Rule allows imprisonment for those who refuse to testify in criminal cases

The Supreme Court has, for the first time, made a rule that makes it possible for a person to be sentenced to jail if he refuses to testify in criminal cases.

The Supreme Court issued a rule on Tuesday under the new Evidence Act, which came into force earlier this year. The Act empowers the Supreme Court to make rules relating to asking for testimony.

According to the rules, judges have the power to order those who refuse to testify to give their witness statements. Steps that can be taken if a person refuses to testify include imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, home confinement, or a fine not exceeding MVR 10,000.

Action will be taken under this rule except for those who refuse to testify because of a family relationship and those who are not required to testify under the Evidence Act. The rules also provide for the power to arrest witnesses and produce them in court.

The rules also introduce a rule to prove a case by oath in civil cases involving money less than MVR 100,000. However, an oath is allowed only in the absence of evidence.