Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act: An Overview

The author in this article discusses Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act and how the examination of witnesses is one of the most important facets of trials and is significant for the proper discharge of justice.

Introduction to Section 137 of Evidence Act

In Republic of India, wherever sizable amount of complaints and cases are filed in civil and criminal courts each day, delay in justice is common as the pendency of cases in courts is growing speedily. Examination of witnesses and admission of evidence are crucial facets of both criminal and civil cases, which are taken care of by the judges. These aspects are in fact elaborate and time consuming which adds to the burden of courts and the pendency of cases. However, the examination of witnesses is one of the most important facets of trials and is significant for the proper discharge of justice. The examination of witnesses is classified into three varieties as outlined under Section 137 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 as follows:-

Examination-in-chief means that the examination of the witness by the party who calls him shall be referred to as his examination-in-chief.

Cross-Examination means that the examination of the witness by the adverse party shall be referred to as his interrogation.

Re-Examination means that the examination of a witness, beyond the interrogation by the party who referred to as him, shall be referred to as his re-examination.

It is noteworthy that cross examination may not be necessary if the examination is prima facie, unacceptable.[1] Further, the examinations must be conducted in the prescribed order and sequence, that is chief examination must be done before cross examination can be done and the opposite is not possible.[2]

The Art of Interrogation

The art of interrogation plays a crucial role in the trial of every case that involves exertions and talent of lawyers whereas providing justice to their purchasers. An ideal professional ought to learn the art of interrogation by reading newspapers by reading trial and deposition transcripts or, better yet, by conducting the examination in person. The lawyer should learn additionally to adapt to explicit witnesses and completely different cases.

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The right of interrogation is one of the most fundamentally powerful instruments provided to the lawyers in the matters of judicial trials. One of the vital functions of interrogation is to aim to destroy the testimony or the credibleness of the opponent’s witnesses. Justice isn’t served if a witness is unable to speak credibleness to a jury. The search for truth is the final and idealistic finish of all litigated matters in courtroom trials.

Aim and Objective

The main object of interrogation is to seek out the reality and detection of falsehood in human testimony. It’s designed either to destroy or weaken the force of proof that is already given by a witness. Interrogation of the witness could be a duty of each professional towards his shopper and not a matter of glory and fame. It is one of the most efficient tools to find the reality and to observe the false statements of the witness. It ought to be remembered that justice shouldn’t be defeated by the improper interrogation. One of the aspects of interrogation is to ask queries relating to what the witness has declared within the Examination-in-chief.

Advocating Skills: A Must Talent

It is imperative that adequate time is spent with the witness in order to extract vital points of information to counter the examination. Before initiating an interrogation of any witness, the professional ought to clearly bear in mind the points on which he or she desires to enquire the witness. And then, he or she ought to write them down. These points conjointly ought to be mentioned with those that are helping at trial. Patience is the virtue in interrogation and judges should offer likelihood to each party to Cross-Examine the opposite party’s witnesses.

It is said that leading questions should be refrained from. However, they are the most used in examination of witnesses. A professional ought to use leading queries e.g. “is that correct?” and “isn’t it a fact? ” etc. at the time of Cross-Examining of the witness. Asking solely leading queries is probably the oldest rule of interrogation. Leading queries are simple to comprehend and as a result they enable the questioner to testify and therefore the witness to formalize. The technological advances are one of the vital dynamics in management of the room and atmosphere during the examination. Asking leading queries permits the questioner to be forceful, fearless, knowledgeable and informative. Sensible factors return from leading queries. It must also be born in mind that sometimes leading queries can also grow dull. Nobody likes to listen to a hundred queries in an exceeding row that finish with, “is that correct?”. Further, queries placed throughout the trial of interrogation should be lawful as permissible under Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act.

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Questions asked throughout the interrogation should be relevant to the problem connected with the facts of the case. Sometimes, indecent and disgraceful queries can even be asked by the advocate conducting the examination, at the time of interrogation if they relate to the facts in hand. It has been held that only those questions shall be allowed by the Courts which are relevant to the issue and important for finding out the necessary facts.[3]

Things to Keep In Mind

The court which has the authoritative power and proper jurisdiction to determine the case recalls the witness for the interrogation. There are sure details which may be thought of as chief heads of the interrogation as follows:-

  1. To cause the witness to change or amend his proof by questioning concerning his testimony.
  2. To switch the proof given under the Examination-in-chief, by inflicting the witness to talk to supplementary facts to point out the explanations and circumstances.
  3. To discredit the proof of witness by swinging queries connected along with his character.
  4. From reasons arising out of his proof by inflicting him to relinquish more proof.
  5. To cause him to relinquish proof to be received as true.


The examination of witnesses is one of the most fundamental processes of determining a case, whether criminal or civil. It is a well established method of retrieving the truth from those who witnessed the incident. It is important to understand and appreciate the nuances of witness examination because it hold a profound impact on the decision regarding the case and also serves to provide a way to find out the reality surrounding the happenings. Pertinently, one must be skilled in the art of interrogation and must appreciate the provisions of law relating to witness examination, in order to ace the task. Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act, incorporates the legal provisions regarding the examination of witnesses and as such, form a very important part of the trial procedure which needs to be paid a good deal of attention.

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[1] Ghulam Rasool Khan v. Wali Khan, AIR 1983 JK 54.

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[2] Shardamma v. Kenchamma, AIR 2007 Kant 17.

[3] Mohammad Mian v. Emperor, 52 Ind Cas 54.