“The law on the issue (child’s evidence) can be summarised to the effect that the deposition of a child witness may require corroboration, but in case his deposition inspires confidence of the court and there is no embellishment or improvement therein, the court may rely on his evidence,” said the apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan in an order Friday.
Justice Chauhan said: “The evidence of a child must be evaluated more carefully with greater circumspection because he is susceptible to tutoring.”
“Only in the case there is evidence on record to show that a child has been tutored, the court can reject his statement partly or fully. However, the inference as to whether a child has been tutored or not, can be drawn from the content of his deposition,” the court said.
The judges said a “part of the statement of child witness, even if tutored, can be relied upon, if the tutored part can be separated from the untutored part, in case such remaining untutored part inspires confidence”.
The judges said this in connection with a case in which a trial court based its conviction on the evidence given by an eight-year-old daughter of a murdered man.
The apex court set aside a Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict and restored the sessions court verdict sentencing accused Ramesh and Bhaggo Bai to life imprisonment for conspiring and killing the latter’s husband.
The trial court in its Aug 16, 1996 verdict convicted and sentenced the duo by relying on the evidence given by victim’s daughter Rannu Bai.
Rannu Bai along with a family elder Munna Lal filed a counter police complaint alleging the involvement of Ramesh and Bhaggo Bai in the murder of her father.
Bhaggo Bai, using an assumed name of Madhav Bai, earlier filed a first information report (FIR) stating that her husband died after falling during a spell of giddiness.
The trial court in its judgment said that “her (Rannu Bai) deposition being precise, concise, specific and vivid without any improvement or embroidery is worth acceptance in toto”.
The high court March 31, 2004 quashed the trial court judgment brushing aside the evidence tendered by Rannu Bai.
Referring to its earlier verdicts, the apex court said: “There is no principle of law that it is inconceivable that a child of tender age will not be able to recapitulate the facts in his memory.”
“A child is always receptive to abnormal events which take place in his life and would never forget those events for the rest of his life. The child may be able to recapitulate carefully and exactly when asked about the same in future,” the judges said.
“In case a child explains relevant events at the crime (scene) without improvement or embellishment, and the same inspire the confidence of the court, his deposition does not require corroboration whatsoever. The child at tender age is incapable of having any malice or ill-will against any person,” the court said.