Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Whether test identification parade can be relied on if witnesses fail to give identification marks or special features of accused?

In cases of inordinate delay, it may be that the witnesses may forget the features of the accused put up for identification in the test identification parade. This, however, is not an absolute Rule because it depends upon the facts of each case and the opportunity which the witnesses had to notice the features of the accused and the circumstances in which they had seen the accused committing the offence. Where the witness had only a fleeting glimpse of the accused at the time of occurrence, delay in holding a test identification parade has to be viewed seriously. Where, however, the court is satisfied that the witnesses had ample opportunity of seeing the accused at the time of the commission of the offence and there is no chance of mistaken identity, delay in holding the test identification parade may not be held to be fatal. It all depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

43. It will thus be seen that the evidence of identification has to be considered in the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case. Though it is desirable to hold the test identification parade at the earliest-possible opportunity, no hard-and-fast Rule can be laid down in this regard. If the delay is inordinate and there is evidence probabilising the possibility of the accused having been shown to the witnesses, the court may not act on the basis of such evidence. Moreover, cases where the conviction is based not solely on the basis of identification in court, but on the basis of other corroborative evidence, such as recovery of looted articles, stand on a different footing and the court has to consider the evidence in its entirety.

15. In the case in hand, apart from the fact that there was delay in holding the Test Identification Parade, one striking feature is that none of the concerned prosecution witnesses had given any identification marks or disclosed special features or attributes of any of those four persons in general and the accused in particular. Further, no incident or crime had actually taken place in the presence of those prosecution witnesses nor any special circumstances had occurred which would invite their attention so as to register the features or special attributes of the concerned accused. Their chance meeting, as alleged, was in the night and was only for some fleeting moments.

16. In Subash v. State of U.P. MANU/SC/0308/1987 : 1987 (3) SCC 331, the aspects of delay as well as absence of any special features for identification and the effect thereof were considered by this Court in paragraphs 8 and 9 as under:

8. Apart from this infirmity we further find that Shiv Shankar was not put up for test identification parade promptly. The identification parade has been held three weeks after his arrest and no explanation has been offered for the delay in holding the test identification parade. There is, therefore, room for doubt as to whether the delay in holding the identification parade was in order to enable the identifying witnesses to see him in the police lock-up or in the jail premises and make a note of his features.
9. Over and above all these things there remains the fact that a sufficiently long interval of time had elapsed between the date of occurrence when the witnesses had seen Shiv Shankar for a few minutes and the date of the test identification parade. It is, no doubt, true that all the three witnesses had correctly identified Shiv Shankar at the identification parade but it has to be borne in mind that nearly 4 months had elapsed during the interval. It is relevant to mention here that neither in Exhibit Kha-1 nor in their statements during investigation, the eyewitnesses have given any descriptive particulars of Shiv Shankar. While deposing before the Sessions Judge they have stated that Shiv Shankar was a tall person and had "sallow" complexion. If it is on account of these features the witnesses were able to identify Shiv Shankar at the identification parade, they would have certainly mentioned about them at the earliest point of time because their memory would have been fresh then. Thus in the absence of any descriptive particulars of Shiv Shankar in Ex. Kha-1 or in the statements of witnesses during investigation, it will not be safe and proper to act upon the identification of Shiv Shankar by the three witnesses at the identification parade and hold that he was one of the assailants of Ram Babu. As pointed out in Muthuswami v. State of Madras MANU/SC/0075/1951 : AIR 1954 SC 4 : 1954 Cri. LJ 236 where an identification parade was held about 2 1/2 months after the occurrence it would not be safe to place reliance on the identification of the accused by the eyewitnesses. In another case Mohd. Abdul Hafeez v. State of A.P. MANU/SC/0091/1982 : AIR 1983 SC 367 : (1983) 1 SCC 143. It was held that where the witnesses had not given any description of the accused in the first information report, their identification of the accused at the sessions trial cannot be safely accepted by the court for awarding conviction to the accused. In the present case there was a long interval of nearly 4 months before the test identification parade was held and it is difficult to accept that in spite of this interval of time the witnesses were able to have a clear image of the accused in their minds and identify him correctly at the identification parade.

17. Similarly the issue of delay weighed with this Court in Musheer Khan v. State of M.P. MANU/SC/0065/2010 : 2010 (2) SCC 748 in discarding the evidence regarding test identification as under:

8. Insofar as the identification of A-5 is concerned that has taken place at a very delayed stage, namely, his identification took place on 24-1-2001 and the incident is of 29-11-2000, even though A-5 was arrested on 22-12-2000. There is no explanation why his identification parade was held on 24-1-2001 which is after a gap of over a month from the date of arrest and after about 3 months from the date of the incident. No reliance ought to have been placed by the courts below or the High Court on such delayed TI parade for which there is no explanation by the prosecution.
18. In the instant case none of the witnesses had disclosed any features for identification which would lend some corroboration. The identification parade itself was held 25 days after the arrest. Their chance meeting was also in the night without there being any special occasion for them to notice the features of any of the accused which would then register in their minds so as to enable them to identify them on a future date. The chance meeting was also for few minutes. In the circumstances, in our considered view such identification simpliciter cannot form the basis or be taken as the fulcrum for the entire case of prosecution. 


Criminal Appeal No. 1953 of 2010

Decided On: 06.01.2017

Md. Sajjad Vs.State of West Bengal

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
Pinaki Chandra Ghose and U.U. Lalit, JJ.

Citation: (2017) 8 SCC 757.
Read full judgment here: Click here

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