The Authority of Law and the Production of Truth in India


The paper addresses how evidentiary truth is constructed during a court hearing in a District Court of Himachal Pradesh, in Northern India. The paper focuses on how multiple narratives of the facts are produced through the judicial process, and how they are validated or invalidated from a legal point of view. By relying on a case study, the author shows how the power of language in a trial situation does not always rely on rhetorical skills, but, rather, on specific procedural rules that determine the evidentiary value of the witness’ statements. In the present case, the witness’s replies, expressed in simple terms, are sufficient to invalidate the prosecutor’s case. The paper shows that this is not due to the witness’s linguistic ability, but to the primacy accorded to procedure: it is precisely this primacy that renders the witness’ spoken words effective, regardless of their veracity.

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