Character(Sns.52 to 55):
The general rule is that the character of a person is irrelevant. The reason is one of public policy and Fairness. The raking up of the whole of the career of the party may surprise and prejudice him. Further, The business of the court is to try the case, not the man. A very bad man may have a righteous cause. (Norton: Evidence Act) "Character" includes both regulation and disposition. Evidence may be given only on general reputation & disposition. (Bhagwat Swarup V. State of Maharashtra 1965 (SC)
Character in Criminal Cases:
The English leading case is R.V.Rowton. Rowton was charged with 'Assault. He put a witness to speak to his good moral character. The Prosecution put its own PW who ‘stated that Rowton was a man of grossest indecency. The trial court Held that Rowton was guilty. This was reversed by the Court of Appeal. The reason was that the evidence Of character had been given in the wrong form. The PW's should have been asked Row ton’s reputation for Morality. Hence, the conviction was set aside. There cannot be a conviction on the 'opinion' of character of a person. The guilt is to be proved by reference to alleged facts, but not by proof of his character. According to the Evidence Act Sn 53 in Criminal cases, the fact that the accused is of good character is relevant. This is based on the presumption that a person who has uniformly followed an honest and' upright course of conduct, would not depart from it, to commit an offence. No doubt, character evidence is a weak evidence, it cannot outweigh the positive evidence of facts in regard to the guilt of the person. Further, according to the Evidence Act, the fact, that the accused is of a good character is relevant. However, if evidence of good character is tendered, then the evidence of bad character of the accused is itself a fact in issue.The prosecution may rely upon the previous convictions, if any, for enhancement of punishment. The Court may take-into consideration the character and antecedents of the accused, or his state of mind.
ii) Character in Civil cases: Sn 52
The rule is that in Civil cases, evidence of character of any party to prove the probability or Otherwise of any conduct imputed to him, is not relevant. There is one exception Sn 55. Evidence of character, affecting the amount of damages or Compensation is relevant. Eg. In case of breach of promise of marriage the plaintiff's general-character for immorality is Relevant. In case of seduction, the character of the person seduced is relevant.
iii) Character of witness:
1.In cross-examination of a witness questions can be asked:
2.To test his veracity.
3.To discover his status in life.
4.To shake his client-worthiness by impeaching his character.
The court is empowered to decide whether or not the witness should be compelled to answer, it may Even tell the witness that he is not obliged to answer the questions. The charge was .that a raped Won 1-1-1985. W was a prosecution witness. In cross-examination the questions whether she had connections with an earlier, or whether she was a prostitute was held as relevant.