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Crime of Perjury

The crime of Perjury crosses the definitions between substantive and procedural law, challenging both crime and the judicial system. Efforts have been made to curb the offence of Perjury. In British India, the early records show a petition in the 1858 from Ishri Prasad to Lord Canning after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857-58. Of those higher-caste convicted of perjury were to be attached with a sweeper of lower caste. They would be employed to spit into the mouths of the convicts who had been accused, thereby causing defilement. Such convicts would then be converted to Christianity and employment in the Allahabad regiment.[1]

Although Pershad’s scheme largely trampled upon Hindu philosophy to imbibe a sense of ignominy and was largely an illustration of popular belief, the petition shows the prevalence of Perjury. In an effort to bring forward uniformity in law throughout the country, James Mill and Thomas Babington Macaulay wanted to codify Indian Laws.[2] According to the Charter Act of 1833, India’s first Law commission in 1834 drafted the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for India. They were based to be symmetric and utilitarian.

THE CRIME

Perjury as a crime is not stated in the IPC. The crime referred to is “False evidence”.

Section 191 of the IPC deals with false evidence which deals with making a false statement under oath which he believes to be false and still makes it knowing its falsehood.[3]

The Punishment in Section 193of the IPCwould extend till seven years with fine. Intentional fabrication of false evidence would further increase the term for another three years with fine,

False evidence would also be punished if one uses corrupt or false or fabricated evidence, with knowledge of it being false. Such an Act would be punished under Section 196 of the IPC.

Section 195is the inherent power of the Court to make a complaint it case of false evidentiary document or evidence presented before the Court. The same should interfere in the administration of justice. The section authorizes a preliminary enquiry as it thinks necessary and then a subsequent complaint can be made under Section 340 of the CrPC. This power should be used with car and consideration. The perjury committed should if the action taken is expedient in the interests of justice.

THE PROCEDURE

Section 344 of CrPC: This section introduces an additional alternative procedure to punish perjury by the very Court before which it is committed in place of old Section 479 A which did not have the desired effect to eradicate the evils of perjury.[4]

  • Special powers have been vested upon the two specified courts: the Court of Session and Magistrate of First Class to take cognizance of an offence of perjury which has been committed by a witness in a proceeding before it instead of filing a complaint before a Magistrate. The offender is tried and punished in the manner of summary trials. This power is to be exercised after the matter has been considered by the Court at the time of delivery of judgement or final order.
  • The offender or accused would be given reasonable opportunity of showing cause before being tried and punished.
  • The maximum sentence under this section which can be imposed is an imprisonment of three months or fine upto Rs. 500 or both.
  • The procedure provide in this section is alternative to one under Section 340 to Section 343 of the CrPC. A summary procedure can be opted for under this section or more severe and ordinary procedure can be resorted to under Section 340 of the CrPC. The same lies on the discretion of the Court.
  • The object of the provision is to deal with perjury and its evils in a summary way. Perjury has assumed alarming proportions if oral evidence is taken into account. The Courts need to effectively tackle this situation.

Section 340 CrPC: This Section provides hat when upon an application made to it in that behalf or otherwise, any Court is of opinion that it is expedient in the interests of justice that an inquiry should be made into the offences under clause (b) of subsection (1) of section 195 CrPC, which appears to have been committed in or relating to a proceeding continuing in Court, or, in respect of a document that has been produced before the court as citing of evidence in that Court, such Court may, after such preliminary inquiry, if any, if it find necessary, and make a complaint before the magistrate of first class who has a jurisdiction in the said area.

Satish Kumar v. Union of India [2009 (108) DRJ 317]

The case dealt that prosecution under Section 340 CrPC in regard to a statement under Order 10 Rule 2 of the Code. A Part giving answer in an examination under Order 10 Rule 2 is neither giving evidence nor an affidavit. Therefore, the same section would not be invoked with Order 10 Rule 2 of the Code. It relied on B.K Gupta v. Damodar H. Bajaj [2001 (9) SCC 742].

