'The judicial process is a drama where the parties litigate; the counsels argue; the judge watches'. The presiding officer is an important element in the justice delivery system. No one questions a drama while it is playing. Whatever be the nature of the case and the innermost questions of law it represents, the judicial process is mechanical. It is said that the judge must be impartial. But it does not mean that he cannot actively participate in trial proceedings. It must not be the case that the judge looks into the evidence on the basis of law laid down and pronounces the judgement with the help of voluminous and lengthy oral and documentary evidence recorded by him. The time has changed and speedy justice is the need of the hour. The presiding officer must actively participate in the proceedings and an attempt must be made to obtain only relevant materials rather that keep on recording all the dialogues. In order to ascertain the truth he can put questions also to the witness. This must be used to bring out the fact in issue and thus reaching to the point.
The power of judge to put questions has been conferred by Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act. It reads thus:
The judge may, in order to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts, ask any question he pleases, in any form, at any time, of any witness, or of the parties, about any fact relevant or irrelevant; and may order the production of any document or thing; and neither the parties nor their agents shall be entitled to make any objection to any such question or order, nor without the leave of the Court, to cross-examine any witness upon any answer given in reply to any such question.Thus the power of a judge is very wide in putting questions. The conditions to be followed while putting questions is laid down in various judicial pronouncements. Some conditions as laid down in judgements and in the Act are as follows:
Judge cannot compel any witness who has entitlement to refuse to answer by virtue of the privileges envisaged in Ss. 121 to 131.
- His questions must be within the bounds fixed in S. 148 or S. 149 of the Evidence Act.
- Questions which help the court to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts can be asked.
- Questions must be so asked as there is no partisanship and without frightening or bullying witnesses.
- The judge shall not dispense with primary evidence of any document except in cases specifically exempted in the Act.