A party’s character is relevant whenever it affects the amount of damages which he ought to receive. (S. 55) In criminal proceedings, the fact that the accused is of a good character is relevant. (S. 53) A previous conviction is relevant as evidence of bad character.
(S. 54) Evidence of the accused’s bad character is relevant (i) to rebut evidence of good character, or (ii) where his bad character is itself a fact in issue. (S. 54) Character when irrelevant (Ss.
52, 54 & 55): The fact that the character of any person concerned is such as to render probable or improbable any conduct imputed to him is irrelevant. (S. 52) In criminal proceedings, the bad character of the accused is irrelevant, except- (i) in reply to evidence given of his good character, or (ii) where the bad character itself is a fact in issue. (S. 54) The word “character” includes both reputation and disposition; but (except as provided in S.
54, above), evidence may be given only of general reputation and general disposition, and not of particular acts by which reputation or disposition were shown. (S. 55, Explanation) Character as Affecting Damages: In civil cases, good character of a person is presumed. So, good character of a person cannot be proved in aggrevation of damages, but proof of bad character can be admitted in mitigation of damages.
For instance, in cases of defamation, the general bad reputation of the plaintiff can be proved. Similarly, in the case of a breach of promise to marry, the plaintiff’s generally immoral character is relevant. Likewise, in cases of seduction, evidence of the generally immoral character of the person seduced will be relevant. Evidence Should Relate to Specific Traits: Needless to mention, any evidence of reputation must be confined to the particular traits which the charge involves. Thus, if a person is charged for cruelty, evidence of his honesty would be of no value.
However, if he is charged for theft, his reputation for honesty would be relevant. Character of Witness: Witnesses are the media through which the Court is to come to its conclusion on the matters submitted to it, and it has to be ascertained whether such media are trustworthy. Therefore, the character of a witness, whether party or not, is always material as affecting his credit. A witness may be asked any question which tends (1) to test his veracity, (2) to discover who he is, and what is his position in life, or (3) to shake his credit by injuring his character.