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The webinar emphasized on the cohesive nature of a criminal trial and cautioned the participants against viewing cross examination as a standalone aspect of it.
“WILL” is a collective of women lawyers, envisioned by Justice Hima Kohli (the Founder Patron), Justice Pratibha Singh (the then Secretary General, and now a Patron), Maninder Acharya (Sr. Advocate & Ld. ASG), Rebecca Mammen John (Sr.Advocate) and Maneesha Dhir, amongst others.
The organisation now also has Justice Rekha Palli as its Patron. Kaadambari Puri and Tara V. Ganju are the other prominent constituents of the organisation. Over the years “Will” has become a platform for lawyers of all hues to engage in enriching discussions on various contemporary themes of legal importance. Amelioration of disparity and discrimination faced by women lawyers, mentorship to young lawyers and facilitating a voice for its women members, are some of the other prime objectives that Will professes to promote.
On April 16, 2020, Women in Law and Litigation (WILL) successfully organised a webinar on the theme “The Art of Cross Examination in Criminal Trials”. The lecture was delivered by Rebecca Mammen John, Senior Advocate who gave a detailed view of the steps required to conduct a successful cross examination during a criminal trial. The Webinar was graced by Justice Hima Kohli, Justice Pratibha Singh and Maninder Acharya, Ld. Additional Solicitor General of the Delhi High Court.
During her lecture on April 16 on the abovementioned topic, Ms. John emphasised on the cohesive nature of a criminal trial and cautioned the participants against viewing cross examination as a standalone aspect of it. Much romanticised, the art of cross examination is a task which has to be carefully woven through the trial starting from the first day itself, when relevant applications are to be moved during the remand period. A successful cross examination, she said, rests on the structure built throughout the different stages of a trial and not just on a list of questions prepared a day before.
She emphasized that an alert cross examiner will never take the examination-in-chief of a witness lightly and interject with all the relevant objections so as to prevent anything which is inadmissible in evidence from coming on record. After all, evidence includes not just cross examination, but examination-in-chief, cross examination and re-examination. She spoke of the various objectives for which a cross examination can be used by the defence counsel like attacking the credibility of the witness, confronting her with previous statements and bringing out he witness’ untruthfulness, among others. She also talked about the embargos while cross examining during trials involving sexual offences.
Ms. John also gave some very useful tips to young lawyers for preparing questions for cross examination including identifying the role of the witness, and to determine whether it is important to cross examine her at all in the first place. She stressed on the importance of doing meticulous background research about the witness before examining her. Significantly, she flagged that the very nature of cross examinations implies that no matter how prepared one is, there will always be decisions to be made on the spot and risks to be taken in the interest of the client.
The entire lecture was peppered with several anecdotes of cases that Ms. John had herself conducted over the years, which added to the thrill for the participants. The webinar generated keen interest among young lawyers. Keeping in view, the demand from lawyers who could not attend the lecture, we are sharing the recording of the lecture here: