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How Many Witnesses Are Required to Prove a Fact?

In the past, the emphasis was on quantity rather than quality. However, in modern times, the accepted rule in all systems of jurisprudence is that evidence should be weighed, not counted. Even if there is only one witness, as long as the court is satisfied that they are speaking the truth and not misleading the court, it is sufficient.

In all systems of jurisprudence, the prevailing rule is that evidence should be weighed, not counted. Even if there is only one witness, and the court is convinced of their honesty, it is sufficient for a conviction. The number of witnesses is not important if the court deems them to be untruthful.

The number of witnesses needed to establish a fact is influenced by a variety of factors, including the legal jurisdiction, the nature of the fact being proven, the type of legal proceeding, and the rules of evidence that apply. In many legal systems, there is no set number of witnesses required to prove a fact. Instead, the judge or jury evaluates the weight and credibility of all evidence, including witness testimony, based on the overall circumstances.

In some cases, a single reliable witness may suffice to establish a fact, while in others, corroborating testimony from multiple witnesses may be necessary. Furthermore, other types of evidence, such as documentary or physical evidence, expert testimony, or circumstantial evidence, may also be used in conjunction with witness testimony to prove a fact.

Ultimately, the determination of the requisite number of witnesses to prove a fact is dependent on the specific details of each case and the applicable legal standards.

According to Section 134 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1972, 'No specific number of witnesses shall be required for proving a fact.' The determination of how many witnesses is necessary for proving a fact is entirely at the discretion of the court.

The credibility of a single eyewitness can form the basis of a conviction, as long as their credibility remains unshaken. In such cases, quality outweighs quantity, as seen in the ruling of Karthik Malhar v. State of Bihar, (1996) 1 SCC 614.

If a person whose testimony could potentially discredit the eyewitnesses is not examined, it could raise doubts about the prosecution's case, as noted in the case of Rang Bahadur Singh v. State of U.P. (2000) 3 SCC 454.

According to the legal principle established in Raja v. State, (1997) 2 Crimes 175 (Del), it is widely acknowledged that a witness's testimony can be relied upon if the court determines it to be the accurate and truthful version of the prosecution's case. The number of witnesses presented by the prosecution is not of importance to the court; rather, the credibility of each individual witness's statement is what matters.

The traditional principle of evaluating evidence is based on its quality, not its quantity, as reaffirmed in State of Maharashtra v. Suresh Nivsutti Bhaunare, (1997) 2 Crimes 257 (Bom).

The Law of Evidence does not specify a specific number of witnesses required to prove a fact. However, when presented with the testimony of only one witness, the court may divide it into three categories:
  1. completely trustworthy
  2. completely untrustworthy
  3. neither completely trustworthy nor completely untrustworthy
 In the first two categories, it is easy for the court to accept or reject the testimony. The challenge lies in the third category. In such cases, the court must exercise caution and seek confirmation from other reliable sources, whether direct or circumstantial, before relying on the testimony of a single witness. This principle was established in the case of Lallu Manjhi v. State of Jharkhand, AIR 2003 SC 854.

The case of Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar 1997, 1 SCC 283, saw the court ruling that there is no legal principle stating that a conviction cannot be based solely on the identification of a single accused, although it may be wise to rely on the testimony of at least two trustworthy witnesses in cases involving unlawful assembly of a large group of individuals.

In the case of Karnik Malhar v. State of Bihar, the court held that a conviction can be based on the account of a single eyewitness as long as their credibility remains unshaken. It is the quality, not the quantity, of evidence that holds weight. The court reiterated that evidence should be evaluated, not simply counted.

In Rang Bahadur Singh v. State of U.P. (2000) 3 SCC 454: 2000 SCC (Cri) 703, the court stated that even if multiple eye witnesses have been examined, the failure to call a person whose testimony may discredit their credibility would raise doubts about the prosecution's case. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate the quality of evidence, rather than just the quantity, in order to determine the truth.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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