma, who was accompanied by his three friends. Sharma produced a pistol and fired it twice, the first bullet hit the ceiling whereas the second hit the Lal in the head and killed her. After a few days, Khanna, Gill and Sharma were arrested. The murder weapon was not recovered.

A key witness to this case was the person named Munshi. At the time of reading of the FIR, he said that the statement given to the police was recorded in Hindi while he narrated the whole story in English whereas he stated in his previous statement that he saw a total of 2 guns on the murder night. However, he changed his statement and told that he saw two gentlemen at the bar counter and not the gun.


Reasons For Hostile Witness

The reasons to turn the witness as hostile are as follows:

  • Protection of Witness
  • Lengthy trials.
  • Absence of adequate facilities for the witness by the Court.
  • Use of the power and money by the accused.
  • The threat to the Witness.
  • Other factors like political fear, police fear, fear of the legal system, etc.

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