Admin/ February 20, 2019/ Procedural Law/ 0 comments

AuthorAbhishek Wadhawan


Introduction

Dying declaration refers to a statement made by a person which states the reason for his death in an unequivocal manner. It is a declaration which is generally related to the cause of the death of the declarant. For a dying declaration to be admissible as an evidence in the court of law, it is not important that the declaration has to be made by a person only when his death is imminent.

Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 deals with dying declaration. The part relevant to the article reads as follows:  

32 Cases in which statement of relevant fact by person who is dead or cannot be found, etc.., is relevant. —Statements, written or verbal, of relevant facts made by a person who is dead, or who cannot be found, or who has become incapable of giving evidence, or whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay or expense which, under the circumstances of the case, appears to the Court unreasonable, are themselves relevant facts in the following cases: —

1 when it relates to cause of death. —When the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in cases in which the cause of that person’s death comes into question. Such statements are relevant whether the person who made them was or was not, at the time when they were made, under expectation of death, and whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of his death comes into question.

The aforementioned section deals with the cases where the statements of relevant facts which are made by people who are dear or cannot be found easily are admissible in the courts as valid evidence. Specifically, it is Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 that talks about relevant facts of the case which are related to the cause of death of a person. It refers to a situation when a person makes a statement which is related to the cause of his death either directly or discusses any particular part in the entire chain of events that led to the person’s death. It further states that these statements made by the person regarding his death are relevant no matter whether the person while making the statements was under the imminent threat or danger of death or not. One of the basic necessity for the admissibility of evidence under this Section is that the person whose statement is being admitted in the court as evidence must be dead at the time of admission of the evidence.

Admissibility of a Dying Declaration

Dying declaration is a statement or a testimony that may be generally barred from being accepted as evidence on the grounds of it being a hearsay-evidence. Nonetheless, dying declaration is accepted as valid evidence as it is a statement which generally contains the last said words of a dying person. The acceptance of dying declaration as evidence is based on the idea that a person who is dying or a person who is under a strong belief that death is near to him does not have any motive, under general and usual circumstances, to alter or fabricate the reality to his benefit. Further, it is also based on the legal maxim ‘nemo mariturus presumuntur mentri’. The legal maxim means that a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth.

This legal maxim has been discussed by the Supreme Court in the case of Babulal Vs State of Madhya Pradesh[1]. The Court in the aforementioned case mentioned that at the time of nearing the death, the party (person) who makes the dying declaration, all hopes of his are gone and every motive to falsehood is silenced. The most powerful consideration to speak the truth takes over the mind of the person. It was illustrated that the environment in which a dying declaration of a person is made is considered to be equal to the obligation imposed by a positive oath administered in the court of justice.

One of the most important case laws for admissibility of a dying declaration is the case of King Vs. Woodcock[2] wherein the sole basis for conviction of the accused was the dying declaration. There was no other evidence on record to support the case of the prosecution. The court in the case had ruled that a dying declaration is a declaration made by the person when all his hopes and expectations from the world are gone away and his will is to merely speak the truth which led to his own death.

In the case of Narain Singh Vs. State of Haryana[3], the Supreme Court had held that a dying declaration made by a deceased at the verge of his death should have a special sanctity before the court of law. At the verge of death, it is very unlikely to expect that a person will make an untrue statement. The shadow of the impending death of the person is itself a guarantee of the truth of the statement made by the person regarding the various circumstances which led to the death of the person. However, it is also important to check the credibility of the dying declaration before admitting it as valid evidence by the court. If the dying declarations are found to be reliable by the court, then they can form the basis for conviction.

Relevant Case Laws

In Nanhau Ram Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh[4], it was held that in cases where the court needs to satisfy it whether the dying declaration was made by the deceased in a proper consciousness or not, the court has to rely on the medical opinion for the same. However, in the cases where an eyewitness in whose presence the dying declaration was recorded affirms that the person making the declaration was in a fit and a conscious state to make the declaration, the medical opinion may not prevail.

In the case of Uttar Pradesh Vs. Shisupal Singh[5], the dying declaration of a person was rejected as it suffered through many irregularities. The dying declaration in the said matter was recorded by a Magistrate. However, the dying declaration was not signed by the claimant, that is, the deceased nor did the dying declaration contain the date and the place where the declaration was recorded by the Magistrate. Moreover, the prosecution also failed to convince the court as to why such essential elements were missing in the dying declaration. The court ruled that a dying declaration that suffers through so many irregularities and is silent on essential information cannot be accepted as valid evidence in the court of law. If such misguiding dying declarations are held as valid in the eyes of law, injustice would prevail.

In the recent case of Madan Vs. State of Maharashtra[6], the Court reiterated the fact that a dying declaration can solely form the basis for the conviction of a person given that it inspires confidence in the mind of the Court that the deceased at the time of making such declaration, was in a fit state of mind and there was no tutoring or promoting. Yet, the court while relying solely on the basis of the dying declaration, it must approach the case with extreme caution and still if it inspires confidence in the mind of the court, the court should move further with the dying declaration. The Court further added that if it court finds any suspicion as to the correctness or genuineness of the dying declaration then it should rationally not convict a person solely on the basis of the dying declaration. In such cases of suspicion, the dying declaration must be supported with any corroborative evidence so as to convict the accused for the offence.

In the case of Gajanan Bakaramji Lad Vs. State of Maharasthra[7], the Honourable High Court of Bombay held that a dying declaration cannot be rejected to be valid evidence only on the basis that the dying declaration was not over to the declarant and thus the declarant did not admit the same to have been correctly recorded. Hence, reading over the declaration to the declarant by the recording officer is essential as well as a very necessary act on the part of the person recording the declaration but the mere omission of this act does not, in any manner, make the dying declaration to have no value in the eyes of law.

In the case of Reena Vs. State of Maharashtra[8], the Court held that if a dying declaration does not contain details of the occurrence, it cannot be rejected. It also held that merely because a dying declaration is a brief statement, the declaration cannot be rejected without any reasonable grounds.

Conclusion:

Dying declaration refers to a declaration made by a person regarding the series of events or any other relevant facts which led to the cause of the death of the declarant. Section 32 Clause (1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 specifically deals with the law of admitting a dying declaration as valid evidence in the court of law. While making the dying declaration, the declarant must be in a proper mental and concise state of mind which has to be proved with the help of the doctor’s medical report. In various cases, the courts in India have settled a principle of law that an accused can be convicted on the grounds of a dying declaration solely. However, for doing so, the dying declaration must be able to inspire the court’s conscience as far as the genuineness of the dying declaration is concerned. Also, in cases where a court solely convicts the person on the basis of the dying declaration, the court must act in a very reasonable and a prudent manner. If the court finds anything suspicious in a dying declaration, then it is necessary to provide the court with corroborative evidence that would prove the correctness and genuineness of the dying declaration and subsequently if the court is satisfied from the corroborative evidence so provided, it may convict the accused.


[1] Babulal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2 (2003) 12 SCC 490.

[2] King v. Woodcock, (1789) 168 ER 352.

[3] Narain Singh v. State of Haryana, 2005 SCC (Cri) 185.

[4] Nanhau Ram v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 15 1988 Supp SCC 152.

[5] Uttar Pradesh v. Shisupal Singh, AIR 1994 SC.

[6] Madan v. State of Maharastra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 354.

[7] Gajanan Bakaramji Lad v. State of Maharasthra, Criminal Appeal No. 186 of 2013.

[8] Reena v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2176.


About the Author: Abhishek is 2018-23 Batch student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.


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