Perjury is the “willful and corrupt taking of a false oath in regard to a material matter in a judicial proceedings. ” It is sometimes called “lying under oath” i. e. , deliberately telling a lie in a courtroom after having taken an oath to tell the truth. It is important that the false statement be material to case at hand, means that false statement could effect the outcome of the case. It is not considered perjury, for example : to lie about age unless age is a key factor in proving the case. Perjury can be used as a threat.
Although, perjury is a very serious crime under state and Federal laws, and while prosecutors often threaten prosecution, the member of actual prosecution for perjury is tiny. The prosecution of perjury stemming from civil law suits are particularly call. This is because it is difficult to prove that someone is intentionally misstating a material fact, rather than simply testifying honestly from faulty memory. Perjury also known as Forswearing, which means willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth weather spoken or in writing concerning matters material to a judicial proceedings.
Means, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the case, for example: that is not considered perjury to lie about ones age unless, age is a a factor in determining a legal result. Perjury is considered a serious offense as it can be used to usurp the power of the courts, resulting in miscarriage of justice. PERJURY IN INDIA Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), section 191 defines perjury as “giving false evidence” and by interpretation it includes the statements retracted later as the person is presumed to have given a “false statements” earlier r later,whom the statement is retracted. Section 191 of IPC states perjury as: whoever, being legally bound by an oath or by any express provision of law to state the truth, or being bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject, make any statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false evidence. Statements of interpretation of fact are not perjury because people often make inaccurate statement. Individuals may have honest but mistaken beliefs about certain facts, or their recollection may be inaccurate.
Like most other crimes in the common law system, to be convicted of perjury one must have had the intention [Mens Rea] to commit the act, and to have actually committed the act [Actus Reus]. Subordination of perjury, attempting to include another person to perjure themselves, is itself a crime. WHY IT IS A CRIME? Perjury is a crime because a witness swears, or affirms to tell the truth and, for the credibility of the court, witness testimony must be relied on as being truthful.
The rule of perjury also apply when a person has made a statement under penalty of perjury, even if the person has not been sworn as affirmed as a witness before an appropriate official. DEVELOPMENT OF PERJURY IN INDIA Two developments in two sensational criminal cases. The Best Bakery Case, relating to the Gujarat Communal Rights. Jessica Lal’s Murder Case. The Best Bakery Case and murder case of Model Jessica Lal, have brought into sharp focus the issue of “perjury” defined in Indian penal laws as “giving false evidence”.
While the Bombay Special Trail Court in the Best Bakery Case has issued notices to Zaheera Sheikh for “Perjury” or “flase evidence” as she had retracted her statement several times, the Delhi High Court has Suo Motu, taken cognizance of the police (prosecution) theory on “Hostile Witness” in the Jessica Lal Murder Case. Both the cases demonstrate that time has come in India to strictly enforce the law relating “perjury” or “false statement”, which would go a long way in future criminal cases.
For a person’s statement an oath, testimony, and in sworn affidavit is regard as truth are vital evidence on which judicial decisions are made. The high rate of acquittals in India in criminal cases are mainly due to witnesses turning hostile. The criminality of “buying” the witnesses by the influential who find themselves in the dock can be handed only by strictly enjoying the penal law on perjury. The allegation that, Zaheera Sheikh took money to retract her statement is open to judicial scrutiny. Witnesses turning hostile in several cases take not only the courts for a __ but Justice itself.
Zaheera Sheikh is not a only example of someone allegedly having committed “perjury” there are majority of cases in which witnesses give false evidence or retract their statements at a later stage, which results in the accused being acquitted. If the Indian courts started taking action against falsehood the case of perjury would outnumber all other categories of cases. But the Best Bakery Case, as indeed the Jessica Lal Murder Case, have become high profile and are therefore being highlighted and discussed in detail.
Under section 191, of the Indian Penal Code, perjury is defined as “giving false evidence”. The person is prosecuted to have given false statement at some point, but hardly anyone, including legal experts, can recall a single case before Best Bakery Case and the Jessica Lal murder case in which a person was prosecuted for making a false statement before the court. Under section 191 of the IPC, an affidavit is evidence and a person swearing to a false affidavit is guilty of perjury, which is punishable of imprisonment which may extend to seven years.
However, action against making a false statement should be initiated during the trial itself and not after it has concluded, this may serve as a deterrent to persons who intentionally mislead the court or make false statements under oath or file tainted affidavits much against the public good and fair trial. Late initiation of an action often causes perjury cases to go completely unnoticed, it becomes one more case dragging on for years. ZAHEERA HABIBULLAH H. SKEIKH AND OTHERS. V. STATE OF GUJARAT AND OTHERS (BEST BAKERY CASE)
The Best Bakery Case was a legal case involving the burning down of the Best Bakery on March 1, 2002, in Vadodra, India. The incident which resulted in the deaths of 14 people (including 12 muslims) has came to symbolize the carnage and the alleged complicity of the state government during the 2002 Gujarat violence. The Best Bakery Case, was small outlet in the Hanuman Tekri area of Vadodra which was burned down in communal riots. This attack was part of the 2002 Gujarat violence sparked by the Godhra train burning incidence, in which 58 “Karsevaks” were burnt to death.
The day after the attack, Zaheera Sheikh filed the First Information Report (FIR). Zaheera was a key and notable witness. PERJURY UNDER THE BEST BAKERY CASE: The prosecution declared Zaheera Sheikh to be a hostile witness. A tape by Tehalka claimed that Zaheera had been bribed by an MLA Masjilis-e-Shura, an apex decision making bodies of muslims, consequently declared Zaheera Sheikh, as a “dissembler” effectively ousting her from the muslim community. The organization stated its reason that Zaheera was “tarnishing communiti’s image by making false statements”.
Zaheera was sentenced by the Supreme Court of India, 1 Year imprisonment for perjury in the murder, after being found guilty of lying by the court, with fine Rs. 50,000. The judgment called landmark judgment brought the case to an end. The case has the legacy of being “one of the country’s most controversial and high profile trials”. In the US, Perjury law applies to all material statements or information provided under oath to a ‘competent tribunal, officer’ or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered.
The Indian position too is almost similar as section 191 makes it clear that “whoever being legally bound by an oath”, makes a statement which is false, that person is said to have given false evidence. But an application, it lies with the prosecution, which is not as effective in India, as it is in the US. Unlike in the US, which divides perjury into three categories, in India perjury encompasses statement, material or any other form of evidence. The use of false and inconsistent material also fall under the category of “perjury”.
For instance in Jessica Lal Murder Case, it has to be seen whether the “Sudden invention of two weapons” having been used constituted false material. In Zaheera Sheikh’s case it is her inconsistent declarations and retractions. Both the cases have underscored the need for using the existing law against perjury in all criminal trials and as Justice V. N. Khare, former Chief Justice of India observed, it is high time that the perjury law is strictly enforced by all the courts concerned. As he put, “ If there is will, the country could be zero crime zone. ”