Maxim “ Falsus In Uno, Falsus In Omnibus ” Has No Application In India

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India while deciding CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1266 OF 2010 titled as MAHENDRAN    Versus   THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU   has held that the maxim “ falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus ” has no application in india. It is the duty of the court to separate the grain from the chaff. Where chaff can be separated from the grain, it would be open to the court to convict an accused notwithstanding the fact that evidence has been found to be deficient to prove guilt of other accused persons.

In this case twenty four persons were  charge sheeted. After conclusion of trial 14 persons were convicted and 10 were acquitted of the charges.  While appreciating  evidence,the learned trial court found that some discrepancies can be due to minor errors of perception or observation or due to lapse of memory. It may be noticed that the witnesses were being examined after more than six years of the occurrence. 

During the course of arguments before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, it was contended that since the witnesses examined  deposed otherwise in part of the statements, therefore  the whole of deposition is liable to be discarded.The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India  on these arguments held as under:

The argument that the entire case set up is based on falsehood and thus not reliable for conviction of the appellants, is not tenable.  It is well settled that the maxim “ falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus ” has no application in India only for the reason that some part of the statement of the witness has not been accepted by the trial court or by the High Court.  Such is the view taken by this Court in Gangadhar Behera’s case, wherein the Court held as under:-

“15. To the same effect is the decision in State of Punjab v. Jagir Singh and Lehna v. State of Haryana Stress was laid by the accused-appellants on the non acceptance of evidence tendered by some witnesses to contend about desirability to throw out the entire prosecution case. In essence prayer is to apply the principle of “ falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus ” (false in one thing, false in everything). This plea is clearly untenable. Even if a major portion of the evidence is found to be deficient, in case residue is sufficient to prove guilt of an accused, notwithstanding acquittal of a number of other co-accused persons, his conviction can be maintained. It is the duty of the court to separate the grain from the chaff. Where chaff can be separated from the grain, it would be open to the court to convict an accused notwithstanding the fact that evidence has been found to be deficient to prove guilt of other accused persons. Falsity of a particular material witness or material particular would not ruin it from the beginning to end. The maxim “ falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus ” has no application in India and the witnesses cannot be branded as liars. 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 disregarded. 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”. Merely because some of the accused persons have been acquitted, though evidence against all of them, so far as direct testimony went, was the same does not lead as a necessary corollary that those who have been convicted must also be acquitted. It is always open to a court to differentiate the accused who had been acquitted from those who were convicted.  The doctrine is a dangerous one specially in India for if a whole body of the testimony were to be rejected, because a witness was evidently speaking an untruth in some aspect, it is to be feared that administration of criminal justice would come to a dead stop. Witnesses just cannot help in giving embroidery to a story, however, true in the main. Therefore, it has to be appraised in each case as to what extent the evidence is worthy of acceptance, and merely because in some respects the court considers the same to be insufficient for placing reliance on the testimony of a witness, it does not necessarily follow as a matter of law that it must be disregarded in all respects as well. The evidence has to be sifted with care. The aforesaid dictum is not a sound rule for the reason that one hardly comes across a witness whose evidence does not contain a grain of untruth or at any rate exaggeration, embroideries or embellishment.  

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