Madras HC Initiates Contempt of Court Proceedings For Making False Statement (Gokulraj Murder case)

Gokulraj was a 21-year-old Dalit youth who was abducted from the Tiruchengode Arthanareeswarar Temple on 23rd June 2015. The very next day his headless body was found on the railway tracks in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal district. The reason for his murder was that he was in a relationship with an upper-caste woman which bothered the members of the same caste. The prime accused Yuvraj was the leader of Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai along with him there were Nine more youths who had executed this murder. They were sentenced to life imprisonment this year in March by a Special Court in Madurai.  

The Madurai Bench of Justice MS Ramesh and Justice Anand Venkatesh was hearing the appeals challenging the life imprisonment in the Gokulraj murder case when they had summoned Ms. Swathi (Prosecution Witness 4). Gokulraj’s mother wanted the punishment to be converted into capital punishment. The Court has been hearing the case since 15th November 2022. The experts from the judgment read out as “satisfy our judicial conscience, particularly in the light of the fact that this case is loaded with communal overtones” the court was exercising its powers under the Section 391 of the Criminal Procedure Code to bring Swathi to the witness box. During the previous hearing that took place on 25th November 2022, Swathi was shown CCTV footage of the Gokulraj coming out of the temple with a girl. She identified the boy as Gokulraj but failed to accept the identity of the woman as herself.

The Court observed that Swathi was initially playing an active role by assisting the prosecution during the investigation and was the “star witness” but now was making false statements under the oath. When the court asked her if she was been threatened, she started to weep and then fainted. The Judges said on Thursday, “There could be no greater affront to the system of administration of justice if the courts are to remain, mute spectators when star witnesses turn hostile in front of it. Unlike the trial court which was rest content with playing the role of an umpire in a criminal trial, this court cannot remain a mute spectator to what, prima facie, appears to be an attempt to derail and subvert the course of justice”.

The court warned that contempt of Court proceedings will be initiated for her acts but Swathi stood by her statements after which the bench highlighted the importance of truth in testimony and under oath. If there is misconduct by the witness it shakes up the confidence of the public in the judiciary. Hence, to ensure justice to the Court of law the Court initiated the contempt of Court proceedings against Swathi.

The Court stated, “ A Court cannot ignore such conduct which has the propensity to shake the public confidence in Judicial Institutions. If the Courts become lackadaisical in dealing with false statements given by witnesses on oath, it will virtually dislodge the administration of justice and the dignity of the Court. Hence, apart from the alternative remedy of proceeding against the witness for perjury, it is always open to the Higher Courts to initiate contempt proceedings to ensure that the administration of justice remains unpolluted due to false evidence being tendered before the temple of justice.

Source: Livelaw, Bar & Bench, Hindustan Times.


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