Mere Delay In Eyewitness Statement Can’t Result In Rejecting Their Testimonies: Supreme Court

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Mere delay in recording the statements of eyewitnesses cannot result in rejection of their testimonies, the Supreme Court has said while dismissing an appeal by four people challenging their conviction in a murder case.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit said the material on record definitely establishes the fear created by the accused persons.

“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 bench, also comprising Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi, said.

The top court 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 October 7 order.

The top court 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 counsel appearing for the appellants told the Supreme 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.

He submitted that no explanation was forthcoming why there was a delay in recording their statements and apart from the testimonies of the two witnesses, there was nothing on record to justify the conviction of the appellants.

The counsel appearing for the State on the other hand submitted that the terror unleashed by the accused was of such magnitude that the concerned witnesses had fled and that it was only after the appropriate steps were taken by the investigating machinery, including the arrest of the accused, that the witnesses came forward.

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