13 Aug 2010

Delayed FIR in rape cases acceptable: Supreme Court

In a recent decision [Satpal Singh v. State of Haryana] the Supreme Court has declared that where ordinarily delay in filing of First Information Report (FIR) would be looked in favour of the accused, the criteria is different in a case involving rape of a woman. Holding that the delay in filing of FIR in an offence of rape may be due to a variety of factors typical to the Indian social ethos, such delays required to be condoned if explained in due perspective. 

The Bench declared as under;
12. Both the courts below have considered this aspect at length and reached the conclusion that delay occurred because of the intervention of the Panchayat, as the Panchayat had insisted to compromise the case, rather than moving the investigating machinery. The High Court observed as under :- 
“It was a case where the life of a young child of the complainant was at stake. A tendency on the part of the villagers or the parents of a young child, who is ravished, would normally be to save the honour of the child as first priority. The respectables in the village could be expected to intervene in this matter to seek compromise, so as to avoid the stigma for a young girl. An innocent complainant, even admitted that he would not have got the case registered in case the panchayat had agreed to impose fine as suggested by him and if the panchayat had paraded the appellant with blacken face as proposed by him. This would rather reflect that the witness was truthful besides being innocent villager, who despite being subjected to intricacies of the court proceedings, did not resile from the true accounts of events that had taken place.”
13. In a rape case the prosecutrix remains worried about her future. She remains in traumatic state of mind. The family of the victim generally shows reluctance to go to the police station because of society’s attitude towards such a woman. It casts doubts and shame upon her rather than comfort and sympathise with her. Family remains concern about its honour and reputation of the prosecutrix. After only having a cool thought it is possible for the family to lodge a complaint in sexual offences. (Vide Karnel Singh Vs. State of M.P. AIR 1995 SC 2472; and State of Punjab Vs. Gurmeet Singh & Ors. AIR 1996 SC 1393). 
14. This Court has consistently highlighted the reasons, objects and means of prompt lodging of FIR. Delay in lodging FIR more often than not, results in embellishment and exaggeration, which is a creature of an afterthought. A delayed report not only gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity, the danger of the introduction of a coloured version, an exaggerated account of the incident or a concocted story as a result of deliberations and consultations, also creeps in, casting a serious doubt on its veracity. Thus, FIR is to be filed more promptly and if there is any delay, the prosecution must furnish a satisfactory explanation for the same for the reason that in case the substratum of the evidence given by the complainant/informant is found to be unreliable, the prosecution case has to be rejected in its entirety. [vide State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. M. Madhusudhan Rao (2008) 15 SCC 582].
15. However, no straight jacket formula can be laid down in this regard. In case of sexual offences, the criteria may be different altogether. As honour of the family is involved, its members have to decide whether to take the matter to the court or not. In such a fact-situation, near relations of the prosecutrix may take time as to what course of action should be adopted. Thus, delay is bound to occur. This Court has always taken judicial notice of the fact that “ordinarily the family of the victim would not intend to get a stigma attached to the victim. Delay in lodging the First Information Report in a case of this nature is a normal phenomenon” [vide Satyapal Vs. State of Haryana AIR 2009 SC 2190].
16. In State of Himachal Pradesh Vs. Prem Singh AIR 2009 SC 1010, this Court considered the issue at length and observed as under :-
“So far as 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. In a tradition bound society prevalent in India, more particularly, rural areas, it would be quite unsafe to throw out the prosecution case merely on the ground that there is some delay in lodging the FIR.”
17. Thus, in view of the above, the delay in lodging FIR in sexual offences has to be considered with a different yardstick. 
18. If the instant case is examined in the light of the aforesaid settled legal proposition, we are of the considered opinion that the delay in lodging the FIR has been satisfactorily explained.

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