Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: While upholding the decision of Trial Court, Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., reiterated that dying declaration of a person by itself, maybe sufficient to find the accused guilty and if the statement is reliable and credible, it does not even need corroboration.

Convict preferred the present appeal against the decision of lower court arising out of an FIR registered under Sections 302, 304B, 498A, 34, 174A of Penal Code, 1860 against the four accused, namely Rohtash, Santosh, Sumit and Jitender.

Appellant Sumit – accused 3 was found guilty of commission of offence of murder under Section 302 IPC. Other accused persons were acquitted of the offence for which they were charged.

Factual Background

Deceased and her sister were married to both sons of the accused Rohtash and few days after the marriage, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in- law and the husband of the deceased started abusing and beating both the sisters and even damaged the articles given in the marriage. Later both the sisters were beaten and removed from the matrimonial house and the child aged 15-16 days was also snatched from the deceased. Though the child was given back to the mother after police intervention.

After a few days, the accused and other relatives settled the matter and took the sisters to the matrimonial home, where they were both beaten again. After a few days, while the accused Sumit was quarrelling with and beating the deceased, he poured kerosene on her, and she was set on fire. Later the neighbours doused the fire and took her to the hospital.

To the Executive Magistrate, deceased in her statement alleged that she was tortured for the demand of car and two fridges by all the accused persons and her husband had set her ablaze in the presence of other accused persons.

In view of the above-stated background,

Charges were framed against the accused persons, but they all pleaded ‘not guilty’.

Eye Witness (PW-3) sister of the deceased deposed about the incident and about the physical and mental torture to which the deceased was subjected by the accused persons.

Detailed Analysis

High Court stated that the trial court had acquitted the accused including the appellant in relation to the offence under Section 398A and 304B of the Penal Code, 1860.

In Court’s opinion, the testimony of the deceased’s sister was corroborated by the Dying Declaration of the deceased.

Supreme Court in the decision of Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay, AIR 1958 SC 22, held that the dying declaration of a person by itself, may be sufficient to find the accused guilty and if the statement is reliable and credible, it does not even need corroboration.

Bench found that the dying declaration of the deceased was very clear in the present matter.

What did she state?

She stated that yesterday i.e. 14.09.2012, in the night at about 10/10:30 P.M., her husband Sumit @ Vicky, her father in law – Rohtash, her mother in law – Santosh and brother in law – Jitender @ Tinku were all at home and her husband Sumit caught held of her hand and took her to the terrace and her husband poured kerosene oil on her and lit the matchstick in the presence of the other persons/ accused and put her on fire. Her elder sister was also on the terrace at that time, and she was shouting “bachao bachao”. However, nobody came to help her and they all went down. That is when her elder brother in law – Pradeep came to the terrace and with his help and the help of the neighbours, her brother in law Pradeep took her to the hospital. She stated that the accused used to demand dowry and harassed her for the same. They had demanded a car and two fridges in dowry and after her marriage she was being harassed for dowry. She stated that her husband – Sumit, mother in law – Santosh, father in law – Rohtash, and brother in law – Jitender @ Tinku were responsible for her condition.

Deceased’s statement on the aspect of the manner and cause of her death inspired the confidence of its voluntariness, truthfulness and correctness, and was also sufficiently corroborated by testimony of PW-3 and other evidence brought on record.

Conclusion

Hence, Trial Court’s decision was upheld as the finding of the appellant’s guilt in the commission of the offence under Section 300 IPC and was correctly convicted under Section 302 IPC.

Appeal was dismissed in view of the above decision. [Sumit v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4551, decided on 30-9-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Appellant: Siddharth Yadav, Advocate

For the Respondent: APP for the State

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Navin Sinha and Krishan Murari, JJ has held that there cannot be any rigid standard or yardstick for acceptance or rejection of a dying declaration and whether or not it will be admissible in evidence will depend upon the fact of each case.

The Court was hearing a case dating back to 1991 where a married woman succumbed to 95% burn injuries. The case became complicated as there was no eye-witness account and the prosecution had based it’s case of circumstantial evidence involving the dying declaration of the deceased. The husband and the sister-in-law of the deceased were acquitted as the dying declaration did not inspire confidence.  “It vacillated between blaming the husband and the sister¬in-law, coupled with the absence of any certificate by the Doctor that the deceased was in a fit state of mind when she made the dying declaration.”

Explaining the law relating to admissibility of dying declaration under Section 32 of the Evidence Act, 1872, the Court held that it alone can also form the basis for conviction if it has been made voluntarily and inspires confidence.  However,

“If there are contradictions, variations, creating doubts about its truthfulness, affecting its veracity and credibility or if the dying declaration is suspect, or the accused is able to create a doubt not only with regard to the dying declaration but also with regard to the nature and manner of death, the benefit of doubt shall have to be given to the accused. Therefore, much shall depend on the facts of a case.”

