Kumar Chaudhary & Ors. Vs. State of Bihar  INSC 791 (5 May 2008)
C.K. THAKKER & D.K. JAIN
Arising out of S.L.P. (Criminal) No.4979 of 2007 REPORTABLE D.K. JAIN, J.:
2. The three appellants in this appeal, namely, Ashok Kumar Chaudhary,
Kailash Chaudhary and Baiju Chaudhary (hereinafter referred to as appellants
A-1 to A-3 respectively) arrayed as accused Nos.1, 3 and 2 respectively in the
charge-sheet, faced trial in Sessions Trial Case No. 187 of 1989, for having
committed offences punishable under Sections 324 and 307 read with Section 34
of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short the I.P.C.). The trial court found
appellants A-1 and A-3 guilty of offence under Section 324 I.P.C. and sentenced
them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two months each. However, appellant,
A-2 was found guilty of offence under Section 307 I.P.C. and was sentenced to
undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years. All the three convicts preferred
common appeal to the High Court of Judicature at Patna. The High Court upheld
the decision of the trial court, which has resulted in the present appeal.
3. The case of the prosecution in brief was that on 17th July, 1988 at about
6 p.m. the informant (PW-5) along with Bijoy Kumar Sanyal, Hardeo Chaudhary and
Kishan Singh had gone to Dharampur Haat (Market) to make some purchases. They
saw the appellants dragging a person out of the Haat towards the road. They
along with some other bystanders raised halla (shouting), whereupon the
informant and others reached the spot and tried to rescue the victim, who
turned out to be the son of the said Hardeo Chaudhary. Meanwhile, appellant,
A-3 who was carrying a Hasua and appellants, A-1 and A-2 who were carrying
daggers assaulted the informant and other persons. They were badly injured.
Hardeo Chaudhary sustained injuries in his abdomen whereas Bijoy Kumar
Sanyal sustained dagger injuries in his chest and thigh and Kishan Singh
sustained injuries on his head. The motive of occurrence was given as previous
4. Fardbeyan of the informant was recorded by the A.S.I.
of Pirbahore police station and was forwarded on the next day to the officer
incharge of Bidupur police station within whose jurisdiction the occurrence had
taken place. On the basis of the fardbeyan, a formal F.I.R. was registered.
After completion of investigation, charge- sheet was submitted against the
appellants under Sections 324, 307 read with Section 34 I.P.C.
5. Out of the total nine witnesses examined by the prosecution to establish
its case, five were the persons who had been injured in the assault. Relying on
the testimony of the injured witnesses, the trial court convicted the
appellants for the offences aforenoted. As noted above, conviction and
sentences awarded to the appellants have been affirmed by the High Court.
6. Mr. P.N. Lekhi, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants has
assailed the convictions on a number of grounds. Firstly, it is submitted that
the incident having taken place at a public place in the evening, the prosecution
ought to have examined some independent witnesses. Having failed to do so, the
evidence of PW-4 and PW-5 should be discarded as being closely related to the
victim Ajay Kumar, they were "highly interested"
and prone to falsely implicate the appellants, particularly when PW-4 was
also involved in civil and criminal litigation with one of the appellants'
7. We are not impressed with the argument. Though it is true that the
incident having taken place near the market around 6 p.m. on 17th July, 1988,
the prosecution should have attempted to secure public witnesses who had
witnessed the incident, but at the same time one cannot lose sight of the
ground realities that the members of the public are generally insensitive and
reluctant to come forward to report and depose about the crime even though it
is committed in their presence. In our opinion, even otherwise it will be
erroneous to lay down as a rule of universal application that non examination
of a public witness by itself gives rise to an adverse inference against the
prosecution or that the testimony of a relative of the victim, which is
otherwise credit-worthy, cannot be relied upon unless corroborated by public
witnesses. Insofar as the question of credit-worthiness of the evidence of relatives
of the victim is concerned, it is well settled that though the Court has to
scrutinize such evidence with greater care and caution but such evidence cannot
be discarded on the sole ground of their interest in the prosecution. The
relationship per se does not affect the credibility of a witness. Merely
because a witness happens to be a relative of the victim of the crime, he/she
cannot be characterized as an "interested" witness. It is trite that
the term "interested" postulates that the person concerned has some
direct or indirect interest in seeing that the accused is somehow or the other
convicted either because he had some animus with the accused or for some other
the occasion to deal with the question as to whether a relative is per se an
"interested" witness. Dispelling the general impression that
relatives were not independent witnesses, speaking for the Court, Vivian Bose,
J., observed thus:
"A witness is normally to be considered independent unless he or she
springs from sources which are likely to be tainted and that usually means
unless the witness has cause, such as enmity against the accused, to wish to
implicate him falsely. Ordinarily, a close relative would be the last to screen
the real culprit and falsely implicate an innocent person. It is true, when
feelings run high and there is personal cause for enmity, that there is a
tendency to drag in an innocent person against whom a witness has a grudge
along with the guilty, but foundation must be laid for such a criticism and the
mere fact of relationship far from being a foundation is often a sure guarantee
this Court had observed that though the evidence of an interested or
partisan witness has to be weighed by the Court very carefully but it would be
unreasonable to contend that evidence given by a witness should be discarded
only on the ground that it is evidence of a partisan or interested witness. The
mechanical rejection of such evidence on the sole ground that it is partisan
would invariably lead to failure of justice. (Also see: Guli Singh ).
