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The case of the prosecution cannot be rejected solely on the ground of delay in lodging the FIR: Sikkim High Court

The delay in lodging the FIR is concerned, the delay in a case of sexual assault, cannot be equated with the case involving other offences. There are several factors which weigh in the mind of the prosecutrix and her family members before coming to the police station to lodge a complaint. The High of Court Sikkim in the case of Maheshwar Singh vs. State of Sikkim [Crl.A. No.06 of 2020] by Single Bench consisting of Hon’ble Shri Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai.

The Appellant is dissatisfied with the indeterminate Judgment and Order on Sentencing issued under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012, by which the Appellant was convicted for the crime under Section 354A (1) (i) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for a term of one year and six months and pay a fine.

The Appellant’s learned counsel argued that there are unexplained subsequent insertions on it pertaining to the victim’s age and the period of offence. The victim’s medical report reveals no injuries on her person, while the evidence is untrustworthy because he harbored animosity toward the Appellant after being caught cheating in class by the Appellant when he was a student. The Learned Trial Court failed to consider the evidence in its proper context, the Appellant was wrongfully convicted.

On the corollary, Learned Counsel contended that the evidence of witnesses and colleagues of the victim duly corroborate her testimony about the Appellant’s treatment of her. The victim revealed that he was luring her with the promise of good grades and, under that guise, inappropriately touching her. The Prosecution case was substantiated by a teacher at the school who was informed about the incident. That the delay in filing the FIR was due to the victim’s fear that it would jeopardize her studies, as the Appellant had threatened to give her low grades.

Relying on the Hon’ble Supreme Court Judgment Gangabhavani vs. Rayapati, wherein it was held that, “the case of the prosecution cannot be rejected solely on the ground of delay in lodging the FIR. The court has to examine the explanation furnished by the prosecution for explaining the delay. There may be various circumstances particularly the number of victims, atmosphere prevailing at the scene of incidence, the complainant may be scared and fearing the action against him in pursuance of the incident that has taken place. If the prosecution explains the delay, the court should not reject the case of the prosecution solely on this ground.”

While dismissing the petition the court held that “the Prosecution chose only four friends of the victim as witnesses cannot be termed as cherry picking as the protection of the identity of the victim is of paramount importance in such offences and all efforts ought to be made to ensure confidentiality as done in the instant matter, to prevent stigmatization and ostracization of the victim for no fault of hers. Merely because the victim’s friends were produced as witnesses, it cannot be said that their evidence is unreliable.”

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