Evidence of close relatives can be relied on for conviction: apex court

J. Venkatesan

“It is settled law that the relative witness will not allow the real culprit to escape”

New Delhi: Evidence of close relatives can be relied on by a court for the conviction of an accused in a criminal case, the Supreme Court has held.

A three-Judge Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat, Justice L.S. Panta (who retired on Wednesday) and Justice P. Sathasivam gave this ruling while dismissing an appeal filed by a convict against a Madras High Court judgment awarding life imprisonment to two persons in a murder case on the basis of the evidence given by witnesses, including the brother of the deceased. The Bench said “Merely because the Prosecution Witness 1 [Ravi Kumar] happens to be the brother of the deceased, his evidence cannot be rejected especially when he had no reason to speak falsehood against both the accused. It is settled law that the relative witness would not allow the real culprit to escape and implicate the person who is innocent. But however, the evidence has to be carefully analysed.”

The Bench said “In this case, the evidence of P.W.1 has not only been corroborated by other materials but also the evidence of P.Ws.2 and 3, who are independent and unrelated. The evidence of P.W.1 relating to the attack on the deceased and P.W.1 and the taking of the deceased to the hospital have been well corroborated by documentary evidence.”

Appellant’s claim

In the instant case the appellant Vijaykumar challenged a judgment of the Madras High Court reversing the order of acquittal passed by the sessions judge, Kanyakumari division, Nagercoil, on two accused and awarding life sentence to them. The other accused Rasalaiyan did not prefer an appeal.

According to the prosecution, the deceased Johnson is the elder brother of Ravi Kumar (P.W.1). The first accused Rasalaiyan and the second accused Vijayakumar are cousin brothers.

On August 10, 1990 Ravi Kumar, his friend Suresh Kumar (P.W.2) and his brother Raj Kumar along with the deceased Johnson were proceeding towards a river situated at the corner of the village for taking bath. They were waylaid and attacked by the accused with a big knife and Johnson succumbed to the injuries. While the trial court acquitted the two accused, the High Court reversed the order and awarded life sentence.

In his appeal, Vijaykumar contended that the evidence, particularly of the younger brother of the deceased could not be relied on as he was an interested witness and the High court had erred in convicting him on the basis of such evidence.

The Supreme Court Bench, however, rejected his contention and dismissed the appeal.

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