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POA 7 How to give evidence in court


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The victims and witnesses are often intimidated in court, and sometimes the lawyer does not have the time or is disinterested.

This file is an outline of what the lawyer should ideally brief the victims and witnesses.

Use along with the set of 10 files (POA 1 to POA 9) to monitor the implementation of the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

Download the whole set and use!

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POA 7 How to give evidence in court

  1. 1. How to give evidence in court CMASK 2013; page [1] mobile: +91.80.8850.6595 email: How to give evidence in court The courts are a new, and often intimidating experience for everyone except the judge. So it is normal to be a little tense. However, as a human rights defender, it is your duty to help the victim-survivor and witnesses to clearly tell the court the facts. This can be done by preparing them before hand, telling them what to expect and what to do. Go over their testimony with them, both individually and collectively. They need to be confident when in court. Before the trial starts the prosecutor in-charge of the case (the special public prosecutor) will prepare his case and know what his witnesses are going to state in the court. He will, therefore, interview each witness well in time and ascertain from the facts to which they would testify in the court and instruct him how he should behave in the court (don’t lose temper, to answer questions distinctly and in a natural manner, and not to volunteer more information than is asked). He would encourage a timid or nervous witness and warn a self-opinionated, talkative one against making answers unnecessarily long or speaking about matters regarding which he has not been questioned (1586.5). During this preliminary interview, the Prosecutors will try to anticipate questions which may be put to the witnesses in cross-examination and put those questions to the witnesses and find out what answers they have to give. This would help them to face the defence lawyers’ questions with confidence. There should be no attempt to tutor witnesses (1586.6). Remember, the witnesses, victims and their dependents are entitled to transport and allowances. In case they are a person with disability, a minor, elderly or woman, each of them is entitled to an attender of their choice (who is also entitled to the same allowances) at the cost of the state [11(1), (3), (4) and (5)]. The payments will be made immediately, but not later than three days [11(6)] by the district magistrate or any other executive magistrate. The following are essential when attending the court. 1. Always appear in neat, formal (not dirty, festive or casual) clothes when giving evidence in court; 2. Acknowledge the judge (look into the eye and nod), both when entering and leaving the witness box; 3. Be attentive, never fidget; 4. Be calm and dignified while giving evidence, to impress the court and the counsel favourably; 5. In giving evidence, look straight towards the court. 6. When questioned by the adverse party, never turn towards the prosecution counsel. 7. Answer a question only if you fully understand it. If the question is not clear enough, say so and politely ask the counsel to repeat it in a simpler form. 8. Do not answer a question with a counter-question. 9. If you do not remember any fact, say so at once rather than attempt a random answer. 10. Never show irritation and do not be offended if the cross-examiner questions in a way you do not like. 11. If questions are unnecessarily vexations or obnoxious, represent the matter to the court and seek its protection. Above all, do not quarrel with the counsel. 12. Carefully distinguish between what you know personally and what you may have heard from others. 13. In answering a question, do not give unnecessary information. For example, if asked whether the colour of a certain article is white, do not say “No, it is black”, say simply “No” or “Yes”. 14. If you consider that some of your answer requires an explanation which the counsel failed to elicit, you may, when both the sides have finished, represent the matter to the court. 15. Remember that all that the court wants to ascertain is the guilt or innocence of the accused and not your intelligence. 16. Give no more details regarding the source of your information than from information received “I did this or that”. 17. Avoid lengthy answers. They furnish more material for cross-examination. Replies should be concise. 18. Do not leave the court without its permission. Paraphrased from the Karnataka Police Manual, paragraphs 1586 and 1588 (accessed 1 July 2013