The Supreme Court has held that even if all witnesses turn hostile a trial court can convict and sentence the accused, if the prosecution is successful in establishing their guilt.
If the prosecution case is strong then ‘eye witnesses turning hostile, do not, in any way, create a dent in the case of the prosecution’, said the apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Anil R. Dave in their judgment Wednesday.
The court declined to accept the contention of counsel for murder accused Rameshbhai Mohanbhai Koli and others that since all the eye witnesses examined by the prosecution turned hostile, their statement could not be relied upon in the absence of other cogent, convincing and reliable evidence.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam said ‘…all the eye-witnesses examined on the prosecution side have en bloc turned hostile due to influence and pressure of accused persons which included a sitting legislator of the ruling party’.
In the present case, chairman of Morbi Nagrik Bank Prakashbhai Raveshia was murdered over a decade ago, the prosecution said.
He along with bank director Ashokbhai Laljibhai Kathrani came out of their bank building and soon after, appellant Koli approached Prakashbhai Raveshia and inquired about loan facility. Then he exhorted other appellants to attack Raveshia.
Raveshia suffered injuries on account of the knife-attack and succumbed to injuries.
The trial court awarded life imprisonment to Koli and three others. This was confirmed by the Gujarat High Court. The apex court too upheld the conviction and sentencing of the appellants by the trial court in 2004.
The judgment said: ‘On going through the entire materials, the chain of circumstances, we are satisfied that the prosecution has been successful in bringing home the guilt of the appellant herein for the commission of murder of Prakashbhai Raveshia and the eye witnesses turning hostile, do not, in any manner, create a dent in the case of the prosecution.’
Referring to the earlier pronouncements of the apex court, the judgment said that ‘witnesses may lie but circumstances do not’.