“There is no excuse for perjury. There is truth, and truth demands respect. “
In layman’s term, perjury is as offense of lying when you are under oath to speak the truth. Chapter IX “of false evidence and offenses against public justice” of Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines perjury under Section 191. Section 193 defines punishment for perjury as 7 years of imprisonment. The procedure as to how to deal cases under this section is dealt in Chapter XXVI of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 under Section 340.
According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, definition of perjury in Criminal law is- when there is willful assertion to a matter of fact, opinion, belief or knowledge, that is made by a witness in any judicial proceeding considered as a part of evidence, which is either upon oath or something substituted as oath, and whether such evidence is given in open court, or any affidavit, or otherwise, then such assertion being known to the witness who made it, knowing it to be false, with the intention to mislead the court or the jury or the person holding the proceeding, is termed as perjury.
There are 2 pre-conditions to initiate a proceeding under Section 340 of CrPC, 2973. First, Materials produced before the court must prima facie make out a cause for a complaint for the purpose of inquiry into the committed offense as referred in clause (b)(i) of sub section )1) of Section 195 of CrPC. Secondly, it is in the interests of justice that such inquiry should be made into the alleged offence.
A prosecution cannot be justified in itself on the mere fact that a person has made a contradictory statement in a judicial proceeding, to make him liable under Sections 199 and 200 of IPC, 1860. What needs to be shown is that the defendant had intentionally given a false statement at any stage of the judicial proceeding or had fabricated false evidence for the purpose of using the same at any stage of the judicial proceeding. In, K.T.M.S. Mohd. And Another vs. Union of India [(1992) 3 SCC 178, it was stated that enough if a situation like the one explained above occurs then the court has to form an opinion that it is in the interest of the justice to initiate an enquiry in the offenses of fake evidence and offenses against public justice as referred under Section 340(1) of CrPC, keeping in mind the factual matrix and all the consequences of such a prosecution. The Court must be satisfied that the enquiry conducted must be in the interest of justice and according to the facts of the case.
The only requirement that should be there for any court in the process of forming opinion for an enquiry to be conducted, it has to be prima facie satisfaction of the offense that appears to be committed. Even though it isn’t mandatory for the open court to hold a preliminary enquiry, it can on its discretion do so. It isn’t mandatory for a complaint to be filed even after forming an opinion as to the offense that appears to be committed. This was stated in Pritish vs. State of Maharashtra and Others [(2002) 1 SCC 253].
A landmark judgment where the Constitutional Bench had gone into the scope of Section 340 of CrPC was Iqbal Singh Marwah and Another vs. Meenakshi Marwah and Another [(2005) 4 SCC 370], the Court explicitly gave relevant consideration stating that- According to the language used in Section 340 of CrPC, the Court isn’t bound to make a complaint regarding the commission of the offense that is referred in Section 195(1) (b), since this section is conditioned by words “ Court is of the opinion that it is expedient in the interests of justice”. This clearly shows that such an approach shall only be adopted in the interest of justice. Before this the Court may hold a preliminary enquiry to record the finding. This expediency is judged by the Court of law not by weighing the magnitude of injury suffered by the person affected by he forged document presented or perjured statement given, but it will be seen by having regard to the impact or effect such commission of offense has on the administration of justice. Such commission of offence might have caused significant loss or injury to a person or might have even deprived him of his valuable property or status, but this document may be just a piece of evidence procured or given in the Court of law, the evidence may be voluminous but might have minimal impact on administration of justice, which would lead the Court in deciding otherwise. In author’s opinion, Section 344(4) should be amended that notwithstanding the filling of the appeal or revision against the judgment, the trial for presenting false evidence or testimony shall continue. There is need for proper legislation framework for the protection of the witnesses in the best interest of administration of justice. Amendments should be introduced in law so that the judge who is administering the oath should caution that a person is bound by law to state the truth on oath and if he doesn’t do so, then he shall be prosecuted for the offense of perjury for giving false evidence or any other malicious thing.