Delay in recording of statement of witnesses if vitiate investigation

Delay in recording the statements of witnesses may render investigation doubtful.

Apart from the fact that Welji’s conduct was strange and inconsistent with the normal conduct of an eye-witness, and the inordinate delay in recording his statement by the police, his evidence suffers from other material flaws, also. In his statement before the police, Welji did not specifically name Pramila (P.W. 2) as person by whose shouts, he was attracted to the scene of occurrence. In variance with what he stated at the trial, his version before the police was that he had heard ‘some ladies, (that means more than one person), shouting ‘Bachao Bachao’. Admittedly, he knew Pramila’s name prior to the occurrence. His version in the witness-box that he was attracted to the spot on hearing the shouts of Pramila, was therefore, an improvement deliberately made to fit in the prosecution story at the trial.

Again, Welji stated that when he caught hold of accused 2, his pyjama got blood-stains upto a height of 5 or 6 inches. No such pyjama was produced before the police or even in the Trial Court. Questioned why he failed to do so, the witness stated that he did not want that the accused should be involved at his instance as both the accused and the victim were equal to him like his two eyes. This explanation was obviously unacceptable, because at the trial, he did appear as a witness for the prosecution and against the other party, that is, the accused.

Another admitted circumstance which blemished the evidence of Welji, was that the father of accused 2 was in the employ of the witness as a motor-driver for about seven or eight years. His services were dispensed with by the witness about 2 months prior to the occurrence on the ground of irregularity in service. The case put to him by the defence was that the father of accused 2 had raised a dispute by demanding a higher pay.

Last but not the least, Welji was admittedly operated upon for cataract, only a couple of months before the occurrence. His eye- sight was weak. He was old and infirm and a heart-patient. He was a Contractor and a man of means and had in his employment a motor-driver for 7 or 8 years. Moreover, his adult son who admittedly knew car driving well, was available to drive the ear for him. In these circumstances, the trial Court’s observation, to the effect that it was most unlikely that this old man of 69 years with a weak eye-sight and a weak heart, would be driving his car himself at 7 p.m. when it was pretty dark, without there being any emergency cannot be rejected out of hand.

In sum, we find that the over-all view of the evidence taken by the trial Court was reasonable. While it is true that some of the reasons given by the trial Court, if taken individually, do not appear to be substantial or impeccable but taken in their totality, they certainly render the evidence of the material prosecution witnesses unsafe to be acted upon.

All the infirmities and flaws pointed out by the trial Court assumed importance, when considered in the light of the all-pervading circumstance that there was inordinate delay in recording Ravji’s statement on the basis of which the “F.I.R.” was registered) and further delay in recording the statements of Welji, Pramila and Kuvarbai. This circumstance, looming large in the background, inevitably leads to the conclusion, that the prosecution story was conceived and constructed after a good deal of deliberation and delay in a shady setting, highly redolent of doubt and suspicion.

This all-vitiating circumstance, we say so with great respect, could not be, and has not been, effectively dispelled by the High Court, except by a blind acceptance of the ipse dixit of Sub-Inspector Patil, on this point, in preference to the testimony of Ravji (P.W. 1), who was, according to the prosecution, the prime mover of the gear.

[Source: Ganesh Bhavan Patel vs. State of Maharashtra, (1978) 4 SCC 371]
The above case was however distinguished in a later decision.

In that case, the witnesses were known and could have been examined when the Investigating Officer visited the scene of occurrence or soon thereafter. In the present case, there were about 100 or more persons present at the party. The identity of all such persons took substantial amount of time to determine. Consequent to the large number of witnesses, their interrogation also consequently took a substantial amount of time. Unlike the said decision, in the present case, there are no concomitant circumstances to suggest that the investigator was deliberately making time with a view to give a particular shape to the case. The details of investigation conducted on each day are very clearly brought out in the evidence of the various witnesses. Furthermore, the identity of the appellant as a suspect in the present case was not the consequence of any delay. Thus, the delay, if any, in recording the evidence of witnesses in the present case cannot be considered as an infirmity in the prosecution case.

[Source: Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), AIR 2010 SC 2352]
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