Quality of Evidence Matters, Not the Quantity

“13. Another circumstance which appears to have weighed heavily with the Additional Sessions Judge was that no independent witness of Salabatpura had been examined by the prosecution to prove the prosecution case of assault on the deceased, although the evidence shows that there were some persons living in that locality like the ‘pakodewalla’, hotelwalla, shopkeeper and some of the passengers who had alighted at Salabatpura with the deceased. The Additional Sessions Judge has drawn an adverse inference against the prosecution for its failure to examine any of those witnesses. Mr Hardy has adopted this argument. In our opinion the comments of the Additional Sessions Judge are based on serious misconception of the correct legal position. The onus of proving the prosecution case rests entirely on the prosecution and it follows as a logical corollary that the prosecution has complete liberty to choose its witnesses if it is to prove its case. The court cannot compel the prosecution to examine one witness or the other as its witness. At the most, if a material witness is withheld, the court may draw an adverse inference against the prosecution. But it is not the law that the omission to examine any and every witness even on minor points would undoubtedly lead to rejection of the prosecution case or drawing of an adverse inference against the prosecution. The law is well-settled that the prosecution is bound to produce only such witnesses as are essential for unfolding of the prosecution narrative. In other words, before an adverse inference against the prosecution can be drawn it must be proved to the satisfaction of the court that the witnesses who had been withheld were eyewitnesses who had actually seen the occurrence and were therefore material to prove the case. It is not necessary for the prosecution to multiply witnesses after witnesses on the same point; it is the quality rather than the quantity of the evidence that matters. In the instant case, the evidence of the eyewitnesses does not suffer from any infirmity or any manifest defect on its intrinsic merit. Secondly, there is nothing to show that at the time when the deceased was assaulted a large crowd had gathered and some of the members of the crowd had actually seen the occurrence and were cited as witnesses for the prosecution and then withheld. We must not forget that in our country there is a general tendency amongst the witnesses in mofussil to shun giving evidence in courts because of the cumbersome and dilatory procedure of our courts, the harassment to which they are subjected by the police and the searching cross-examination which they have to face before the courts. Therefore nobody wants to be a witness in a murder or in any serious offence if he can avoid it. Although the evidence does show that four or five persons had alighted from the bus at the time when the deceased and his companions got down from the bus, yet there is no suggestion that any of those persons stayed on to witness the occurrence. They may have proceeded to their village homes…”

Supreme Court
Sarwan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1976) 4 SCC 369