Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Cross-examination:

The examination of a witness by the adverse party shall be called his cross-examination.

Re-examination:

The examination of a witness, subsequent to the cross-examination by the party who called him, shall be called his re-examination.

Comments:

Under section 137 the examination of witness takes place in three stages, namely, Examination-in-chief, Cross-examination and Re-examination. If opposite party so desires he may take the advantage of re-examination.

Examination-in-chief:

After taking oath the witness has to give answers the questions asked by the party who has called him before the court. The testimony of the witness is recorded in question-answer form. In this process all material facts within the knowledge of the witness are recorded to prove his case. This is called as examination-in-chief.

In conducting examination-in-chief like of a witness specially in serious cases, the public prosecutor should take abundant precaution in examination a witness, all necessary questions for proving the prosecution case should be put to the witness. In examination-in-chief the testimony is strictly confined to the facts relevant to the issues only, and not to the law. No leading question is permitted to be asked unless the court allows it.

Cross-examination:

After the examination-in-chief the opposite party shall be called to examine the witness. This is known as cross-examination. Where in cross-examination of a witness, nothing appears suspicious, the evidence of the witness has to be believed. It is the right of the opposite party to cross-examine the witness to expose all relevant facts which are either left or not disclosed in the examination-in-chief. It is “one of the most useful and efficacious means of discovering the truth.” The right of cross- examination can be exercised by the co-respondents when their interest is in direct conflict with each other.

Object of cross-examination:

According to Powell “the objects of cross- examination are to impeach the accuracy, credibility and general value of the witness, to detect and expose discrepancies, or to elicit suppressed fact which will support the case of the cross-examining Party.”

Phipson further says: “with this view, the witness may be asked not only as to facts in issue or directing thereto but all questions:

(a) Tending to test his means of knowledge;

(b) Tending to expose the errors, omissions, contradictions and improbabilities in his testimony; or

(c) Tending to impeach his credit.”

Therefore, the basic objective of the cross-examination is to ascertain the truth from the testimony given by the witness. It was held that when it is intended to suggest that the witness is not speaking the truth on particular point, it is necessary to direct his attention to it by questions in cross-examination.

The appellant sued two police officers for damages of malicious prosecution. In cross-examination the appellant put questions in that regard to one of them who denied the allegation that he demanded a bribe. He did not put suggestion to the other police officer. It was held that the appellant had not properly substantiated his allegations.

If the witness refused to appear for cross-examination it was held that his evidence lost all credibility. On the other hand where an opportunity for cross-­examination has not been used at all or used partly, that does not demolish the testimony of the witness. The absence of cross-examination does not mean the evidence is unchallenged. If the party did not suggest any question to be put to witness by Inquiry Officer, it is not open for him or her to say that opportunity for cross-examination was not given.

Range of cross-examination:

Although the range of cross-examination is unlimited, under the section the court has discretionary power to exclude irrelevant questions. The person (complainant or any of his witness who gave evidence on affidavit after being summoned by the accused, can only be subjected to cross-examination as to fact’s stated in affidavit. It is not open to the accused to insist that before cross-examination be must dispose in examination-in-chief. The right to cross-examination must relate to the relevant facts. It cannot be turned “into an engine of torture of the witness.”

Re-examination:

The examination of witness subsequent to cross-examination by the party who called him, is called re-examination. If the party finds inconsistencies or discrepancies arising out of cross-examination he has the right to re-examine his own witnesses. But, in case of re-examination no new question or fact shall be permitted to be asked without the court’s consent. Similarly, no leading question can be asked. It was held that the re-examination of witness is not confined to mere clarification of ambiguities arising in cross- examination. One cannot supplement examination-in-chief by way of a re-examination and for the first time, start introducing totally new facts, which have no concern with the cross-examination.

If any new matter is introduced in re-examination the adverse party must be given opportunity for cross-examination. It is generally called re-cross-examination.