Harvinder Singh @ Bachhu V. The State of Himachal Pradesh,

Criminal APPEAL No. 266-267 OF 2015

While overturning the Himachal Pradesh High Court’s ruling, which said that Prosecution Witness (PW) 1’s testimony had to be accepted because he was an educated and devout individual, the Bench of Justices MM Sundresh and JB Pardiwala made these observations. The Supreme Court clarified that a witness’s reputation can be ascertained by considering their “conduct as a witness,” as specified in Section 8 of the Evidence Act, by stating: According to Section 8 of the Evidence Act, a witness’s behaviour is a relevant factor in determining, establishing, and proving their reputation. It further stated that their reputation was not as important when a witness’s behaviour deviated from typical human behaviour.

It stated that the prosecution had not proven the accusations beyond a reasonable doubt and that the trial court had provided strong justification for its decision to grant an acquittal.

The bench also commented on the case’s use of circumstantial evidence, double presumption, and the absence of meaningful witness cross-examination. 


In a decision released on October 13, 2023, the Supreme Court addressed the question of whether a person’s high school degree and their reputation as a God-fearing person may be enough to help them gain favour. The Himachal Pradesh High Court used PW1, a knowledgeable and devout witness, as testimonial evidence in a case challenging a murder and attempted rape conviction.

Facts of the Case:

The appellant’s acquittal by the lower court was overturned by the High Court, which found him guilty of attempted rape and murder. The testimony of PW1, who was thought to be an intelligent and devout man, served as a major foundation for the High Court’s decision. The High Court found that PW1’s background made his testimony credible.

Arguments Presented by Parties:

  • According to the prosecution, PW1’s well-educated and devout background should provide weight to his testimony and support the appellant’s conviction.
  • The defence contended that PW1’s reputation and character were overly relied upon by the High Court. They argued that under Section 8 of the Evidence Act, the court ought to consider both the witness’s demeanour and all of the evidence presented.

The reasoning for the Judgment:

Character and reputation are closely related, according to a ruling by Justices M. M. Sundresh and J. B. Pardiwala of the Supreme Court. However, they pointed out that if a witness’s behaviour raises questions, a court shouldn’t rely solely on their past, especially in an appeal hearing. Under Section 8 of the Evidence Act, a witness’s actions are crucial in determining their reputation.


The trial court’s verdict of acquittal was upheld by the Supreme Court, which reversed the High Court’s ruling. The prosecution had not shown its case beyond a reasonable question, the court said, so the appellant was entitled to the benefit of the doubt. The lower court’s acquittal was reinstated after it was decided that the finding of the High Court was unreasonable. 

Adv. Khanak Sharma (D\1710\2023)

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