State of Chhatisgarh, through The Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh,
Raipur, Chhattisgarh , wherein this Court has observed that relationship is not
a factor to affect credibility of a witness. It is more often than not a
relation would not conceal the actual culprit and make allegations against the
Foundation has to be laid if plea of false implication is made. In such
cases, the Court has to adopt a careful approach and analyse evidence to find
out whether it is cogent and credible.
one of us (C.K. Thakker, J.) has said that a close relative cannot be
characterized as an "interested" witness. He is a natural witness.
His evidence, however, must be scrutinised carefully. If on such scrutiny, his
evidence is found to be intrinsically reliable, inherently probable and wholly
trustworthy, conviction can be based on the 'sole' testimony of such witness.
Close relationship of witness with the deceased or victim is no ground to
reject his evidence. On the contrary, close relative of the deceased would
normally be most reluctant to spare the real culprit and falsely implicate an
12. In the instant case, as noted above, out of the nine witnesses examined
by the prosecution, five are injured witnesses, which include PW-2Ajay Kumar,
the main victim, who was dragged and assaulted in the first instance and his
father, PW-4Hardeo Chaudhary, who was also stabbed. Neither their testimony nor
the evidence of other three injured witnesses gives an indication that any of
the witnesses, whose testimony has been relied upon by the trial court and the
High Court, bore any animus against the appellants. It is true that in the
cross-examination, an attempt was made to cast a doubt that on account of an
old case filed by the appellant No.1Ashok against PW-4, the said witness was
deposing against the appellants but in the light of the graphic details of the
incident given by the said witness, who had also sustained serious injuries in
the stomach, there was no reason for the Courts below to disbelieve the
evidence of PW-4. Similarly, PW-5, who, in his cross-examination had divulged
that appellant Kailash Chaudhary was his brother by gotra, was also injured,
had been cross-examined at length, but nothing could be elicited to show that
he had any animosity towards the appellants or to discredit his deposition in
support of the prosecution. The Trial Court as well as the High Court have
found the evidence of all these witnesses to be trustworthy and reliable, and
it has been recorded that their evidence inspires confidence and stands
corroborated by the medical evidence. The Trial Court has also taken note of
some minor variation in the timing of the occurrence, which has also been
highlighted before us by learned counsel for the appellants, and has held that
negligible variation of half an hour between the testimony of PW-1 to PW-5,
wherein all of them have given the time of occurrence either at about 5.30 P.M.
or between 5-6 P.M. (PW-5) and the evidence of PW-8, wherein the time of
occurrence has been given as 5.00 P.M. hardly affects the prosecution case. In
view of consistent evidence that has come on record, it cannot be said that
non-examination of pubic witness makes the case of the prosecution untrustworthy
or that the courts below have committed any legal infirmity in relying upon the
testimony of the injured witnesses. It is the quality and not the quantity of
evidence which matters.
13. It was then contended by learned counsel for the appellants that there
was inordinate delay of five days in lodging the F.I.R., which is fatal to the
14. It is trite that mere delay in lodging the first information report is
not by itself fatal to the case of the prosecution. Nevertheless, it is a relevant
factor of which the Court is obliged to take notice and examine whether any
explanation for the delay has been offered and if offered, whether it is
satisfactory or not. If no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming, an adverse
inference may be drawn against the prosecution.
