Does Delay in Lodging FIR/Complaint Lead to Acquittal of the Accused?

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January 11, 2018

The issue whether delay in lodging of FIR (First Information Report)/ Complaint leads to acquittal of the accused or not has been time and again been confronted by the Judiciary with the settled position of law being that inordinate and unexplained delay in lodging FIR or complaint may throttle the case of prosecution.

Object of Prompt Lodging of FIR

The object and essence of prompt lodging of FIR had been explained by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Andhra Pradesh vs M. Madhusudhan Rao[1]. The Court in the case stated the following:

  • That delay in lodging the FIR, more often than not, results in embellishment and exaggeration, which is a creature of an afterthought.
  • That a delayed report not only gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity, the danger of the introduction of coloured version, 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.
  • Therefore, it is essential that the delay in lodging the report should be satisfactorily explained. Resultantly, when the substratum of the evidence given by the complainant is found to be unreliable, the prosecution case has to be rejected in its entirety.

Bhajan Singh v. State of Haryana[2]– In the case, it was alleged that there had been an inordinate delay delay of 3 hours in lodging the FIR by the complainant, even though the Police Station was in close vicinity of the place of occurrence. The Appellants alleged that there had been delay in lodging the FIR and sending the copy of the FIR to the court. Therefore, the prosecution failed to give a fair picture with regard to genesis of the crime.

Some key takeaways from the case are explained below:

Delay in Lodging FIR and abuse of process of law

Prompt and early reporting of the occurrence by the informant with all its vivid details gives an assurance regarding its true version. In case, there is some delay in filing the FIR, the complainant must give explanation for the same. Undoubtedly, delay in lodging the FIR does not make the complainant’s case improbable when such delay is properly explained. However, deliberate delay in lodging the complaint may prove to be fatal.

In such cases the Court has to carefully examine the facts before it, for the reason, that the complainant party may initiate criminal proceedings just to harass the other side with mala fide intentions or with ulterior motive of wreaking vengeance. The court proceedings ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment and persecution. In such a case, where an FIR is lodged clearly with a view to spite the other party because of a private and personal grudge and to enmesh the other party in long and arduous criminal proceedings, the court may take a view that it amounts to an abuse of the process of law[3].

Delay in Sending the Copy of FIR to Court/ Magistrate

After lodging of FIR, the concerned Police Official is required under the Law to send a copy of the FIR to the Illaqa Magistrate[4]. Delay in forwarding the copy of the FIR to the Illaqa Magistrate, that circumstance alone would not demolish the other credible evidence on record. It would only show how in such a serious crime, the Investigating Agency was not careful and prompt as it ought to be[5].

While it is true that Section 157 of CrPC makes it obligatory on the officer in charge of the police station to send a report of the information received to a Magistrate forthwith, but that does not mean and imply to denounce and discard an otherwise positive and trustworthy evidence on record. Technicality ought not to outweigh the course of justice — if the court is otherwise convinced and has come to a conclusion as regards the truthfulness of the prosecution case, mere delay, which can otherwise be ascribed to be reasonable, would not by itself demolish the prosecution case[6].

Delay in lodging FIR in matrimonial Disputes to be dealt with sympathetically

In a recent case, Satish Shetty v. State of Karnataka[7]– In this case, the Supreme Court has held that delay in lodging FIR in cases relating to Section 498A of IPC  shall be dealt with sympathetically. In the case, the deceased i.e. the wife allegedly died due to cruelty from husband and relatives of husband on 19.11.1993 and her Mother lodged complaint on 22.11.193.

The Court further remarked that delay in lodging the FIR or complaint is not fatal in all cases. The Court must show some sensitivity in cases of present nature where the victim’s closest relation – mother is a poor helpless lady.

The Court also stated that even a well to do person may suffer a state of mental confusion when struck by such a tragedy. The prosecution in such cases is likely to be delayed further if the deceased has left behind children. The issues relating to their safety and custody often require higher priority. Occurrences of the present nature require lodging of criminal case against persons who are already in the category of relation by virtue of matrimonial ties through the deceased and it is not always easy to take a decision whether to lodge a criminal case against a relation or not. Hence in such cases the factum of delay has to be dealt with sympathetically keeping in mind the mental condition of the close relations of the victim.

[1] (2008) 15 SCC 582

[2] (2011) 7 SCC 421

[3] Sahib Singh v. State of Haryana (AIR 1997 SC 3247), G. Sagar Suri & anr. v. State of U.P. & Ors (AIR 2000 SC 754), Gorige Pentaiah v. State of A.P. & Ors. (2008) 12 SCC 531, Kishan Singh (dead) thr. Lrs. v. Gurpal Singh & Ors., AIR 2010 SC 3624)

[4] Section 157 of CrPC

[5] Shiv Ram & Anr. v. State of U.P., AIR 1998 SC 49

[6] Munshi Prasad & Ors. v. State of Bihar, AIR 2001 SC 3031

[7] Criminal Appeal 1358 of 2008 decided on June 03, 2016