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Supreme Court: A Cryptic Phone Call To Police, Not Clearly Specifying the Offence Cannot Be Treated as Fir

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Case Name: Netaji Achyut Shinde (Patil) vs. State of Maharashtra [CrA 121 of 2019]

Facts of the case

In this case, the FIR was filed at 11:30 PM based on the complaint lodged by Ramhari Shinde who was a social worker, Sarpanch of village Kallam, etc. The prosecution alleged the involvement of 3 Accused-appellant and Anant Shinde, who could not be charged as he absconded, i.e., 4 individuals assaulted and inflicted serious injuries by the sword or fist blows on the deceased Suhas in furtherance of their common intention at Shivaji Chowk in Osmanabad district at about 5:30 PM on 5 July 2011. On the same day, at about 7:30 PM Suhas, who was the taluka Vice President of Youth Nationalist Congress Party, succumbed to his death in the hospital. 

The information about the whole incident was given to the complainant by PW2 at about 7:45 PM who was the eye-witness of the whole incident. As PW2 was going towards Suhas, he heard the accused saying that they would kill Suhas and warned the public not to interfere otherwise they would stab them too. As Suhas ran, the accused followed him and met Satish Tekale and Pradip Mete and when they asked what was going on, one of the accused asked for a motorcycle which arrived and all 4 ran away. 

At that time, PW2 called PW1 and informed him about the incident and Satish Tekale and Pradip Mete took the deceased to the hospital. In cross-examination, all, PW2, PW3 and PW 4 admitted that even after witnessing the incident, they did not report the incident to the police immediately, though the police station was nearby. Also, 50-100 people gathered at the place of the incident. The Trial Court treated the information received at 7:45 PM as first information and not the one reported at 11:30 as FIR and acquitted A1 and A3. Aggrieved by this, an appeal was filed before the High court by A2 and the state. The High Court reversed the decision of the trial Court and then an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

Pleadings before the Court

It was argued by the learned counsel on behalf of the Appellant after relying on the findings of the Trial Court, that the version of the prosecution that FIR was lodged at 11:30 PM was false and highlighted that the first intimation about the crime was itself complete and was received by the police station at 5.30 p.m. It was also highlighted that once the police authorities knew of the occurrence of a serious incident, they were supposed to immediately lodge an FIR. It was further submitted that the time between the initial notification and the filing of the real FIR was spent spinning a yarn and enlisting the help of wholly partisan witnesses who were no witnesses to the incident but were somehow linked to the deceased or his family.

On the other hand, the counsel on behalf of the Respondent, i.e., the state, submitted that the Trial Court acted in complete error, in overlooking the ocular evidence of PW-2, PW-3, PW-4, PW-5 and PW-18. These individuals were present at the moment, though in different places, and witnessed the sequence of events, whereby the accused went together, leading to the second accused attacking the deceased with a sword. It was further argued that the Trial Court had made a mistake by ignoring these crucial pieces of evidence and relying on suspicions instead. Its oversimplified conclusion that the lack of physical injuries (from blows, beatings, etc.) meant there was no common purpose was clearly incorrect. It was argued that the High Court made the correct decision in holding that an overall assessment of the evidence showed that the defendants on trial were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Court’s observation

The bench of the Supreme court comprising Justices L. Nageshwar Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat observed that a mysterious phone call containing only partial information about the commission of a cognizable offence cannot always be viewed as an FIR. In T.T. Antony v. State of Kerala (2001) 6 SCC 181 and Damodar v. State of Rajasthan (200 4) 12 SCC 336, this Court approved this proposition. An FIR cannot be viewed as a simple message or a telephonic message that does not explicitly specify the offence.

It was further observed that in these situations when PW-1 recorded the statement at 23.45 hrs, the particulars of the event, the nature of the attack, the location of the attack, the names and identities of the attack, and the names and identities of the accused were entirely set out in the FIR.

Court’s Judgement

The Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the High Court while observing that the accused’s physical presence at the scene of the crime, as well as the testimony of independent witnesses about their role, clearly established that it was to facilitate the offence, which was the joint criminal venture’s goal.

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