BY- ABHAAS MISHRA
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed in its judgement in Goutam Joardar vs State of West Bengal that mere delay in recording eye-witness’ statements under Section 161 of CrPC isn’t ample for the rejection of their testimonies. This judgement comes after considering the fact that the witness might feel terrorised and frightened in many cases and then their statement recording is delayed, which can be eminently noted to be reasonable.
The said case was an appeal to the judgement given by the Calcutta High Court which dismissed their appeal to the sentence granted by the Trial court, and confirmed what was held by the Trial court.
In the appeal to the Supreme Court, the appellant’s contended that the recording of the eye-witness’ statements, under section 161 and 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was delayed and it weakened the prosecution’s case. The appellant has also contended that except for the testimonies of the said two witnesses, nothing else was evident on record that justified the accused’s conviction.
Whereas, the respondents, i.e., the State, while justifying the delay in the recording, argued that the eye-witnesses were terribly terrorised so much so that they flew away in fear. The learned Counsel of the State submitted before the Court that the witnesses only came forward when apposite actions were taken by the investigating officers including the arrest of the accused.
The three-judge bench of Justice U.U. Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, and Justice Bela M. Trivedi, noted that the delay in recording the statements of the eye-witnesses was imminent but their testimonies cannot be rejected just by the reason of mere delay.
The Supreme Court acknowledging the fact of the witnesses being explicitly terrorised by the appellants has observed that:
“The material on record definitely establishes the fear created by the accused. If the 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. Thus, the eye-witness account unfolded through PW18 and PW19 cannot be discarded. We have gone through their testimonies and are convinced that their statements were cogent, consistent and trustworthy.”