'No objection in accepting evidence of a child witness'

New Delhi Nov. 1. The Supreme Court has held that "there is no obstacle in the way of accepting the evidence of a child witness if a trial court could come to a conclusion that there is an impress of truth in it."

The court said that though it was an established principle that child witnesses were dangerous as they were pliable and liable to be influenced easily, shaped and moulded, it was also an accepted norm that if after scrutiny of their evidence, the trial court could accept the same.

A Bench, comprising Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Justice Arijit Pasayat, giving the ruling, however, cautioned the trial courts to ensure that such child witnesses were not tutored as they were amenable to tutoring and often lived in a world of make-beliefs.

The Bench said a child of tender age could be allowed to testify if he/she had intellectual capacity to understand questions and give rational answers thereto. Its evidence was not required to be rejected per se; but the court as a rule of prudence should consider such evidence with close scrutiny and only on being convinced about the quality thereof and reliability could record the conviction based thereon.

Quoting an earlier decision, the Bench reiterated that the only precaution that a court should bear in mind while assessing the evidence of a child witness was that the witness must be a reliable one and his/her demeanour must be like any other competent witness and there was no likelihood of being tutored.

The Bench said the decision on the question whether the child witness had sufficient intelligence primarily rested with the trial judge "who notices his manners, his apparent possession or lack of intelligence and the said judge may resort to any examination which will tend to disclose his capacity and intelligence as well as his understanding of the obligation of an oath". The Bench upheld an order of life imprisonment passed by a trial court in Gujarat on the basis of evidence adduced by a child witness and later confirmed by the Gujarat High Court.

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