Delay in lodging the FIR cannot by itself create suspicion about the truthfulness of police version, the Supreme Court has said while dismissing the plea of two convicts sentenced to life term in a murder case. "Delay in the lodging of the FIR is not by itself fatal to the case of the prosecution nor can delay itself create any suspicion about the truthfulness of the version given by the informant just as a prompt lodging of the report may be no guarantee about its being wholly truthful," a bench of justices TS Thakur and Vikramajit Sen said.
The bench made the observations while dismissing the plea of Shanmugam and one other native of Chennai challenging the life term awarded to them by the trial court, which was later upheld by the Madras High Court.
The duo, who moved the apex court, along with two others had in January 1999 killed a man by crushing his face with stones and injuring his reproductive organs due to enmity over smuggling of sandalwood. The incident was reported to the police by the brother of the deceased who was also a witness to the case after a delay of few hours. The convicts had challenged their conviction on ground of delay in lodging of FIR.
The apex court said, "As long as there is cogent and acceptable explanation offered for the delay, it loses its significance. Whether or not the explanation is acceptable will depend upon the facts of each case. There is no cut and dried formula for determining whether the explanation is or is not acceptable."
The bench noted that after the incident, the brother of the deceased had travelled to their other brother who accompanied him to the site of the crime in a car and then to the police station where FIR was lodged.
"Having said that courts need to bear in mind that delay in lodging of the FIR deprives it of spontaneity and brings in chances of embellishments like exaggerations and distortions in the story which if narrated at the earliest point of time may have had different contours than what is eventually recorded in a delayed report about the occurrence," it said.
The court, in its judgement, said, "On the flipside a prompt lodging of the report may not carry a presumption of truth with it. Human minds are much too versatile and innovative to be subject to any such strait-jacket inferences."
It said embellishments, distortions, and false implication of innocence may come "not only out of deliberation which the victim party may hold among themselves or with their wellwishers and supporters, but also on account of quick thinking especially when all that it takes to do so is to name all those whom the informant or his advisors perceive to be guilty or inimical towards them".