Chennai: Observing that it is not a matter of rule that a related witness must be treated as an interested witness and it is mere a rule of prudence and it will depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the Madras high court has upheld an order of the trial court, convicting and sentencing an accused to life imprisonment in a murder case based on the evidence of three eyewitnesses, who are the children of the deceased Kalimuthu.
A division bench comprising Justices S.Vaidyanathan and N.Anand Venkatesh dismissed the appeal filed by Ramaguru, challenging an order of the Additional District Judge (Fast Track Court), Paramkudi dated September 16, 2017.
The bench said the entire prosecution case hinges upon the evidence of the eyewitnesses namely two sons and a daughter of the deceased. The cumulative reading of their evidence clearly shows that they were not living along with their parents and the deceased was living along with his wife. They used to get together during the Mariamman and Meenakshi Amman temple festival. All these three witnesses along with their father had started together to watch the “Valli Thirumanam” drama. The house of the deceased Kalimuthu was situated within a distance of nearly 120 to 160 feet, from the venue, where the drama was organized. The deceased even though started along with his children, went back to his house to fetch drinking water and was coming within a distance of 10 to 20 feet behind his children. At that point of time, these witnesses heard the cries of the deceased and on turning back, they found the appellant attacking the deceased with the billhook and when they rushed towards the appellant, he had threatened them and thereafter he had run away from the place. All the three found their father lying dead. “It is true that these three witnesses are the children of the deceased. That by itself does not mean that they will become an interested witnesses and their evidence must be discarded”, the bench added.
The bench said the motive that has been attributed against the appellant was that it was a retaliation murder to avenge the death of the father of the appellant, who was said to have been murdered by the deceased and three others and who were later acquitted, due to lack of evidence. In a case, which was established through evidence of an eyewitness, motive really takes a backseat. It does not really have any significance, if the version of the eye witnesses was clinching, the bench added.
The bench said, “We are living in an era, where the general public are not prepared to stand as a witness in a court, since they are frightened by the fact that judicial process takes its own time. Therefore, the police find it very difficult to convince independent witnesses to stand as a witness in a criminal case. Therefore, wherever the court finds that the witnesses, who are related, have clearly stated about the incident and the same is supported/corroborated by the other materials collected by the prosecution, the court can solely rely upon their evidence and it need not be discarded by branding tem as an interested witness.
Therefore, in the present case, merely because there is no independent witness to speak about the incident, that by itself does not in any way affect the case of the prosecution”.