As we have learned, Massekhet Makkot opens with a discussion of edim zomemin – conspiring witnesses whose testimony will condemn the accused to receive punishment. Others come and testify that these witnesses were with them in another place at the time that the crime took place, proving that they could not have been at the scene of the incident. According to the Torah (see Sefer 19:15-21), the punishment for edim zomemin is that they will receive the punishment that would have been given to the defendant based on their testimony.
Aside from the unique punishment that the conspiring witnesses receive for being edim zomemin, will they be punished separately for transgressing the prohibition of lo ta’aneh be-rei’akhah ed shaker (Shemot 20:13) – the biblical prohibition against testifying falsely?
In the Mishna on today’s daf we find a disagreement between Rabbi Meir and the %Hakhamim on this point. Rabbi Meir believes that these are two separate issues and that the edim zomemin will pay – if their testimony would have made the accused pay – and also receive lashes for their false testimony. Similarly, if the testimony of the edim zomemin would have made the accused receive lashes as a punishment, then they will receive two sets of lashes – one set because they will get what they tried to force on the other and the other set for the sin of false testimony. The Ḥakhamim rule that in both situations the edim zomemin will not receive two punishments.
The Gemara explains that according to the Ḥakhamim, Torah law does not allow two punishments for the same act (see Massekhet Ketubot daf 31, daf 32 and daf 33). This is based on the passage in Sefer (25:2) that is understood to require a single punishment, and no more than that. Tosafot point out that in truth, Rabbi Meir agrees to this; he limits it, however, to situations where the sinner is liable for a death penalty and lashes. In other situations, e.g. where the punishments would be payment and lashes, he rules that both punishments can be carried out.