How to Contradict a Witness under Sec. 145, Evidence Act

Saji Koduvath, Advocate, Kottayam.


Sec. 155 of the Evidence Act provides for impeaching the credit of a witness by various ways. Clause (3) gives one manner ‘by proof of former statements inconsistent with any part of his evidence which is liable to be contradicted’. Sec. 145 is the provision that lays down the mode to cross examine the witness with reference to his previous writing.

Sec. 145 reads as under:

  • “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.”

Sec. 145 Enables to Contradict Witnesses with his previous statements:

  1. Without the (previous) writing being shown to him.
  2. Without such writing being proved.
  3. When the writing is used to contradict the witness and his attention is called to those parts of it (that are to be used for contradicting), the writing need not be shown to the counsel of the witness (or other side) for his perusal.
  4. The writing need not be one that is admissible in evidence (it can be unstamped, even if it requires stamp; or unregistered, even if it requires registration).
  5. Material ‘omissions’ (in the previous writings) may amount to contradiction.

Conditions for invoking Sec. 145:

  1. The writing must be a ‘previous’ one.
  2. The (previous) writing must be of that witness himself.
  3. It must be relevant to matters in question
  4. If it is intended to contradict the witness by the writing, “his attention must be called” to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him.
  5. If the witness denies (or says that he does not remember) such previous statement it can be proved, subsequently (for impeaching the credit of the witness).
  6. If the writing is not ‘ready with’ the cross examiner while the attention of the witness is called to those parts used for the purpose of contradicting him, the cross examiner must have ‘undertaken’ to prove the document, and the Court must have given the permission as envisaged in Sec. 136 of the Evidence Act.
      • Section 136 Evidence Act reads as under:
      • Judge to decide as to admissibility of evidence:
      • When either party proposes to give evidence of any fact, the Judge may ask the party proposing to give the evidence in what manner the alleged fact, if proved, would be relevant; and the Judge shall admit the evidence if he thinks that the fact, if proved, would be relevant, and not otherwise.
      • If the fact proposed to be proved is one of which evidence is admissible only upon proof of some other fact, such last-mentioned fact must be proved before evidence is given of the fact first-mentioned, unless the party undertakes to give proof of such fact, and the Court is satisfied with such undertaking.
      • If the relevancy of one alleged fact depends upon another alleged fact being first proved, the Judge may, in his discretion, either permit evidence of the first fact to be given before the second fact is proved, or require evidence to be given of the second fact before evidence is given of the first fact.
  7. When it is to be proved, original or other admissible copy must be produced.
  8. Though statement in an inadmissible document can be used for contradiction (without showing him), if the witness is to be cross examined showing him his previous ‘unstamped’ statement (especially when it is with respect to his signature – used by showing the document) it must be an ‘admissible’ one as regards stamp, inasmuch as Sec. 35 of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 directs that no instrument chargeable with duty shall be ‘admitted’ in evidence ‘for any purpose’ by any person having by law or consent of parties authority to receive evidence (V.  Madhusudhan Rao v. S.  Nirmala Bai, AIR 2019 AP  93; SMS Tea Estates Pvt. Ltd. v. M/s. Chandmari Tea Co. (2011) 14 SCC 66 – followed in Naina Thakkar v. Annapurna Builders, (2013) 14 SCC 354).
    • Note: Now, this matter (qua – arbitration clause in an agreement) is pending consideration before a Constitutional Bench as referred to by N. N.  Global Mercantile Private Limited v. Indo Unique Flame Limited, 2021 SCC Online 13). As of now, unstamped or improperly stamped documents can be used only after paying stamp duty (with or without penalty, as the case may be).
    • Read Blog: Unstamped & Unregistered Documents and Collateral Purpose
  9. But, an unregistered compulsory-registrable-document can be ‘used’ and ‘admitted’ under Sec. 145, as it is a ‘collateral purpose’ [Section 49 of the Registration Act itself allows it – to use such documents for ‘collateral purpose’. See: K.B. Saha and Sons Private Limited v. Development Consultant Limited, (2008) 8 SCC 564; S. Kaladevi vs V.R. Somasundaram (2010) 5 SCC 401].
  10. Even if the ‘right to give evidence’ of a party ‘is over’, the courts will allow that party to ‘prove’ the document (under the second limb of Sec. 145), subsequently. For example – If the contradiction arises when the defendants’ witness is cross examined, the plaintiff can adduce evidence without ‘reopening’ his evidence (for, this provision is a statutory one).

