Q. Enumerate the ways in which the credit of a witness may be impeached by the adverse party. Can a party impeach credit of his own witness ? If so, when ? [MPCJ 2009]

Ans. Impeaching the credit of a witness means exposing him before the court as to what is his real character, so that the court does not trust him. Section 146 of the Evidence act very widely permits to put question before a witness to test his veracity or to even shake his credit by inuring his character. To supplement that, section 155 of the act more specifically lays down following circumstances when the credit of a witness may be impeached –

  • Unworthy of credit- By producing witnesses who testify from their personal knowledge that the alleged witness is unworthy of credit.
  • Corrupt Inducement- By showing that the witness has either taken bribe or has accepted the offer of a bribe or some other corrupt inducement for giving his evidence.
  • Under section 155(3) of the act proof of former statements of the witness which is inconsistent with any part of his testimony in the court. In order to affect the credit of the witness it has to be   necessarily such inconsistent statement which is liable to be \”contradicted\”. Section 162 of the Crpc read with its proviso further widens its scope and permits even the statement recorded by the police officer under sec 161 of the Crpc during the investigation to be used for the purpose of the contradicting the witness in a criminal trial. As held by Hon\’ble Apex court in Tahsildar Singh Vs. State, AIR 1959 S.C. 1012, that there may be direct contradictions or contradictions by implied omissions. But, section 153 of the act adds a rider that when any question is to be asked from a witness which tends to shake his credit by injuring his character then whatever be his answer no evidence is permitted to be given to contradict his answer unless question relates to his previous conviction or to impeach his impartiality.

It is most frequently invoked ground to impeach the credibility of witnesses. When a witness is intended to be contradicted with his previous statement reduced into writing, then the procedure provided in the second limb of the section 145 of the act has to be scrupulously followed because unless such contradiction is duly proved it has no effect at all and the court cannot take it into consideration. Except when the witness has admitted the proposed contradiction, the portion of the statement proposed for contradiction has to be brought on the record by drawing the attention of such witness and also by duly proving either through cross-examination of the person recording such previous statement or by leading independent evidence as the case may be.

Of his own witness:- The credit of a witness is generally impeached by the opposite party. But when the witness has become hostile, his credit may be impeached with the permission of the court even by the party who has called him.   Under section 155 read with 154 (1) of the Evidence Act, the Court is empowered to grant such permission in its discretion to the party who calls a witness to put any question to him which might be put in cross examination. Once such permission is granted then a party can put all question to his own witness which the opposite party may have put before him including questions to impeach the credit of the witness. The criteria of granting such permission is that during the course of the examination of a witness, he demonstrates hostility to the person who called him as a witness and the Court is satisfied that the witness is hostile to the person who called him as a witness. The section 155 read with 154 (1) of the Evidence Act does not require any particular form of application to seek permission of the Court to cross examine one\’s own witness. What all it says is that granting of permission is in the discretion of the Court. Such permission is normally granted during the course of the examination of witness on a formal request made by the party who has called that witness or on his behalf by the advocate.

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