Applying this principle the Court took note of the following facts at hand:

  • The statement of the deceased was based on hearsay evidence that the deceased was set on fire by her husband. There was no reference to sister-in-law in this statement and neither had she said anything about dowry demand.
  • The next statement of the deceased blamed the sister-in-law. This statement was not signed by anybody and the Doctor who recorded the statement has not been examined. Merely because his signature has been identified by the record clerk of the hospital cannot establish the correctness of its contents.
  • The third statement of the deceased was recorded by the Assistant Sub­Inspector blaming sister-in-law alone without any allegation against the husband, and on the contrary states that she was brought to the hospital by her husband. “It again does not disclose any dowry demand.”
  • Assistant Sub­Inspector who recorded the dying declaration does not state that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to make the statement. He states that the Doctor had certified fitness of mind of the deceased, when the dying declaration itself contains no such statement. In cross examination he acknowledges that the fitness of the deceased was certified by a resident junior doctor separately but whose signature and endorsement is not available on the dying declaration. The record clerk of the hospital also made a statement that the Doctor had not signed in his presence and that at times doctors would come and put their signatures in the record room.

In such facts and circumstances, considering that the statements of the deceased have vacillated, the Court noticed that there is no evidence about the fitness of mind of the deceased to make the dying declaration including the presence of the Doctor, the veracity and truthfulness of the dying declaration remains suspect. Hence,

“it would not be safe to simply reject the probable defence of suicide, to reverse the acquittal and convict the respondents.”

[Naresh Kumar v. Kalawati, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 35 OF 2013, decided on 25.03.2021]


*Judgment by Justice Navin Sinha

Know Thy Judge| Justice Navin Sinha

Appearances before the Court by

For appellant: Advocate Rajendra Singhvi

For respondents: Senior Advocate Ramesh Gupta

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of S.K Mishra and Savitri Ratho JJ. dismissed the appeal and directed to adjudication application for remission within 60 days of the receipt of the application.

The facts of the case are the deceased-Urmila had married the appellant-accused in 1994 during which a sum of Rs 20, 000 gold chain, ring etc., were given as per the demand made from the side of the appellant. After the marriage, the appellant further demanded a sum of Rs 10, 000 and he used to assault Urmila and force her to bring the said amount as dowry. The matter was settled by village heads on many different occasions until one night, on 07-07-2003 appellant set Urmila on fire after forcibly opening the door while she was sleeping with her son. Urmila had sustained extensive burn injuries and succumbed to death after recording her dying declaration before Basanta Kumar Jena, Officer-in-charge of Binjharpur P.S. where the FIR was lodged. All the circumstantial articles were collected for forensic examination and investigation. The Additional Sessions Judge convicted the appellant based on upon the dying declaration of the deceased which has been established beyond all reasonable doubt as there was no eye witness to prove the contrary. Aggrieved by the conviction, the appellant-accused has filed the instant appeal assailing the said conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 for acquittal or remission of sentence.

Counsel for the appellants Ramani Kanta Pattnaik and Savitri Ratho disputed the veracity of the dying declaration as the F.I.R. lodged implicates six persons including the appellant but in the dying declaration no such implication has been made out against five other persons, who happen to be the relations of the appellant. It was further submitted that no medical examination was conducted before the drying declaration was recorded to the effect that the deceased was in the right mental state to have recorded the same. It was further submitted that there is no independent corroboration of the dying declaration; it cannot be the sole basis of conviction and hence it is liable to be rejected.

Counsel for the respondents Subir Kumar Pallit submitted that if the dying declaration is accepted to be true and voluntary, conviction can be upheld on the basis of the uncorroborated testimony and uncorroborated dying declaration of the deceased. It was also submitted that it is a mere rule of prudence and not the ultimate test as to whether or not the dying declaration was truthful or voluntary. It was also argued that no format has been prescribed for recording a dying declaration.

The main issue in the instant case is whether the judgment of conviction recorded by the Additional Sessions Judge only on the basis of the dying declaration stands scrutiny or not.

