Witnesses and Documents are the main sources of evidence. A witness is person gives testimony or evidence before any Court. Evidence given by witnesses is called oral evidence while the evidence produced through the document is called documentary evidence. The Indian Evidence Act 1872 prescribes no age limit as to the competence of giving evidence. Even a child of 3 or 4 years old is competent to give evidence provided he, is competent to give rational answers to the questions put to him.
Competency of Witnesses:
Competency of witnesses means ability or capacity or qualification to give evidence in the court of law.
Who may Testify:
According to Section 118 of Evidence Act, All persons shall be competent to testify unless the Court considers that they are prevented from understanding the question put to them, or from giving rational answer to those questions, by tender years, extreme old age, disease, whether of body and mind, or any other cause of the same kind.
A lunatic is not incompetent to testify unless he is prevented by his lunacy from understanding the questions put to him and giving rational answers to them.
See in Detail >> Meaning And Test of Competency of the Witness
Child Witness or Child Testimony:
Under Section 118 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 a child can be a witness. Before admitting or recording a statement of a child the court must testify itself that:
i) The witness understands the question and
ii) Ascertain the best way it can, whether from the context of his intellectual capacity and understanding he is able to give a rational account of what he has seen, heard or done on a particular occasion. If a person of tender years can satisfy the requirements, his competency as a witness is established.
It is not necessary that the child should have sufficient knowledge of the nature and consequence of an oath.
In England, a child to be competent witness must believe in punishment in a future state for lying. But in India a child, although, does not understand the moral implication of oath can give evidence In such, a case, no oath will be administered to him.
Whether the evidence given by a Child witness is admissible?
The evidence given by Child witness is admissible in Evidence.
Value/ Credit of a Child Witness:
Child Witnesses are the most dangerous witnesses Due to tender age, they often mistake dream of reality. A child has a very vivid imagination; it hears the conversion of adults; in due course of time, it comes to believe that it hears and even that it is an eyewitness of the various events, which have sprung only out of its imagination. Therefore the rule was evolved, namely, that the evidence of a child should be ordinarily corroborated. It is unsafe to rely on uncorroborated testimony of a child. It is necessary that Evidence given by child should be scrutinized with care and caution.
The competency of a child to give evidence is not regulated by the age but by the degree of understanding he appears to possess and no fixed rule can be laid down as to the credit that should be assigned to his testimony. The question depends upon a number of circumstances, such as the possibility of tutoring the consistency of the evidence, how far it stood the test of cross-examination and how far it fits in with the rest of evidence.
Relevant Case Law:
I) Ratansinh Dalsukhbhai Nayak V. State of Gujrat (2004) 1 SCC 64.
In this case, it was held that a child of tender age can be allowed to testify if he has intellectual capacity to understand questions and give rational answers thereto. The decision on the question whether the child witness has sufficient intelligence primarily rests with the Trial Judge.
II) State of Maharashtra V. Dama Gopinath Shinde, AIR 2000 SC 1691
In this case, a girl of 7 years age, has lost her neighbor and playmate, the deceased, while they were playing together. Later on, the dead body of the deceased was recovered. It was held by the Supreme Court that the rejection of testimony of child solely on the ground that it was not possible for a child of that age to remember what happened three years ago was not proper.
What are the different stages of the Examination of Witness?