Important points to be noted while invoking Sec. 145

  1. If the witness admits the previous statement, no question as to ‘producing’ or ‘proving’ or ‘marking’ the same arises for consideration.
  2. The purposes of invoking sec. 145 are only to test the veracity of the statement made by a witness in his examination-in-chief, and also to impeach his credit (Tahsildar Singh v. The State of UP, AIR 1959 SC 1012) under Sec. 155 (3).
  3. Even if the document or the contradicting part is marked, and it is proved (for the purpose of contradicting him), it cannot be read in evidence; because, such writing will not be a substantive evidence (and the purpose of this provision is only impeaching the credit of the witness).
  4. The court has to allow the cross examiner to produce and prove the previous statement, if the witness denies such previous statement, even if technically his ‘evidence is over’ (it being statutory right).
  5. When an ‘omission’ is to be proved, the ‘specific part’ of the previous statement, where the omission ought to have been naturally stated, should be ‘put’ to the witness, for his explanation, if any. (See: Tahsildar Singh v. The State of UP, AIR 1959 SC 1012 – “if made, would have been recorded”). It is for 2 reasons:
    1. The section itself requires “his attention must be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him”. It is to satisfy the principles of ‘natural justice’.
    2. The witness has a right to explain admissions under Sec. 31.
      • Evidence Act Sec. 31 reads: “Admissions not conclusive proof, but may estop.: Admissions are not conclusive proof of the matters admitted, but they may operate as estoppels under the provisions hereinafter contained.”
  6. If the cross examiner does not seek ‘explanation’ while putting the “those parts of (the previous statement) which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him” the counsel who conducted the chief examination can seek the ‘explanation, if any’, in re-examination, on that contradictory-part (in the light of Sec. 31).
  7. ‘Cross Examination’ in Sec. 145 includes ‘cross examination’ showing the signature of the witness in the ‘previous statement’. (That is, a witness can be compelled to ‘refresh’ the document under Sec. 159.)

How to Contradict a witness with a previous document

  • Modal Questions – 1 (Contradiction)
    • (Dispute is with regard to the width of a way; and in Chief Examination before the Civil Court the witness says that the width of the way is 15 feet and the way exists for the last more than 20 years.)
  • Is not the way there had been made only 10 years back and the width of the way was 7 feet alone?
  • (No.)
  • Did you file a complaint before the Executive Magistrate on …….. ……. with respect to the disputed way?
  • (Yes.)
  • I put it to you that you wrote in the complaint (only) that “Myself and my three neighbours use this 7 feet way for the last 10 years and it is the only way to our houses”?
  • (No; I didn’t write.)
    • The cross examiner can produce a certified copy of the complaint (or request the court to issue summons to the Office of the Executive Magistrate to produce the Complaint); and thus it can be proved that the witness is not trustworthy.
    • If required (for disputing the correctness by the other side), the witness can be recalled also, for proving the document after getting the certified copy (or original).
    • By proving the Complaint the following are not proved:
      1. Width of the way is/was 7 feet or it is 10 years old.
      2. The witness admitted the width as 7 feet, or the age as 10 years.
    • The only thing that can be proved is the statement of the witness before the court as to width and age of the way is not creditworthy.
  • Modal Questions – 2 (Omission)
    • (Dispute is with regard to the age of the way to a residential building; and in Chief Examination before the Civil Court the witness says that the building was in existence 25 years back.).
  • Weren’t you a Candidate in the Panchayath Election held 15 years back?
  • (Yes.)
  • Did you file an affidavit before the RO, stating your assets?
  • (Yes.)
  • Did you state in the affidavit that you owned a house?
  • (Yes.)
  • Have you anything to explain if I put it to you that you wrote in the affidavit that “I have 15 cents of property and ‘cultivation’ therein”; and you omitted to state the existence of the ‘house’?
  • (I did not omit; I had stated about the house also.)
  • Can you recognise the affidavit seeing a certified copy from the RO?
  • (Yes.)
  • (Handing over the certified copy, for refreshing memory) Isn’t it the certified copy of the affidavit?
  • (Yes.)
  • Isn’t it correct that you did not state about the house in the affidavit?
  • (Yes.)
    • The cross examiner cannot seek to mark the document (even if it had already been produced and remains in the court file), because it is (i) relevant only under Sec. 145 – to contradict the witness, and (ii) admitted by the witness. [Note: Here it is used not as a ‘fact in issue’ or ‘relevant fact’ admissible under Sec. 5 of the Evidence Act.]

Read in this Cluster  (Click on the topic):

Book No, 1 – Civil Procedure Code

Power of attorney

Title, ownership and Possession

Principles and Procedure

Land LawsTransfer of Property Act

Evidence Act – General

Contract Act


Stamp Act


Book No. 2: A Handbook on Constitutional Issues

Book No. 3: Common Law of CLUBS and SOCIETIES in India

Book No. 4: Common Law of TRUSTS in India

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