Section 145 of Evidence Act – Cross examination as to previous statements in writing
Previous Statement made by him in writing or reduced into writing
The term ‘statement’ is not defined any where in the Act. It has wider connotation. The section itself contemplates a statement which is either written himself or which was reduced into writing by someone else.
There is no prescribed mode of recording the previous statement to be used under the section. The only mode is that they must be in writing. Such writings may be letters, account books, deed, written statements, depositions, admissions, affidavits etc.
A statement recorded by a police officer under Section 161(3) of Cr.P.C. is a statement in the sense in which the ‘statement’ is used in the section even though it is not signed. Neither Section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code, nor Section 145 of Evidence Act states that the person who records the statement must have authority to administer oath and that the statement should be on oath.
The section indicates the manner in which contradiction is brought about. The cross examination counsel should put a part or parts of the statement which affirms the contrary to what is stated in evidence. This indicates that there are something in writing which can be set against another made in evidence. If the previous statement and the statement in evidence before the court are inconsistent or irreconcilable with each other that both of them can not co-exist, it may be said that one contradicts the other.
Witness must be given opportunity to explain the contradiction. The witness should be informed of these parts of his statement which are to be used to contradict him. It is not enough to say whether a particular exhibit is his statement. If it is intended to contradict a witness by the writing, his attention must, before writing could be proved, be called to those parts which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him.
The proper Procedure to Contradict the Witness
The proper procedure would , therefore be to ask a witness first whether he made such and such statement. If the witness answer in affirmative, the previous statement in writing need not be proved and the cross-examiner, may if he so chooses, leave it to the party who called the witness to have discrepancy , if any, explained in course of re-examination. If on the other hand, the witness denies having made the previous statement attributed to him, or states he does not remember having made any such statement , and it is desired to contradict him by the record of the previous statement, the cross – examiner must read out to the witness the relevant portion or positions of record which are alleged to be contradictory to his statement in court or give him an opportunity to reconcile the same if he can. The best way of putting a statement is to put it in the actual words.
Section 145 does not confine the right of contradiction only to previous statements recorded on oath. A statement recorded in the course of investigation is a previous statement within meaning of Section 145, Evidence Act. The previous statement of a witness recorded by a police officer in the course of an investigation can be used in the trial of a civil suit for the purpose of Section 145, provided it is otherwise relevant.
An FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence and can only be used to contradict statement of the maker under Section 157 or to contradict it under Section 145 Evidence Act. Even an illiterate person is not immune from the process of law with regard to contradiction by a previous statement. It makes not the slightest difference whether the witness is literate or illiterate , attention can be drawn to any portion of a previous statement by reading the statement to the witness , he is not required to read it himself.
Even if a party fails to produce a document under Rules 1 & 2 of Order XII of the Code , he is not debarred in using the document under Section 145 of the Evidence Act for cross – examination and contradicting a witness. Section 145 of the Evidence Act is not controlled by Rules 1 & 2 of Order XIII. If a witness denies the writing by which he is contradicted, the party cross – examining has the right to prove the document in terms of Section 145 of the Evidence Act.
Once the document goes in the record after the witness is contradicted , the other side has certainly the right to inspect the same. However, there is no provision that before a document is used for contradicting a witness under Section 145, it should be filed in Court to enable the adversary to inspect the same.
Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act does not confine the right of contradiction only to previous statements recorded on oath. The previous statements of witnesses are an effective aid in cross examination and its denial must be treated as denial of giving an adequate opportunity to defend against the charge.