Understanding the Concept of a Hostile Witness under the Indian Evidence Act

September 18, 2023


In the realm of legal proceedings, the concept of a “hostile witness” plays a significant role in ensuring the fair and just administration of justice. In India, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides the legal framework for presenting evidence in court. One of the intriguing aspects of this act is the provision related to hostile witnesses. In this article, we will delve into the definition, relevance, and implications of a hostile witness under the Indian Evidence Act.

What is a Hostile Witness?

A hostile witness, as per Section 154 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, refers to a witness who, during cross-examination, exhibits a disposition not to tell the truth or who contradicts the evidence given in their earlier statement or deposition. This departure from the expected testimony can occur for various reasons, including fear, bias, personal interest, or external pressure.

Relevance of Hostile Witnesses

The presence of hostile witnesses can pose significant challenges to the process of truth-seeking in a court of law. However, their existence serves several essential purposes within the legal system:

Uncovering the Truth: A hostile witness may reveal critical information or details that were concealed during direct examination. The adversarial nature of the legal process allows for a rigorous examination of witnesses, which can bring hidden facts to light.

Testing Witness Credibility: The concept of a hostile witness allows the opposing party to question the credibility of the witness. When a witness changes their testimony under cross-examination, it raises questions about their reliability, memory, or veracity.

Protecting the Accused:  In criminal cases,  a hostile prosecution witness can inadvertently aid the defense by undermining the prosecution’s case. This provides an additional layer of protection to the accused and upholds the principle of fair trial.

Safeguarding Against Perjury:  The provisions related to hostile witnesses discourage perjury, as witnesses are less likely to give false testimony if they  know that they may be subjected to cross-examination and their inconsistencies exposed.

Procedure for Declaring a Witness Hostile

To declare a witness as hostile, the following procedure is generally followed in courts:

Cross-Examination: During the cross-examination of a witness, if the opposing counsel notices any contradiction, inconsistency, or an attempt to conceal facts, they may bring it to the court’s attention.

Application to Declare Hostile: The counsel may make an application to the court, requesting that the witness be declared as hostile. The application should provide specific instances of hostile behavior or contradictory statements made by the witness.

Judicial Discretion: The decision to declare a witness as hostile lies with the judge’s discretion. The judge may take into account the witness’s demeanor, responses, and the overall context of the case before making a ruling.

Implications of a Hostile Witness

Once a witness is declared hostile, several consequences follow:

Cross-Examination: The opposing counsel gains greater flexibility in questioning the witness. They can ask leading questions, which typically require yes or no answers, in an attempt to elicit the truth.

Impeachment of Witness Credibility: The witness’s credibility is often damaged in the eyes of the court. Their inconsistencies and contradictions may cast doubt on their entire testimony.

Reliability of Evidence: The evidence provided by a hostile witness may still be considered by the court, but it is likely to be viewed with skepticism and subjected to rigorous scrutiny.


The concept of a hostile witness under the Indian Evidence Act serves as a vital element of the legal process, allowing for the thorough examination of witnesses and the pursuit of truth. While it may complicate proceedings, it ultimately contributes to the fair and just resolution of cases by revealing hidden facts, testing witness credibility, and safeguarding against perjury. In the quest for justice, the presence of hostile witnesses underscores the importance of a robust and adversarial legal system that can uncover the truth, even when witnesses are less than cooperative. If you want to be a judicial officer and are looking for RJS coaching in Jaipur, here, at Jyoti Judiciary we provide comprehensive study material to make your preparation solidified and top-notch. From preliminary mock tests to mains answer writing sessions every material required for clearing the exam is provided. We have separate legal current affairs classes, legal general knowledge, and current affairs classes all in one-time enrolment. Hurry up.

Leave a Comment