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Service in the interest of Justice



Hostile witness is a witness who refuses to tell the truth in a court of law after having previously sworn that he would; or if he is open against the party who called him as a witness. The side that calls the witness, be it the prosecution or the defense, believes the witness will provide similar evidence to the court that was provided in his pretrial statement. If the witness then lies, or refuses to answer questions while on the stand, the party who called that witness can ask the judge to declare the witness hostile. As per Section 191 of IPC, there are three specific prerequisites to judge the degree of hostility of witnesses which are as under: 
[1] Whether there is a legal obligation to state the truth or not;
[2] Whether there is any making of false statement; and
[3] Whether there is any belief in its falsity.


Acquittal in 354A Cases


Elements Responsible For Turning A Witness 'Hostile'

  • Disinclination to get involved with court proceedings. 
  •  Fear of criminals is an important element responsible for turning a witness hostile.
  • A witness turning hostile is due to threats to witnesses. Commonly threats play a part in forcing a witness to retract from his statements.
  • Sometimes sympathetic attitude toward accused is also responsible for the hostile witness.
  •  Lack of civilized sense in the public.
  •  High rate of Bribe and corruption in the system.
  •  A witness has a limited range privileges and protection in the judiciary system.
  • Non-implementation of penal role is an important reason.
  • The Delhi High Court also observed that witnesses in a large number of cases were turning hostile due to intimidation and threats.
  • Threats of retaliations and actual physical violence intimidate many victims and witnesses into not co-operating criminal proceeding.
  • If the person or witness is poor or disadvantaged by caste, community or gender, they may instead be victims of grave threat and intimidation. This is also the main reason that they cannot give real statement and become hostile witness.
  • In high profile cases, political pressure is an important element in turning the witness hostile.
  • Self generated fear of police and the legal system.
  • Absence of fear of the law of perjury.
  • An unsympathetic law enforcement machinery and corruption are some of the other reasons for witnesses turning hostile in the course of trial.



There are certain remedies which are available for witnesses tuned hostile. The VS Malimath committee in Jessica Lal case has suggested the following measures:-

  • Holding in-camera proceedings.
  • Taking measures to keep the identity of witnesses secret.
  • Ensuring anonymity.
  • Making arrangements to ensure their protection.
  • Witnesses in court should be treated like guests of honour.
  • They should be adequately compensated for spending money on travel and accommodation.
  • Comfort, convenience and dignity of witnesses while deposing in the court of law should be ensured.
  • A law for protection of witnesses should be enacted as there is no such law in India.
  • Constitution of a National Security Commission at national level and a state security commissions at state level.




The facts of the case where complainant turned hostile which led to the acquittal of the accused:-

  • The complainant was studying in Class X and as per her compliant, it was mentioned that the accused had been following her for many days and every time she used to go to school, the accused would harass her.
  • On one day, the accused blocked her way and forcefully took her to a room. He first slapped her and warned her of not disclosing the matter to anyone or she would have to bear the consequences.
  • The accused sexually assaulted her and warned her of not getting talking to any other boy in the locality.
  • The complainant narrated the entire episode to her mother and filed a case against the accused.
  • The police booked the accused under relevant sections of the IPC.
  • During the trial, the complainant retracted from her statement.



  • The court acquitted the accused under Section 354(assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Section 8(punishment for sexual assault) of POSCO Act.
  • The complainant in the matter was declared hostile and this led to acquittal of the accused.

This post is written by Dipti Prakash of Punjab University (2020 batch). For more info, please dial 99888-17966.

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