When an unlawful assembly or a large number of persons take part in arson or in a clash between two groups, in order to convict a person, at least two prosecution witnesses have to support and identify the role and involvement of the persons concerned.
The Supreme Court in the decision reported as (2012) 12 SCC 711 Busi Koteswara Rao and Ors. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh reiterating the decision of the larger Bench in Masalti Vs. State of U.P. AIR 1965 SC 2002 held:
- Even, as early as in 1965, a larger Bench of this Court in Masalti v. State of U.P. [AIR 1965 SC 202 : (1965) 1 Cri LJ 226] considered about how the prosecution case is to be believed.
The principles laid down in para 16 of the decision are relevant which are as under:
- Under the Evidence Act, 1872 trustworthy evidence given by a single witness would be enough to convict an accused person, whereas evidence given by half a dozen witnesses which is not trustworthy would not be enough to sustain the conviction.
- That, no doubt is true; but where a criminal court has to deal with evidence pertaining to the commission of an offence involving a large number of offenders and a large number of victims, it is usual to adopt the test that the conviction could be sustained only if it is supported by two or three or more witnesses who give a consistent account of the incident.
It is clear that when a criminal court has to deal with evidence pertaining to the commission of an offence involving a large number of offenders and a large number of victims, the normal test is that the conviction could be sustained only if it is supported by two or more witnesses who give a consistent account of the incident in question.
In State of U.P. v. Dan Singh [(1997) 3 SCC 747 : 1997 SCC (Cri) 469], a Bench of two Judges, in para 48 has held that it would be safe if only those of the respondents should be held to be the members of the unlawful assembly who have been specifically identified by at least four eyewitnesses.