A three-judge Bench of Justice UU Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, and Justice Bela M. Trivedi has held that mere delay in recording statements of the eyewitnesses under Sections 161 and 164 of Cr.P.C. cannot result in the rejection of their testimonies.
An appeal was preferred against the judgment of Calcutta High Court which had upheld the conviction of the Appellants-Accused charged for offences under Sections 302/120B IPC as pronounced by the Trial Court.
In this case, the Appellants-Accused were charged with the murder of a fish trader by assaulting with sharp cutting weapons and shooting the victim. The Accused were allegedly dangerous and were terrorizing the fish traders in the locality.
The Sessions Judge at Malda had convicted the Appellants-Accused of offences under Sections 302/120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 read with Section 27(3) of the Arms Act, 1959. The Accused were sentenced to life imprisonment and payment of fine.
The Appellant-Accused contended before the Court that there was a delay in recording the statements of the PW18 and PW19 under Sections 161 and 164 CrPC which was fatal to the case of the Prosecution. Also, it was argued that there was nothing on record to justify the conviction of the Appellants.
While the Respondent-State contended that the terror unleashed by the accused was of such a magnitude that witnesses had fled away in fear. It was further argued that only after the arrest of the accused did the witnesses come forward to record their statements. Counsel for the State pleaded that if there was some delay in recording the statement of the witnesses, it cannot be a ground for rejecting their testimonies.
The Apex Court after considering the contentions of both the parties at length, observed, "We have gone through their testimonies and are convinced that their statements were cogent, consistent and trustworthy." The Court held that, "It is true that there was some delay in recording the statements of the concerned eye-witnesses but mere factum of delay by itself cannot result in rejection of their testimonies". The Court accepted the argument of the Respondent that the witnesses did not come forward due to fear and that the delay stood adequately explained.
The Court rejected the contention of the Appellant-Accused and dismissed the appeals.