Question: Can statements recorded during investigation by police under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C. be used in a civil proceeding for purposes of cross-examination under Section 145 of the Evidence Act?
Answer: Firstly, let me reproduce Section 145 of the Evidence Act:
“145. Cross-examination as to previous statements in writing.—A witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements made by him in writing or reduced into writing, and relevant to matters in question, without such writing being shown to him, or being proved; but, if it is intended to contradict him by the writing, his attention must, before the writing can be proved, be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him.”
It can thus be seen that this Section provides that a witness may be cross-examined as to a previous statement made by him in writing or reduced into writing. Here, it is pertinent to point out that the statement of a witness recorded by the police during the investigation under Section 162 of the Cr.P.C. is “reduced into writing” by the police officer conducting the investigation.
Therefore, the question is whether such statement recorded by the police during investigation can be used for the purposes of cross-examination of the witness under Section 145 of the Evidence Act?
There is a direct judgement on this issue from a High Court. In the case of Malakala Surya Rao v. Gundapuneedi Janakamma, AIR 1964 AP 198 : (1964) 1 Cri LJ 504, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has held that:
“… I do not find anything in the judgment of the Supreme Court or in any of the judgments of any Courts brought to my notice to warrant a conclusion that statements made by witnesses to a police officer and reduced to writing cannot be used for contradicting witnesses in a civil proceeding under Section 145 of the Evidence Act. Where the policy of the legislature in enacting Section 162 was to throw a solicitous protection round the accused, that very legislature has permitted the use of these statements for the purposes of contradiction under Section 145 of the Evidence Act. Much more so, such statements can be used in civil cases to achieve the same purpose, where neither Section 145, nor any other provision of law specifically precludes their use.”
It was accordingly held that the statements recorded by a police officer under Section 162 of the Cr.P.C. could be used in a civil proceeding under Section 145 of the Evidence Act.