Hostile witnesses should not be condemned outright. A major cause for their hostility is the fear of criminals who stand in the dock as accused. There is no effective mechanism to protect the witnesses. Even the elite are reluctant to appear in criminal courts to give evidence. Zahira Sheikh's punishment will hardly improve the situation.
V.K. Sathyavan Nair,
Punishing the hostile witness is one solution. Another, easier and less injurious solution is to give weightage to the first recorded statement of the witness, when the incident is fresh in his or her memory. Any deviation from the original record should be given the same legal standing as hearsay evidence and made impermissible. This of course puts a lot of responsibility on the first police officer dealing with the case; and this is as it should be. The possibility of political or any other pressure on the police will also be minimum if the first and detailed testimony is already on record.
Zahira has not only let down her fellow victims but also acted against society and the system of law and criminal justice. Her punishment needs to be severe to serve as a deterrent. Excuses such as she was under threat to life are not acceptable.