ISLAMABAD   -  In its landmark judgment pertaining to false testimonies, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa has observed that judicial system of the country suffered a lot as a consequence of deviation from the truth.

He observed that a judicial system which permits deliberate falsehood is doomed to fail and a society which tolerates it is destined to self-destruct, adding “It is about time that such a colossal wrong may be rectified in all earnestness.”

Therefore, the top court declared, “The rule falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (a Latin phrase meaning ‘false in one thing, false in everything’) shall henceforth be an integral part of our jurisprudence in criminal cases and the same shall be given effect to, followed and applied by all the courts in the country in its letter and spirit.”

The top court also directed that a witness found by a court to have resorted to a deliberate falsehood on a material aspect shall, without any latitude, invariably be proceeded against for committing perjury.

A 31-page judgment is authored by Chief Justice Khosa in a case wherein a Police Constable Khizer Hayat was issued notice on account of his false statement made before the trial court in a criminal case.

Chief Justice Khosa observed that truth is the foundation of justice and justice is the core and bedrock of a civilised society and, thus, any compromise on truth amounts to a compromise on a society’s future as a just, fair and civilized society.

He observed that a court of law cannot grant a licence to a witness to tell lies or to mix truth with falsehood and then take it upon itself to sift grain from chaff when the law of the land makes perjury or testifying falsely a culpable offence.

The judgment added that a court also has no jurisdiction to lay down a principle of law when even the Parliament is expressly forbidden by the Constitution from enacting such a principle as law.

Chief Justice Khosa in his judgment observed that superior courts in past had held the abovementioned Rule to be inapplicable to criminal cases.

This view of the superior courts regarding inapplicability of the said Rule in criminal cases had gradually encouraged and emboldened witnesses to indulge in falsehood making it more and more difficult for the courts to discover truth and dispense justice.

“We have undertaken an exhaustive exercise so as to trace the history of the said rule and to understand how the jurisprudence around it has developed in Pakistan while also adverting to the relevant Islamic and legal provisions dealing with the subject.”

The top court, after a careful consideration of the history of the said rule and the relevant Islamic provisions, came to the conclusion that the view that the Rule is not to be applied to criminal cases in Pakistan was formed as a result of taking into account extraneous and practical considerations, rather than legal and jurisprudential.

The judgment stated that the court’s view is not in accord with the Islamic provisions on the subject besides militating against the criminal law of this country according to which deposing falsely in a court and commission of perjury entail serious penal consequences.

“We are, however, of the view that the aim while deciding criminal cases ought not to be to “get at the truth” but to decide a matter in light of the settled legal principles with the sole focus on determining whether the evidence on the record proves the guilt of the accused person in accordance with the requisite standard, i.e. beyond reasonable doubt or not,” the judgment said.

“We, through our experience, are of the opinion that trying to ascertain the truth, although a noble and ideal effort in its own right, may prove to be a slippery slope as the full facts of any criminal case are never presented before a court.”

“For a Judge to do complete justice and to get to the truth in a criminal case, he needs, as a matter of necessity, to have in his knowledge all of the facts relevant to the case at hand. As that is never the case, the rule of law and consistency in approach can be only fostered and strengthened if criminal cases are decided in a uniform way and only and only in light of the settled principles of evidence, not by bringing in subjective and practical considerations, which invariably will vary from one judge to the next.”

The judgment said that the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (PPC) contains many offences dealing with perjury and giving false testimony.

It seems that because it was felt by the superior Courts that generally witnesses testifying in criminal cases do not speak the whole truth and have a tendency to exaggerate or economise with the real facts, there is a danger of miscarriage of justice in the sense that a real culprit may go scot free if a court disbelieves the whole testimony on account of reaching the conclusion that the testimony was false in some respect.

“With all due respect, we feel that such an approach, which involves extraneous and practical considerations, is arbitrary besides being subjective and the same can have drastic consequences for the rule of law and dispensation of justice in criminal matters,” Chief Justice Khosa observed.

Citing verses of Holy Quran, the judgment stated that it can be seen that giving testimony its due importance and weight is an obligatory duty and those who stand firm in their testimonies are among the people of righteousness and faith.

“Islam not only enjoins giving testimony, it also forbids concealing it because concealing evidence is something that is disapproved in Islam and detested by nature. Giving false testimony has many evils for it supports falsehood against truth and promotes injustice and aggression against justice.”

“Holding that the rule falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is inapplicable in this country practically encourages commission of perjury which is a serious offence in this country. A court of law cannot permit something which the law expressly forbids.”

If inapplicability of the Rule militates against the Injunctions of Islam and if such inapplicability cannot be enacted by the Parliament on account of its repugnance to the Injunctions of Islam then this Court may not be in a position to introduce such inapplicability through an enunciation of a principle of law or to continue with the same any more, the Chief Justice added.