Section 156 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 speaks about, “Questions tending to corroborate evidence of relevant fact, admissible”. This section provides for the admission of evidence given for the purpose, not of proving a particular fact but of testing the truthfulness of the witness. This section says that when the evidence of a witness requires to be corroborated, he may be questioned (apart from the main event) as to any other circumstances which he observed at or near to the time or place where the main fact happened, if the court is of opinion that such circumstances, if proved, would corroborate the testimony of the witness as to the relevant fact which he testifies.
Section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 speaks about, “Former statements of witness may be proved to corroborate later testimony as to same fact”. This section says that for corroborating the testimony given by a witness with respect to a question of fact the former statement which was made at or about the time* of the occurrence of the fact can be taken into consideration for corroboration or for corroboration the court can also take the statement made by the witness before a legal authority who is competent to investigate the matter.
At or about the time: - This Section provides an exception to the general rule of excluding indirect evidence and so in order to bring a statement within the exception the duty is cast on the prosecution to abolish by clear evidence to nearness of time between taking position of the fact and the making of the statement. There can be no fast and hard rule. The main test is whether the statement was made as early as can fairly be awaited in the circumstances of the case, and before there was an opportunity to be a tutor to someone or intermixture. The word “at about the time” must mean that the statement must be made at once or at least presently after when a fair opportunity for making it presents itself.
It may be noted that if the statement is made to an investigating authority, it would be usable even if it was made after gap of time viz. few days. Statements before an investigating officer arc not evidence (e.g. FIR) but can be used for corroboration or contradiction. The First Information Report (FIR) can be used to corroborate the testimony of the maker of it or to contradict him under Section 145.
Section 158 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 speaks about, “What matters may be proved in connection with proved statement relevant under Section 32 or 33”. This section says that when the statement of a person who cannot be found or is dead is relevant under Section 32 or 33 and has been proved (e.g. a dying declaration), all matters which either confirm the statement or contradict it, may be proved. Evidence can also be given of any fact which might confirm or impeach the credit of the person who made the statement to the same extent as if that person had appeared as a witness and had denied upon cross-examination the truth of the matter suggested.
Thus, this section places a person whose statement has been used as evidence under Section 32 or 33 in the same category, as a witness actually produced in the court for the purpose of contradicting his statement by a previous statement made by him. No sanctity attaches to such statements simply because the person is dead or cannot be examined as a witness. His credibility may be impeached or confirmed in the same manner as a living witness.