6 Nov 2010

Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus: The law revisited

If one is found lying, should he be trusted again? In ordinary terms one would not be inclined to take other statements of such as being above-board. On this count, under common law a doctrine prevails, known as Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus whereunder if a portion of the statement given by witness is found to be false, the entire statement of witness is rejected. However the law of evidence in India is otherwise, as it does not follow this doctrine and instead requires the judge to ascertain the portion of the evidence which is correct and based thereon decide the matter.

The Supreme Court through Justive Dr. B.S. Chauhan in Ranjit Singh & Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh revisited the law on the issue to declare the prevailing position as under;
10. In Balaka Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1975 SC 1962, this Court observed as under:-
“It is true that, as laid down by this Court in Zwinglee Ariel v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 15, and other cases which have followed that case, the Court must make an attempt to separate grain from the chaff, the truth from the falsehood, yet this could only be possible when the truth is separable from the falsehood. Where the grain cannot be separated from the chaff because the grain and the chaff are so inextricably mixed up that in the process of separation the Court would have to reconstruct an absolutely new case for the prosecution by divorcing the essential details presented by the prosecution completely from the context and the background against which they are made, then this principle will not apply.”
11. In Ugar Ahir & Ors. v. State of Bihar, AIR 1965 SC 277, this Court held as under:-
“ The maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (false in one thing, false in every thing) is neither a sound rule of law nor a rule of practice. Hardly one comes across a witness whose evidence does not contain a grain of untruth or at any rate exaggerations, embroideries or embellishments. It is, therefore, the duty of the court to scrutinise the evidence carefully and, in terms of the felicitous metaphor, separate the grain from the chaff. But, it cannot obviously disbelieve the substratum of the prosecution case or the material parts of the evidence and reconstruct a story of its own out of the rest.”
12. A similar view was taken in Nathu Singh Yadav v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2002) 10 SCC 366.
13. The maxim has been explained by this Court in Jakki @ Selvaraj & Anr. v. State represented by the IP, Coimbatore, (2007) 9 SCC 589, observing:- 
“The maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus has not received general acceptance nor has this maxim come to occupy the status of rule of law. It is merely a rule of caution. All that it amounts to is, that in such cases testimony may be disregarded, and not that it must be discarded. The doctrine merely involves the question of weight of evidence which a court may apply in a given set of circumstances, but it is not what may be called ‘a mandatory rule of evidence’.”
14. It is well settled in law that the maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (false in one false in all) does not apply in criminal cases in India, as a witness may be partly truthful and partly false in the evidence he gives to the Court. (Vide: Kulwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2007) 10 SCC 455; Ganesh v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 17 SCC 152; Jayaseelan v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2009) 12 SCC 275; Mani @ Udattu Man & Ors. v. State represented by Inspector of Police, (2009) 12 SCC 288; and Balraje @ Trimbak v. State of Maharashtra, (2010) 6 SCC 673).
15. This position of law has been reiterated by this Court in Prem Singh & Ors. v. State of Haryana, (2009) 14 SCC 494, wherein the Court clearly held as under:
“It is now a well-settled principle of law that the doctrine “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” has no application in India.” 
16. In view of the above, the law can be summarised to the effect that the aforesaid legal maxim is not applicable in India and the court has to assess to what extent the deposition of a witness can be relied upon. The court has to separate the falsehood from the truth and it is only in exceptional circumstances when it is not possible to separate the grain from the chaff because they are inextricably mixed up, that the whole evidence of such a witness can be discarded

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