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 case of delay, it also cannot be presumed that the allegations were an after thought or had given a coloured version of events. 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. (Vide: Sahib Singh v. State of Haryana, AIR 1997 SC 3247; G. Sagar Suri and Anr. v. State of U.P. and Ors., AIR 2000 SC 754; Gorige Pentaiah v. State of A.P. and Ors., (2008) 12 SCC 531; and Kishan Singh (dead) thr. L.Rs. v. Gurpal Singh and Ors., AIR 2010 SC 3624)
In Shiv Ram and Anr. v. State of U.P. AIR 1998 SC 49, apex Court considered the provisions of the Section 157, Code of Criminal Procedure, which require that the police officials would send a copy of the FIR to the Illaqa Magistrate forthwith. The court held that if there is a 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.
In Munshi Prasad and Ors. v. State of Bihar, AIR 2001 SC 3031, this Court considered this issue again and observed:
While it is true that Section 157 of the Code 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.
While deciding the said case, this Court placed relied upon its earlier judgments in Pala Singh and Anr. v. State of Punjab, AIR 1972 SC 2679; and State of Karnataka v. Moin Patel and Ors., AIR 1996 SC 3041.
In Rajeevan and Anr. v. State of Kerala, (2003) 3 SCC 355, this Court examined a case where there had been inordinate delay in sending the copy of the FIR to the Illaqa Magistrate and held that un-explained inordinate delay may adversely affect the prosecution case. However, it would depend upon the facts of each case.
14. A similar view was reiterated in Ramesh Baburao Devaskar and Ors. v. State of Maharashtra (2007) 13 SCC 501, wherein there had been a delay of four days in sending the copy of the FIR to the Illaqa Magistrate and no satisfactory explanation could be furnished for such inordinate delay. While deciding the said case, reliance had been placed on earlier judgments in State of Rajasthan v. Teja Singh and Ors., AIR 2001 SC 990; and Jagdish Murav v. State of U.P. and Ors. (2006) 12 SCC 626.
(See also Sarwan Singh and Ors. v. State of Punjab, AIR 1976 SC 2304: State of U.P. v. Gokaran and Ors., AIR 1985 SC 131; Gurdev Singh and Anr. v. State of Punjab, (2003) 7 SCC 258; State of Punjab v. Karnail Singh, (2003) 11 SCC 271; State of J and K v. Mohan Singh and Ors., AIR 2006 SC 1410; N.H. Muhammed Afras v. State of Kerala, (2008) 15 SCC 315; Sarvesh Narain Shukla v. Daroga Singh and Ors., AIR 2008 SC 320; and Arun Kumar Sharma v. State of Bihar, (2010) 1 SCC 108).
Thus, from the above it is evident that the Cr.P.C provides for internal and external checks: one of them being the receipt of a copy of the FIR by the Magistrate concerned. It serves the purpose that the FIR be not anti-timed or anti-dated. The Magistrate must be immediately informed of every serious offence so that he may be in a position to act under Section 159 Code of Criminal Procedure, if so required. Section 159 Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the Magistrate to hold the investigation or preliminary enquiry of the offence either himself or through the Magistrate subordinate to him. This is designed to keep the Magistrate informed of the investigation so as to enable him to control investigation and, if necessary, to give appropriate direction. It is not that as if every delay in sending the report to the Magistrate would necessarily lead to the inference that the FIR has not been lodged at the time stated or has been anti-timed or anti-dated or investigation is not fair and forthright. Every such delay is not fatal unless prejudice to the accused is shown. The expression ‘forthwith’ mentioned therein does not mean that the prosecution is required to explain delay of every hour in sending the FIR to the Magistrate. In a given case, if number of dead and injured persons is very high, delay in dispatching the report is natural. Of course, the same is to be sent within reasonable time in the prevalent circumstances. However, un-explained inordinate delay in sending the copy of FIR to the Magistrate may affect the prosecution case adversely. An adverse inference may be drawn against the prosecution when there are circumstances from which an inference can be drawn that there were chances of manipulation in the FIR by falsely roping in the accused persons after due deliberations. Delay provides legitimate basis for suspicion of the FIR, as it affords sufficient time to the prosecution to introduce improvements and embellishments. Thus, a delay in dispatch of the FIR by itself is not a circumstance which can throw out the prosecution’s case in its entirety, particularly when the prosecution furnishes a cogent explanation for the delay in dispatch of the report or prosecution case itself is proved by leading unimpeachable evidence.