Read Order: Gurpreet Singh v. State of Punjab

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, April 5, 2022: While dealing with a case of rash and negligent driving resulting in the loss of life of one person, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that a mere delay in lodging of the FIR cannot be held to be fatal to the case of the prosecution unless the defence is able to establish how and in what manner the delay occasioned a failure of justice.

The Bench of Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj added, “The effect of delay on a case has to be examined on the facts of each case. Not every delay can be ruled to be fatal.”

The petitioner was arrayed as an accused in an FIR registered under Sections 279, 304-A IPC for allegedly driving a Jeep (Bolero) in a public way in a rash and negligent manner so as to endanger human life and the personal safety of others and eventually resulting in the death of Charan Singh. As there was direct nexus between the act of the petitioner-accused and the cause of death of the deceased thus, the petitioner was charged with culpable homicide on account of a rash and negligent act. 

After considering the evidence adduced by the prosecution as well as the plea of defence, the Trial Court returned a finding of conviction against the petitioner. The aforesaid judgment of conviction was challenged by the petitioner by means of filing an appeal that was dismissed. Hence, the present revision petition was filed. 

The petitioner’s case was based on the grounds of non-identification of the petitioner-accused by the prosecution; considerable delay in registering the FIR; material contradictions in the statements of the witnesses rendering their deposition unworthy of acceptance; and the non-examination of the owner of the offending vehicle. It was further argued that the evidence of the prosecution did not prove that the vehicle in question was being driven rashly and negligently. Lastly, it was argued that in case the submissions made by the petitioner did not find merit, the case of the petitioner may be considered against the sentence already undergone by him. 

On the aspect of alleged delay in lodging of the FIR, the Court opined that the delay (of one day) was reasonably explained and well-considered. The Court mentioned, in this light that a mere delay cannot be held to be fatal to the case of the prosecution unless the defence is able to establish how and in what manner the delay occasioned a failure of justice. The effect of delay on a case has to be examined on the facts of each case and not every delay can be ruled to be fatal, added the Court. Further, the Court noted that no such circumstances were indicated by the counsel for the petitioner as would render the delay to be crucial and fatal to the case of the prosecution.

The Court then went on to make observations on the power of the revisional Court. In this respect, the Court opined that the revisional Court does not sit in re-appreciation of evidence and merely examines whether the judgment/orders under challenge before it suffer from any illegality, infirmity, perversity or based upon gross-misreading/misappreciation of the evidence. 

“In the event the conclusions drawn by the Courts below are sustainable on a meaningful reading of the evidence brought before it, such conclusion shall not ordinarily be interfered with by the revisional Court unless the revisional Court is satisfied that sufficient grounds as noticed above exist and that the judgment in question is based upon misappreciation/misreading of the evidence in a manner as to record findings that would not be plausible or possible on a meaningful construction of the evidence or when the same suffers from illegality or infirmity or perversity”, adjudged the Court. 

Further in view of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Punjab Vs. Prem Sagar & Ors (2008) 7 SCC 550 governing the matter of sentencing, the Court opined that the accident in question took place in November 2009 and already a period of more than 11 years passed since the commission of the offence, thus the Court was of the opinion that the petitioner suffered the agony of protracted criminal litigation over such a long period. The Court also observed that the petitioner underwent nearly half of the substantive sentence already (actual custody of 11 months and 24 days- underwent). 

Also, the fact that the petitioner was involved in any other accident or criminal case prior to the registration of the instant FIR or committed any other such or similar offence or any other criminal offence after the registration of FIR as also the fact that it was also not established that the petitioner was driving under the influence of some intoxicant at the time of the accident, was considered by the Court. 

Additionally, the Court noted that the petitioner was the sole bread earner of the family and he had the responsibility of taking care of his ageing parents as well as two children. Further, the Court also observed that there was no basis to assume that the petitioner did not reform and as to why the benefit under the Probation of Offenders Act should not be extended to the petitioner. 

After considering the submission made by the respective parties, the Court concluded that it did not find any merit in the present petition. The judgment of conviction was thus affirmed. 

However, the Court added that the petitioner made out sufficient mitigating circumstances on the basis whereof, the benefit of probation could be extended to the petitioner while balancing the interest of justice. The present petition was thus partly allowed and the petitioner was ordered to be released on probation of good conduct for a period of one year. Petitioner was directed to deposit Rs.50,000/- before the Trial Court. 

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