Justice to witnesses

Witnesses appearing in courts also need justice

Now when we speak of the ends of justice, we mean justice not only to the defendant and to the other side but also to witnesses and others who may be inconvenienced.

It is an unfortunate fact that the convenience of the witness is ordinarily lost sight of in this class of case and yet be is the one that deserves the greatest consideration. As a rule, he is not particularly interested in the dispute but he is vitally interested in his own affairs which he is compelled to abandon because a Court orders him to come to the assistance of one or other of the parties to a dispute. His own business has to suffer. He may have to leave his family and his affairs for days on end. He is usually out of pocket. Often he is a poor man living in an out of the way village and may have to trudge many weary miles on foot. And when he gets there, there are no arrangements for him. He is not given accommodation; and when he reaches the Court, in most places there is no room in which he can wait. He has to loiter about in the verandahs or under the trees, shivering in the cold of winter and exposed to the heat of summer , wet and miserable in the rains: and then, after wasting hours and sometimes days for his turn, he is brusquely told that he must go back and come again another day.

Justice strongly demands that this unfortunate section of the general public compelled to discharge public duties, usually at loss and inconvenience to themselves, should not be ignored in the over all picture of what will best serve the ends of justice and it may well be a sound exercise of discretion in a given case to refuse an adjournment and permit the plaintiff to examine the witnesses present and not allow the defendant to cross-examine them, still less to adduce his own evidence. It all depends on the particular case. But broadly speaking, after all the various factors have been taken into consideration and carefully weighed, the endeavour should be to avoid snap decisions and to afford litigants a real opportunity of fighting out their cases fairly and squarely. Costs will be adequate compensation in many cases and in others the Court has almost unlimited discretion about the terms it can impose provided always the discretion is judicially exercised and is not arbitrary.

[ Source: Sangram Singh vs Election Tribunal, Kotah,Bhurey, 1955 AIR 425, 1955 SCR (2) 1]

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