SC Releases 13 Convicts Arrested in Matter of Rioting, on Ground of Lapses in Identification Parade

Supreme Court Law Insider

Akansha Upadhyay

Published on: 15 November 2022 at 23:03 IST

The Supreme Court last week acquitted over 13 persons in a case of rioting and unlawful assembly due to shortcomings in the Test Identification Parade (TIP).

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and PS Narasimha noted that the witnesses had the opportunity of seeing the accused before the TIP was conducted. One of the accused, at the end of the first TIP, had even raised a grievance that the suspects were all photographed, video­-graphed and were shown to the witnesses.

The bench held in its order pronounced on November 11, and states that, “We are of the opinion that there existed no useful purpose behind conducting the TIP. The TIP was a mere formality, and no value could be attached to it.”

As the only evidence for convicting the appellants is the evidence of the eyewitnesses in the TIP, and when the TIP is vitiated, the conviction cannot be upheld,

The bench was hearing criminal appeals challenging the decision of the Kerala High Court which had upheld their conviction and sentence of 4 years’ imprisonment.

They were convicted under the IPC and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act for their ‘violent’ protest on July 12, 2000, in which they set about 81 buses in the state on fire, resulting in the death of the conductor of one of the buses. 

These people were protesting the state’s decision to separate pre-degree courses from colleges and introduce plus-two courses in schools.  The students had protested a day before the incident as well.  However, the police had resorted to ‘drastic’ methods to disperse the crowd, injuring several students.

The prosecution, to prove Its case, had relied heavily on the testimonies of the eye witnesses, who had also identified the accused during the TIP conducted to establish the identity of the accused.

The Supreme Court noted that there was a delay on part of the prosecution to even conduct the TIP.

Undue delay in conducting a TIP has a serious bearing on the credibility of the identification process. Though there is no fixed timeline within which the TIP must be conducted and the consequence of the delay would depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case, it is imperative to hold the TIP at the earliest. The possibility of the TIP witnesses seeing the accused is sufficient to cast doubt about their credibility,” the bench observed.

The Court also noted from the statements of the Investigating Officer that he did not take any steps to ensure that the accused and the witness did not see each other.

It is rather surprising to note that Investigating Officer thinks that such a measure is not necessary. Thus, we are of the opinion that the conduct of the TIP, coupled with the hovering presence of the police during the conduct of the TIP vitiated the entire process.”

“The Trial Court as well as the High Court have committed a serious error in relying on the evidence of the TIP witnesses for convicting and sentencing the appellants,” the bench observed.

Thus, the bench observed that in view of these lapses on the part of the prosecution, the conviction and sentence of the appellants is not sustainable.

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