Section 148 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

(1) Such questions are proper if they are of such a nature that the truth of the imputation conveyed by them would seriously affect the opinion of the Court as to the credibility of the witness on the matter to which he testifies;

(2) Such questions are improper if the imputation which they convey relates to matters so remote in time, or of such a character, that the truth of the imputation would not affect, or would affect in a slight degree, the opinion of the Court as to the credibility of the witness on the matter to which he testifies;

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(3) Such questions are improper if there is a great disproportion between the importance of the imputation made against the witness’s character and the importance of his evidence;

(4) The Court may, if it sees fit, draw, from the witness’s refusal to answer, the inference that the answer if given would be unfavourable.

Comments:

Scope:

Section 148 restricts the right to put questions in cross-examinations. It provides protection to the witness against improper cross-examination. If the witness is not assured of some protection from victimization or harassment during cross-examination he will not be interested to appear as a witness. “It would be great hardship if every person, who comes forward to give evidence was liable, at the whim of unscrupulous cross-examination to have every detail of his private life dragged into the light and to be compelled to reply all the questions which are put only to defame him.” In order to deal with such contingencies the following provisions have been incorporated in Section 148 to afford protection to the witness. It is with this object of preventing such abuse that Section 148 and Section 149 to Section 153 have been framed.

Provisions relating to protection of witness as to his credit:

Section 148 has given a wide discretion to the court in allowing or disallowing questions to be asked in cross-examination and whether he shall be compelled to answer the questions or not, particularly, when the questions are not relevant but asked only to shake his credit by exposing his character. In order to deal with these circumstances the court has to take into account of the following principles:

1. Such question is proper if “the truth of imputation made touches credibility of witness” the court should allow the question. For example, in case of rape the prosecutrix may be cross-examined as to her connection not only with the accused but with other men.

2. Such questions are improper if the court finds that the matters are “so remote” or “of such a character” the truth does not affect the credibility of the witness or slightly affect, such questions would not be allowed.

3. Where there is great disproportion between the importance of the imputation and importance of the evidence such questions are improper and should not be allowed.

Where it has been found that the questions are proper the witness refuses to answer the court may draw inference the answer if given would be unfavourable to the witness.