Whether the “medical evidence” should be believed or whether the testimony of the eyewitnesses should be preferred?  “There is no doubt that ocular evidence should be accepted unless it is completely negated by the medical evidence. This principle has more recently been accepted in Gangabhavani v. Rajapati Venkat Reddy”- The Apex court noted in Bastiram v. State of Rajasthan. [Keywords- Opinion & Facts]— these are two different things, keep this in mind while going through this review.

What does medical evidence mean?

The expression “medical evidence” compendiously refers to the facts stated by the doctor either in the injury report or in the post-mortem report or during his oral testimony plus the opinion expressed by the doctor on the basis of the facts stated. For example, an injury on the skull or the leg is a fact recorded by the doctor. Whether the injury caused the death of the person is the opinion of the doctor. As noted in State of Haryana v. Bhagirath, on the same set of facts, two doctors may have a different opinion. Therefore, the opinion of a particular doctor is not final or sacrosanct.

What about the facts recorded by a doctor – are they sacrosanct?

In Kapildeo Mandal v. State of Bihar, the facts found by the doctor were preferred over the eyewitness testimony. The ocular evidence was to the effect that the deceased suffered firearm injuries. However, the doctor conducting the post-mortem examination stated that he did not find any indication of any firearm injury on the person of the deceased. No pellets, bullets or any cartridge were found in any of the wounds. Accepting the “medical evidence” on facts, it was observed that, “The medical evidence is to the effect that there were no firearm injuries on the body of the deceased, whereas the eyewitnesses’ version is that the appellant-accused were carrying firearms and the injuries were caused by the firearms. In such a situation and circumstance, the medical evidence will assume importance while appreciating the evidence led by the prosecution by the court and will have priority over the ocular version and can be used to repel the testimony of the eyewitnesses as it goes to the root of the matter having an effect to repel conclusively the eyewitnesses’ version to be true.”

Similarly, a fact stated by a doctor in a post-mortem report could be rejected by a Court relying on eyewitness testimony, though this would be quite infrequent. In Dayal Singh v. State of Uttaranchal, the post-mortem report and the oral testimony of the doctor who conducted that examination was that no internal or external injuries were found on the body of the deceased. The Supreme Court rejected the “medical evidence” and upheld the view of the Trial Court (and the High Court) that the testimony of the eyewitnesses supported by other evidence would prevail over the post-mortem report and testimony of the doctor.

“It was held, the trial court has rightly ignored the deliberate lapses of the investigating officer as well as the post-mortem report prepared by Dr C.N. Tewari. The consistent statement of the eyewitnesses which were fully supported and corroborated by other witnesses, and the investigation of the crime, including recovery of lathis, inquest report, recovery of the pagri of one of the accused from the place of occurrence, immediate lodging of FIR and the deceased succumbing to his injuries within a very short time, establish the case of the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt. These lapses on the part of PW 3 [doctor] and PW 6 [investigating officer] are a deliberate attempt on their part to prepare reports and documents in a designedly defective manner which would have prejudiced the case of the prosecution and resulted in the acquittal of the accused, but for the correct approach of the trial court to do justice and ensure that the guilty did not go scot-free. The evidence of the eyewitness which was reliable and worthy of credence has justifiably been relied upon by the court.”

An opinion given by a doctor, based on the facts recorded on an examination of a victim of a crime, could be rejected by relying on cogent and trustworthy eyewitness testimony. In Mange v. State of Haryana, an eyewitness to a rape stated that the offence was committed on a particular day and at a particular time. However, the lady doctor who examined the victim was of the opinion that the offence was committed two days earlier. The court did not accept the opinion and preferred to rely on the eyewitness account holding, inter alia, that

“It is difficult for any medical expert to give the exact duration of time when the rape was committed. More particularly when we have the evidence of PW 4 [eye witness] as to the time and date of the occurrence, the medical evidence can hardly be relied upon to falsify the evidence of the eyewitness because the medical evidence is guided by various factors based on guess and certain calculations.”

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