Skip to main content
CRIMINAL COURTS AND THEIR POWERS 11
(1) Examination-in-chief, (2) Cross-examination, (3) Re-examination,
(4) Questions put by the Judge, juror, or assessor.
(1) Examination-iii-chief.—This is the first examination of a witness
"by the party who calls him. In Government prosecution cases the prose-
cuting inspector, as a rule, first examines the witness to elicit the principal
facts concerning the case. If the witness is summoned by a private party,
he is at first examined by the pleader of that party. In this part of the
examination leading questions,5 i.e. questions which suggest their answers,
are not allowed except in those cases in which the Judge is satisfied that
a witness is hostile, and tries to conceal the true facts. " Did you see X
striking Y with a stick on a certain afternoon " is a leading question, as that
suggests the answer " yes". It cannot, therefore, be put to the witness.
The proper forms of the question in a case of an assault are : —" When' did
this incident occur ? Where were you at the time ? What did you notice ? "
and so on. In that case the witness will narrate the whole incident of X
striking Y as he saw it.
(2) Cross-examination.—This is held by counsel for the accused who
tries to elicit facts, or demonstrate the possibility of theories, not necessarily
inconsistent with the evidence the witness has given, but helpful to his own
case. In this examination leading questions are permissible, and the witness
should be very cautious in answering them. He should not attempt to
answer the questions, unless he clearly and completely understands them,
as the cross-examiner often tries every possible means to weaken his evidence,
thereby showing to the court that the evidence in question is conflicting and
The witness may also be asked any questions which tend to test his
veracity, to discover his knowledge, experience and qualifications and even
to injure his character. It must, however, be remembered that the court
can always forbid any question which appears to it to insult or annoy, or
which, though proper in itself, appears to the, court needlessly offensive in
form (vide section 152, Indian Evidence Act).
In some instances cross-examination acts as a double-edged sword, which
cuts both ways, i.e. it may damage the defence as much as, nay, sometimes
more than, the prosecution, specially if counsel is not familiar with medical
science, and the witness happens to be well up in his subject, and at the
same time honest and straight-forward.
There is no time-limit to the cross-examination. It may last for hours
or even days, although the presiding officer can always disallow irrelevant
questions and cut short the cross-examination. On one occasion I was cross-
examined for six days (the examination lasting two hours every afternoon)
in a civil case for the recovery of professional fees against a barrister who
raised an issue of malpractice. In the end the case was compromised and
the barrister had to pay full fees including expenses. On another occasion
I was cross-examined for six hours in a case of murder. At last when the
defence pleader could not shake me in my statement, he appealingly asked
if there was anything in favour of his clients. I replied that I would have
informed the Magistrate long time ago if there was anything in their favour,
as I was there to assist the administration of justice.
(3) Re-examination.—The prosecuting inspector or counsel, who con-
ducts the examination-in-chief, has the right of re-examining the witness to
explain away any discrepancies, that may have occurred during cros&-
examination; but the witness should not introduce any new subiect without
the consent of the Judge or opposing counsel, lest he should be liable to
cross-examination on the new point thus introduced. , w :
5. Vide Appendix II, sec. 141, Indian Evidence Act.