NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court, which has consistently held that an unreasonable delay in lodging FIR can be ground for suspicion regarding the prosecution’s story, cautioned courts to be on the guard in such cases and test the evidence meticulously before coming to any conclusion.
A bench of Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra acquitted two people who were sentenced to life imprisonment in a 1989 murder case in Chhattisgarh.The court noted that there were many loopholes in the statements of witnesses and there was a delay in lodging the FIR, which was filed a day after the crime.
“When an FIR is delayed, in the absence of a proper explanation, the courts must be on guard and test the evidence meticulously to rule out possibility of embellishments in the prosecution story, inasmuch as delay gives the opportunity for deliberation and guesswork. More so in a case where the probability of no one witnessing the incident is high, such as in a case of night occurrence in an open place or a public street,” the bench said.In its verdict delivered on September 5, the court said the testimony of witnesses was not of such a stellar quality to convict the accused. It noted that there were “many gaps in the prosecution story, namely as to how the body came near the temple and why a lathi was left near the body of the deceased when, as per the police story, all the three assailants had walked away with their lathis, which were later discovered at their instance”.
The bench observed that evidence presented by the prosecution gives rise to a strong probability of the killing being a consequence of mob action on the victim for his alleged involvement with a woman.
“In this case, we notice from the record that the trial court as well as the high court, while appreciating the evidence, have not properly addressed various aspects, namely (a) there is no clear-cut motive proved against the accused except that there was some incident concerning a lady of the village,” the bench said.
“In light of the discussion above, we are of the considered view that the prosecution has not been able to convincingly prove the genesis of the crime as also the manner in which the murder took place and by whom…” it said.

“Thus, taking into account that it was a case of night occurrence; the body of the deceased was found at an open place near a temple; a named FIR was lodged not by any villager of the place where the deceased was assaulted, but by the village chowkidar of the neighbouring village, who admits that no eyewitness had informed; and the body was found at a distance of 300 feet from the place where the deceased was allegedly assaulted, we are of the view that this is a fit case where the accused are entitled to the benefit of doubt,” the court said.

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