Delay on the part of an eye-witness, reeling under the shock of witnessing a crime, to register an FIR cannot be fatal to the prosecution case, the Supreme Court has held.
The case concerns the complaint filed by a woman whose son was hacked to death by eight persons in Tamil Nadu 22 years ago. The accused argued that there was two-and-a-half-hour delay in the woman filing her complaint.
Dismissing the appeal of the accused, the apex court said the tragedy of a mother who has to see with her own eyes the scene of her own son being brutally attacked cannot be measured. It may take her some time to come out of the shock and go to the police station to file her complaint.
The case concerned the murder of Sankar on August 19, 1986 by the accused Harikesavanallur. Sankar’s mother, Kamala, who was traveling with him to attend a function, saw the crime. The incident happened at 5 p.m. and the complaint was filed after 8.30 p.m. the same evening.
The trial court had convicted all eight to life imprisonment, with the Madras High Court confirming the sentence in 2008.
A Supreme Court Bench of Justices R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee observed that, normally, a delay in lodging the complaint is viewed suspicion because there is possibility of concoction of evidence against the accused.
Onus on prosecution
“In such cases, it becomes necessary for the prosecution to satisfactorily explain the delay in registration of FIR,” Justice Banumathi wrote in the recent judgment of the court, dismissing the appeals filed by the accused.
Justice Banumathi observed that, however, there may be instances when delay does not vitiate the case. One of them is when the eye-witness has no motive to falsely implicate the accused.