It is a general presumption that if certain facts out of a narrative is false, then the entire narrative is also false. However, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hemant Gupta reiterated in the matter of Mahendran v. State of Tamil Nadu that the legal maxim of ‘falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus’ (false in one thing, false in everything) is not applicable in India. The Appellant contended that the reliance on the testimony of a witness for conviction is incorrect if a part of the testimony is false and unreliable. To support its arguments, the counsel for the appellants relied on the judgments in Ram Laxman vs. State of Rajasthan (2016) 12 SCC 389, Noushad alias Noushad Pasha and Others vs. State of Karnataka (2015) 2 SCC 513 and Suraj Mal Vs. State (Delhi Administration) (1979) 4 SCC 725 and contended that if the testimony of the witness is found to be unreliable in respect of part of the statement, then the other part of the statement cannot be made basis to convict the accused.
The Counsel for the Respondents referred to the judgment of Gangadhar Behera and Others Vs. State of Orissa (2002) 8 SCC 381 to justify that the entire testimony of a witness cannot be discarded or disregarded merely because a part of the testimony is found to be not true. As such, the Bench dismissed the appeals as they lacked merits whilst relying on the judgment in Gangadhar Behera which elaborated on the non-applicability of the maxim as follows:
“ Falsity of a particular material witness or material particular would not ruin it from the beginning to end. The maxim “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” has no application in India and the witnesses cannot be branded as liars. The maxim “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” has not received general acceptance nor has this maxim come to occupy the status of rule of law. It is merely a rule of caution. All that it amounts to, is that in such cases testimony may be disregarded, and not that it must be disregarded. The doctrine merely involves the question of weight of evidence which a court may apply in a given set of circumstances, but it is not what may be called “a mandatory rule of evidence……………………………
The doctrine is a dangerous one specially in India for if a whole body of the testimony were to be rejected, because a witness was evidently speaking an untruth in some aspect, it is to be feared that administration of criminal justice would come to a dead stop. Witnesses just cannot help in giving embroidery to a story, however, true in the main. Therefore, it has to be appraised in each case as to what extent the evidence is worthy of acceptance, and merely because in some respects the court considers the same to be insufficient for placing reliance on the testimony of a witness, it does not necessarily follow as a matter of law that it must be disregarded in all respects as well. The evidence has to be sifted with care.”
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Judgment: Mahendran Versus State of Tamil Nadu