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Perjury – is it a tool to ‘settle’​ disputes in India?

man standing with fingers crossed

Remember the holy Bhagavad Gita reverently folded in a red cloth? In addition to it, the signature phrase. ‘Main Gita pe haath rakhkar kasam khata hoon. Jo kuch kahoonga sach kahoonga, sach ke siva kuch nahi kahoonga’. This customary ritual has lost its meaning. In Bollywood movies as much as in Indian courts.

Perjury in India
A scene from a Bollywood movie

Perjury (or lying under oath in court) finds place in Section 192-203 of the Indian Penal Code. And the punishment for which is imprisonment for a maximum of 7 years and a fine. 

In India, perjury is not taken seriously. Consequently, litigants (in some cases at the instance of their lawyers) lie through their nose. This is because the procedure to make somebody pay for lying to court is at the discretion of the court where perjury has been committed. Although a party can point out that the court has been lied to. However, it is up to the court whether it finds it expedient to proceed against the person lying. 

Moreover, cases have overburdened Indian courts. In addition to that, we often see people deceiving courts by lying to them under oath. This results in destroying the sanctity of our justice system and them getting away scott-free. Rarely do such ill-minded people face the wrath of the law. 

In fact, lying to courts may also invite provisions of criminal contempt. This would make contemners liable to strict punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. 

However, in certain cases, courts have come down heavily on litigants who have lied under oath. Here are some interesting observations by them:

Case 1

The Supreme Court of India in Dalip Singh vs State Of U.P. & Ors observed “For many centuries, Indian society cherished two basic values of life i.e., `Satya’ (truth) and `Ahimsa’ (non-violence). Mahavir, Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi guided the people to ingrain these values in their daily life. Truth constituted an integral part of justice delivery system. Which was in vogue in pre-independence era. And the people used to feel proud to tell truth in the courts irrespective of the consequences. However, post-independence period has seen drastic changes in our value system.

The materialism has over-shadowed the old ethos. And the quest for personal gain has become so intense. That those involved in litigation do not hesitate to take shelter of falsehood, misrepresentation and suppression of facts in the court proceedings. In last 40 years, a new creed of litigants has cropped up. Those who belong to this creed do not have any respect for truth. They shamelessly resort to falsehood and unethical means for achieving their goals. In order to meet the challenge posed by this new creed of litigants, the courts have, from time to time, evolved new rules. And it is now well established that a litigant, who attempts to pollute the stream of justice or who touches the pure fountain of justice with tainted hands, is not entitled to any relief, interim or final.”

Case 2

In Dhananjay Sharma vs State Of Haryana And Ors, wrt to perjury, the Supreme Court noted “any conduct which has the tendency to interfere with the administration of justice or the due course of judicial proceedings amounts to the commission of criminal contempt. Additionally, the swearing of false affidavits in judicial proceedings not only has the tendency of causing obstruction in the due course of judicial proceedings. But has also the tendency to impede, obstruct and interfere with the administration of justice. The filing of false affidavits in judicial proceedings in any court of law exposes the intention of the concerned party. In perverting the course of justice. The due process of law cannot be permitted to be slighted. Nor the majesty of law be made a mockery by such acts or conduct on the part of the parties to the litigation. Or even while appearing as witnesses.

Anyone who makes an attempt to impede or undermine or obstruct the free flow of the unsoiled stream of justice by resorting to the filing of false evidence, commits criminal contempt of the court and renders himself liable to be dealt with in accordance with the Act.

Filing of false affidavits or making false statement on oath in Courts aims at striking a blow at the Rule of Law. And no court can ignore such conduct which has the tendency to shake public confidence in the judicial institutions. Because the very structure of an ordered life is put at stake. It would be a great public disaster if the fountain of justice is allowed to be poisoned by anyone resorting to filing of false affidavits. Or giving of false statements and fabricating false evidence in a court of law. The stream of justice has to be kept clear and pure. And anyone soiling its purity must be dealt with sternly. So that the message perculates loud and clear. That no one can be permitted to undermine the dignity of the court. Or interfere with the due course of judicial proceedings or the administration of justice.”

Case 3

The Supreme Court of India has noted why perjury is not taken seriously. In Swaran Singh v. State of Punjab, it observed that “…Perjury has also become a way of life in the law courts. A trial Judge knows that the witness is telling a lie and is going back on his previous statement. Yet he does not wish to punish him or even file a complaint against him. He himself has to sign the complaint. This deters him from filing the complaint…”

Case 4 on perjury

The Bombay High Court too noted the menace of perjury being committed rampantly in courts. For instance, judgment in the case of Vijay Enterprises vs Gopinath Mahade Koli and Ors. In which it held “now the time has come when the litigants are utilizing the fabricated documents rampantly. Now the time has also come where people are making statements on oath and in court proceedings which are blatantly false to their own knowledge. Now a days parties are using false documents with a view to achieve orders which they desire to obtain. It is needless to state that justice delivery system has to be pure. And should be such that the persons who are approaching the Courts and filing the proceedings must be afraid of using fabricated documents. And also of making false statements on oath.

We are a Court of Law sitting here to ascertain the truth and give justice in accordance with the law. To establish truth. And not to be misled by the advocates and the parties in the various directions. So as to make it almost impossible to give effective and truthful justice to the litigants at large. And, in my opinion keeping in mind the aforesaid position it is high time. High time that where the people have blatantly used the fabricated document for the purpose of achieving the desired result even by misleading the Court and/or by making false statement and by using fabricated documents cannot escape the penalties.”

Case 5

The Delhi high Court in Arun Dhawan & Anr vs Lokesh Dhawan laid down, in respect of perjury, that “making of false averment in the pleading pollutes the stream of justice. It is an attempt at inviting the Court into passing a wrong judgment. And that is why it must be treated as an offence. There is nothing in law to prevent a person from being proceeded for contempt where a verification is specific and deliberately false.”

Download this file for case laws and judgments related to perjury:

Do you think taking action against litigants who lie under oath will increase litigation? Or will it deter people from frivolous litigation?

In addition, do you think litigants that get away with perjury in effect are making a mockery of the process of courts? That they are abusing the law?

In conclusion, do you think it is time that the law is amended? To make it mandatory to take action against litigants committing perjury?

Also read: how technology is revolutionizing legal research

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