Can physical disabilites disqualify a witness

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | Updated: May 30 2012, 08:01am hrs
Deaf & dumb people can make valid witnesses, if statement is satisfactory

The Supreme Court has ruled that deaf and dumb witnesses need not be prevented from giving evidence in court merely on account of their physical disability as they can do so either by writing or through gestures. It said that the testimonies of such witnesses are valid and admissible pieces of evidence as long as the same is done in an intelligible manner to the satisfaction of the court. A dumb person need not be prevented from being a credible and reliable witness merely due to his/her physical disability. Such a person though unable to speak may convey himself through writing if literate or through signs and gestures if he is unable to read and write, the apex court said, while dismissing an appeal filed by the Rajasthan government against the acquittal of one murder convict Darshan Singh. The victims deaf and dumb wife was the star witness on whose testimony Darshan was sentenced to life imprisonment by a fast track sessions court. However, the high court had set aside the trial courts conviction, giving the benefit of the doubt to Darshan.

Independent arbitrators have to be impartial to both parties

The Supreme Court has appointed Justice Ashok C Agarwal, retired Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, as the sole arbitrator to resolve disputes between Bipromasz Bipron Trading SA and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). Normally, the court appoints an arbitrator as per the agreed terms between the parties in the contract. However, in this case, it deviated from the procedure after recording reasons for the same. In the present case, the Polish firm had bagged an order in October 2008 from BEL for the supply of various goods, including GYRO units. The supplier had sent 10 units of GYRO stabilisers, which were rejected by the PSU on the ground that the goods supplied were not of Russian origin. Later on, BEL directly contacted the Russian manufacturer and obtained the units through some other exporter to frustrate the purchase order of Bipromasz.

BEL then again showed interest in August 2010 in getting 50 GYRO units on a condition that the payment will be made after the acceptance of the units by it. Bipromasz, though not obliged under the contract, could supply only 14 units due to the short validity of the Letter of Credit. Thereafter, BEL did not respond to the Polish companys communications. Hence, the foreign firm requested BEL to agree on a name of an independent and impartial sole arbitrator. BEL opposed the same on the ground that the disputes have to be referred to its chairman and managing director or his nominee, in terms of the purchase order. The Supreme Court, however, recognised the apprehensions of Bipromasz that the arbitrator nominated by BEL, who is a subordinate of the chairman, would not act impartially.

Bias cannot be proven on the basis of imagination

The Supreme Court has said that in a democratic polity, justice, both in its concept and in essence, being fair and unbiased is the bedrock of good governance. It is not to be forgotten that in a democratic polity, justice in its conceptual eventuality and inherent quintessentiality in essence forms the bedrock of good governance, the apex court said, while dismissing a petition by Chandra Kumar Chopra, a major in the Indian Army, who was held guilty of financial irregularity in claiming transportation bill reimbursement.

Addressing the bias that Chopra attributed to the general court martial (GCM), the apex court said that mere suspicion or apprehension is not good enough to entertain a plea of bias. The allegation of bias cannot be a facet of ones imagination and should be scrutinised on the basis of material brought on record, it added.

The GCM in June 1990 had sentenced Chopra to cashiering and a rigorous sentence of five years. However, the confirming authority while retaining cashiering, reduced the five year rigorous sentence to six months. The Delhi High Court had declined to interfere with the decision of the confirming authority.