Prince or Pauper, Guj HC Upholds Equal Value of Testimony for All

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Prince or Pauper, Guj HC Upholds Equal Value of Testimony for All

| Updated: May 13, 2024 10:59

Akbarali Saiyad, an 85-year-old man, felt a sense of justice when, after a 20-year wait, the Gujarat HC sent his case for fresh adjudication.

Mr. Saiyad, ormer COC (Clerk of the Court) cum Nazir, was found guilty under Section 409 (criminal breach of confidence by a public official) by a trial court in 2000 in a case where cash and valuables, in the custody of Chhota Udepur Court, went missing. The Appellate Court also upheld the verdict of the lower court, punishing the accused with a sentence of seven years of imprisonment and the imposition of a fine of Rs. 5000.

Twenty years passed in waiting for the case to come up at the Gujarat High Court, which the accused had approached. Justice J C Doshi observed after hearing the case that the appellate court did not treat the testimony of a judge and a lower official equally and tilted in bias towards the higher official. The verdict upholds the provisions of the Evidence Act.

The case in question was missing cash and valuables from the Chhota Udepur court strongroom during an unannounced inspection by the Vadodara District Judge in November 1991. At the end of first day of inspection, the inspecting authority instructed the civil judge to seal the valuables and cash and hold it safely in the strongroom. When the inspection resumed on the third day, it was found that some valuables and cash worth Rs. 80,833 were missing. A criminal case was promptly filed by the Civil Judge.

The High Court took note of the fact that during the trial, a peon did testify that the Civil Judge himself had entered the strongroom in the night at 9 pm with a lantern on the intervening date during inspection. The accused, Saiyad, was on leave on that day. The peon asserted that he and in-charge Nazir had told the judge not to enter.

The High Court concluded that the testimony of an employee, lower in hierarchy was disregarded and the testimony of a judge was favoured. The appellate court erred in not applying the provisions of the Evidence Act in true letter and spirit. The High Court has sought fresh adjudication of the case. It is a big reprieve for the octagenarian fighting the decades-old legal battle.

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