Deaf and Mute can witness : SC

NEW DELHI: Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Dipak Misra of The Supreme Court of India on Monday said a deaf-mute need not be prevented from giving evidence in court merely on account of his physical disability as he can do so either by writing or through gestures. The court said this while upholding the Rajasthan HC’s verdict of May 29, 2005 by which it had quashed the conviction of murder accused Darshan Singh.

The SC bench of Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Dipak Misra said: ”

…a dumb person need not be prevented from being a credible and reliable witness merely due to his/her physical disability. Such a person though unable to speak may convey himself through writing if literate or through signs and gestures if he is unable to read and write.”

“Language is much more than words. Like all other languages, communication by way of signs has some inherent limitations, since it may be difficult to comprehend what the user is attempting to convey,” said the court. Justice Chauhan said: “When a deaf and dumb person is examined in the court, the court has to exercise due caution and take care to ascertain before he is examined that he possesses the requisite amount of intelligence and that he understands the nature of an oath.”

The witness may be administered oath by appropriate means and that may also be with the assistance of an interpreter, said Justice Chauhan. In case a person can read and write it was most desirable to adopt a method that was more satisfactory than any sign language. “The law required that there must a record of signs and not the interpretation of signs,” the court said.

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