However, in the event, the delay is properly and satisfactorily explained;
the prosecution case cannot be thrown out merely on the ground of delay in
lodging the F.I.R. Obviously, the explanation has to be considered in the light
of the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case.
three-Judge Bench of this Court had observed thus:
"Delay in lodging the FIR cannot be used as a ritualistic formula for
doubting the prosecution case and discarding the same solely on the ground of
delay in lodging the first information report. Delay has the effect of putting
the court on its guard to search if any explanation has been offered for the
delay, and if offered, whether it is satisfactory or not. If the prosecution
fails to satisfactorily explain the delay and there is a possibility of
embellishment in the prosecution version on account of such delay, the delay
would be fatal to the prosecution. However, if the delay is explained to the
satisfaction of the court, the delay cannot by itself be a ground for
disbelieving and discarding the entire prosecution case."
Maharashtra it has been observed that the question whether the delay in
lodging the report adversely affects the case of the prosecution has to be
considered in the light of the totality of the evidence. This is a matter of
appreciation of evidence. There may be cases where there is direct evidence to
explain the delay. Even in the absence of direct explanation, there may be host
of circumstances appearing on record which may provide reasonable explanation
for the delay.
17. In the present case, PW-5Laxmi Chaudhary promptly gave his fardbeyan to
the police on the very next day, i.e. 18th July, 1988 in the hospital at Patna.
The fardbeyan was forwarded by the police to the concerned police station
the same day and on the basis thereof, the formal F.I.R. was registered on 22nd
July, 1988. Though there is no denying the fact that there was delay in
registration of F.I.R. but it is nobody's case that the F.I.R. was not in consonance
with the fardbeyan and it was embellished in any manner. The courts below have
found that in the light of the surrounding circumstances and the fact that the
concerned police station was about 12 kms. away from the place of occurrence,
the delay has been satisfactorily explained and, therefore, it cannot be said
that the courts below have committed an error in accepting the explanation for
the delay. The contention raised by the learned counsel for the appellants is,
18. It was then contended by learned counsel for the appellants that the
evidence of two doctors, namely, Krishna Nand Singh (PW-6) and Dr. R.K. Agrawal
(PW-7) who had examined Hardeo Chaudhary cast a doubt on the kind of the weapon
used for assault. It is pointed out that in their respective depositions both
the doctors have opined that the injuries were caused by a sharp cutting weapon
like "chhura", whereas in his fardbeyan PW-5 had stated that
appellant Kailash Chaudhary had taken out "Hasua" and started
inflicting injuries. It was urged that this discrepancy falsifies the case of
19. We do not find much substance in the contention. In our view, insofar as
the nature of injuries caused to Hardeo Chaudhary is concerned, the evidence of
both the doctors is consistent. Both of them have deposed that injuries had
been caused by "sharp cutting weapon such as chhura". In our view,
when the injuries, the time and place of occurrence stand proved, the said
variation in fardbeyan fades into insignificance and cannot be held to be fatal
to the case of the prosecution.
20. Thus, on the basis of the evidence of the witnesses, the High Court has
concurred with the findings of the Trial Court that the prosecution has
succeeded in bringing home the offences, the appellants were charged with.
Nothing substantial has been shown to persuade us to interfere with the
conviction of the appellants.
21. Lastly, it was pleaded by Mr. Lekhi that the sentence awarded to the
appellants, particularly appellant No.2 Kailash Chaudhary who is an old person
of about 81 years of age and has already undergone five months rigorous
imprisonment, may be reduced. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of
the case and bearing in mind the fact that the subject incident had taken place
almost two decades ago, we are of the view that it is a fit case where
sentences awarded to the appellants deserve to be reduced.
22. Accordingly, the appeal is partly allowed to the extent indicated above.
The order of conviction passed against all the appellants is maintained.
However, the sentence of two months rigorous imprisonment awarded to appellants
No.1 and 3 is set aside and instead they are sentenced to pay a fine of
Rs.20,000/- each within six weeks from today, failing which they will undergo rigorous
imprisonment for a period of one month.
Similarly, the sentence of three years rigorous imprisonment awarded by the
Trial Court to appellant Kailash Chaudhary is reduced to one year rigorous
imprisonment. He shall also be liable to pay a fine of Rs.20,000/- within six
weeks from today and in default will undergo further rigorous imprisonment for
a period of one month. The amount (s) of fine so recovered shall be paid in
equal proportion, to Bijoy Kumar Sanyal, Kishan Singh, Hardeo Chaudhary and Laxmi
Chaudhary, who all were injured in the incident.