The Supreme Court observed recently that a delay in recording the statements of eye-witnesses by itself cannot result in rejection of their testimonies. The apex court said this while dismissing an appeal by four people challenging their conviction in a murder case.
A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said the material on record definitely establishes the fear created by the accused persons. If the witnesses felt terrorised and frightened and did not come forward for some time, the delay in recording their statements stood adequately explained, the bench, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi observed.
‘It is true that there was some delay in recording the statements of the eyewitnesses concerned but mere factum of delay by itself cannot result in rejection of their testimonies,’ the Supreme Court said. It said if witnesses felt terrorised and frightened and did not come forward for some time, the delay in recording their statements stood adequately explained. Nothing has been brought on record to suggest that during the interregnum, the witnesses were carrying on their ordinary pursuits, the bench said in its order.
The SC was hearing appeals filed by four accused challenging the order passed by the Calcutta High Court dismissing their pleas and confirming their conviction and sentence recorded by the Sessions Judge, Malda, under Sections 302 (murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 27(3) of the Arms Act, 1959. The appellants’ advocate told the court about the testimonies of two eyewitnesses and submitted that the delay in recording their statements respectively would be fatal to the case of the prosecution.
The State justified the delay by stating that the terror unleashed by the accused was of such magnitude that the concerned witnesses had fled away in fear. It was only after the appropriate steps were taken by the investigating machinery including the arrest of the accused that the witnesses came forward, it was submitted.