Delay in recording the statements of eye-witnesses, on account of fear created by the accused, cannot result in rejection of their testimonies: Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India, through learned judges, Justice Uday Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat, Justice Bella M. Trivedi in the case of Gautham Joardar v. State of West Bengal (Criminal Appeals Nos.1181, 1182, 1762 of 2019 and 44 of 2020) held that delay in recording the statements of eye-witnesses, on account of fear created by the accused, cannot result in rejection of their testimonies

BRIEF FACTS: Prosecution case as alleged against the appellants was to the effect that the appellants are dangerous and desperate men who were terrorising the fish traders in the locality. The appellants challenged the common judgement and order dated 13.03.2019 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Calcutta dismissing the appeals preferred by said accused and confirming their conviction and sentence recorded by the Sessions Judge, Malda in Sessions Trial No.07 of 2012. The learned Advocate appearing for the State submitted that the terror unleashed by the accused was of such magnitude that the concerned witnesses had fled away in fear 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. He further submitted that there were supporting pieces of material in the form of recoveries which were conclusive in nature.

FINDINGS OF THE COURT:  The court held that it is true that there was some delay in recording the statements of the concerned eye-witnesses but mere factum of delay by itself cannot result in rejection of their testimonies. The material on record definitely establishes the fear created by the accused. The court further remarked that if the witnesses felt terrorised and frightened and did not come forward for some time, the delay in recording their statements stood adequately explained. The court observed that nothing was brought on record to suggest that during the interregnum, the witnesses were carrying on their ordinary pursuits. Affirming the view taken by the Trial Court and the High Court, the appeals were dismissed. 

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