Iqbal Singh Marwah and Anr. v. Minakshi Marwahand Anr (2005) 4 SCC 370

The Supreme Court was of the view that the Court is not bound to make a complaint regarding commission of an offence referred to Section 195 (1)(b) CrPC but that such a course is to be adopted only if it is required in the interests of justice.  The expediency is to be judged on the effect the fabrication has on the administration of justice and not the injury that the person has suffered due to the perjury committed.[5]

Expert Witnesses

The law identifies expert witnesses as a separate position from a fact witness or an eye witness. He serves as an advisory character.[6] The expert witness has duty to furnish the judge with necessary scientific criteria for testing the accuracy of the conclusions so as to enable the Judge to form his Independent judgement through the application of the criteria to the facts of the case. The credibility of the witness is dependent upon the reasons stated in support of the conclusions and he data and material he furnishes for his conclusions. The evidence is only confirmatory or explanatory of direct or circumstantial evidence.[7] Therefore, merely because an expert has tendered an opinion while also furnishing the basis of the opinion, without being conclusive cannot be said to have committed perjury. Hence, mere rejection of expert evidence by itself may not also warrant initiation of proceedings under Section 340 of CrPC.

The order under Section 340 can be appealed under Section 341 of the CrPC. Section 343 of the CrPCprescribesprocedure to be followed while dealing with the case.

Major cases in Perjury

In India multiple popular cases have shown instances of alleged perjury. A couple of them are cited as:

Jessica Lall murder case[8]

P.S Manocha, who was a ballistic expert in the case was filed under Perjury. He had to give his opinion before a trial court that whether the bullets fired at Jessica were from which firearm. However, a bench headed by Chief Justice T.S Thakur cleared him of charges by the reason that it was unjust when perjury and offence under Section 193 of the IPC is attributed to an expert witness for just changing his original stand. It was moreover stated that a definite opinion cannot be formed in such scientific cases.

Salman Khan Hit and Run Case[9]

The prosecution in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case rejected the testimony of the driver who had testified. The prosecution alleged that he had lied under oath on advice of the defence lawyer and thereby, was to face the charges under Perjury. His owning up of the crime showed suspicious behaviour, as it was alleged that Salman Khan was behind the wheel.

Best Bakery Case

The case took place in Vadodara, Gujarat. Around 1000 rioters attacked the bakery which was also the residence of late Habibullah Sheikh at midnight and killed the family as well as the workers. Zaheera was a witness in the given case however; she later said she had lied in her statements due to threats.  She was therefore said have been a hostile witness and charges of perjury were pressed against her.               

CONCLUSION

The procedure for perjury is complex and in India, it is seldom used.  Witnesses also turn hostile during examinations. Threats and inducements are the major causes of Perjury. There is no adequate legal force to protect the witnesses. However, protection of witnesses constitutes one of the Fundamental Principles of Criminal Law.

Perjury not also affects the instant case but also adversely affects the administration of justice where truth is compromised with. Apart from wrongful conviction and makes a mockery of the Criminal Justice system.[10] Indian courts don not take serious actions against people alleged of perjury. The punishment or sanction for perjury is less in India compared to other countries. In New York, for instance, the sentence served is of 15 years. It is essential to tackle the problem as it affects adversely the very foundation of the Criminal Justice System.

The Malimath Committee report on Criminal Justice System deals with the offence of Perjury and how the same can be brought under check.

 


*2nd Year Student (BA LLB)

Symbiosis law School, NOIDA

Email: ashabaribasuthakur27@gmail.com

[1]Wendie Ellen Schneider, Engines of Truth, Yale University Press. (2015).

[2]Whittaker Chambers, WITNESS QUOTES (Jan. 7, 2014, 10:30 AM), http://www.brainyquote.com/ quotes/keywords/witness.

[3] IND PEN. CODE.

[4]Mahila Vinod Kumari v State Of M.P, 1971 2 SCC 182 (India).                               

[5]Tasleema v. State (Nct Of Delhi) And Others (2014) 4 SCC 375 (India).

[6] Ramesh Chandra Aggarwala v. Regency HospitalsIVIL APPEAL NO. 5991 OF 2002

[7]Umeed Ali Khan v. Dr. (Mrs.) Sultana Ibrahim and Others

[8]State v. Siddharth Vashisht @ Manu Sharma (2007) 145 PLR 42

[9]SALMAN SALIM KHAN v. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA APPEAL (CR.) 572 OF 2015 (India).

[10]Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath, COMMITTEE ON REFORMS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, March 2003.

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Submitted by Ashabari Basu Thakur

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