The court relied on judgments Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay; [1958] S.C.R. 552 and Paniben v. State of Gujarat (1992) 2 SCC 474 wherein it was held that

“Though a dying declaration is entitled to great weight, it is worthwhile to note that the accused has no power of cross-examination. Such a power is essential for eliciting the truth as an obligation of oath could be. This is the reason the Court also insists that the dying declaration should be of such a nature as to inspire full confidence of the Court in its correctness. The Court has to be on guard that the statement of deceased was not as a result of tutoring, prompting or a product of imagination. The Court must be further satisfied that the deceased was in a fit state of mind after a clear opportunity to observe and identify the assailants. Once the Court is satisfied that the declaration was true and voluntary, undoubtedly, it can base its conviction without any further corroboration. It cannot be laid down as an absolute rule of law that the dying declaration cannot form the sole basis of conviction unless it is corroborated. The rule requiring corroboration is merely a rule of prudence”

 Comprehensive principles regarding dying declaration are  

  • There is neither rule of law nor of prudence that dying declaration cannot be acted upon without corroboration. [Mannu Raja v. State of M.P; (1976) 3 SCC 104
  • If the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and voluntary it can base conviction on it, without corroboration. [State of U. P. v. Ram Sagar Yadav; (1985) 1 SCC 552] 
  • The Court has to scrutinize the dying declaration carefully and must ensure that the declaration is not the result of tutoring, prompting or imagination. The deceased had opportunity to observe and identify the assailants and was in a fit state to make the declaration. [Ram Chandra Reddy v. Public Prosecutor; (1976) 3 SCC 618]
  • Where dying declaration is suspicious it should not be acted upon without corroborative evidence. [Rasheed Beg v. Sate of M P; (1974) 4 SCC 264]
  • Where the deceased was unconscious and could never make any dying declaration the evidence with regard to it is to be rejected. [Kake Singh v. State of M. P.; 1981 Supp SCC 25] 
  • A dying declaration which suffers from infirmity cannot form the basis of conviction. [Ram Manorath v. State of U.P.; (1981) 2 SCC 654]
  • Merely because a dying declaration does not contain the details as to the occurrence, it is not to be rejected. [State of Maharashtra v. Krishnamurthi Laxmipati Naidu; 1980 Supp SCC 455] 
  • Equally, merely because it is a brief statement, it is not be discarded. On the contrary, the shortness of the statement itself guarantees truth. [Surajdeo Ojha v. State of Bihar; 1980 Supp SCC 769] 
  • Normally the court in order to satisfy whether deceased was in a fit mental condition to make the dying declaration look up to the medical opinion. But where the eye witness has said that the deceased was in a fit and conscious state to make this dying declaration, the medical opinion cannot prevail. [Nanahau Ram v. State of M.P.; AIR 1988 SC 912]
  • Where the prosecution version differs from the version as given in the dying declaration, the said declaration cannot be acted upon. [State of U.P. v. Madan Mohan; (1989) 3 SCC 390]

Issue 1: Dying Declaration

The Court thus observed based on the examination of the deceased and her statements and other documents available on record that the all the evidence read together leaves no doubt in the mind of the Court that the dying declaration is true and voluntary.

The Court thus held that dying declaration was relied upon by the Additional Sessions Judge, who had the opportunity of observing the demeanor of the witnesses when the evidence was recorded and therefore, this is not a case where the dying declaration should be viewed with suspicious and hence the impugned judgment with respect to conviction must prevail.

Issue 2: Remission of Sentence

The Court observed that Remission consists of two types, one where remission is earned by a prisoner under the Prison Rules or other relevant rules based on his/her good behaviour or such other stipulations prescribed therein. The other remission is the grant of it by the appropriate Government in exercise of its power under Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Court further relied on judgment Swamy Sraddananda v. State of Karnataka; (2008) 13 SCC 767  and observed that the only right of the convict i.e. recognized is a right to apply to the competent authority and have his case considered in a fair and reasonable manner.

The Court held that it is open for appellant to make an application to the proper authority in the State of Odisha, the Principal Secretary, Department of Home, Government of Odisha. So, we give liberty to the appellant to make an application to that effect to the concerned authority for remission of his sentence to the period already undergone.

In view of the above, appeal was dismissed.[Shyam Sundar Jena v. State of Orissa, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 934, decided on 16-12-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of B. Amit Sthalekar and Shekhar Kumar Yadav, JJ., held that dying declaration can be acted upon without any corroboration when the Court feels convinced about its trustworthiness.

Appellants filed the instant criminal appeal against the order passed by Additional Sessions Judge whereby appellants have been convicted under Section 302/34 of Penal Code, 1860.

All the appellants except appellant Kamal were convicted under Section 498-A IPC and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment along with fine with default stipulation. Further, all the appellants except appellant Kamal were convicted under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment along with fine with default stipulation.

Adding to the above, all the appellants except appellant Kamal were convicted under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and sentenced to two years imprisonment along with fine with default stipulation.

Appellant filed the instant bail applications in light of the above-stated.

The factual matrix of the instant case shows that informant alleged that the marriage of his niece was solemnised with accused-appellant Raju son of Jaiprakash. Raju, his mother and father, sister and his friend were continuously torturing and harassing the niece of informant for bringing less dowry and for not giving vehicle in the marriage, and these torturous acts of appellants/applicants were regularly complained to the informant’s side by his niece and for which a case of dowry was also registered and pending between the parties.

It was further added to the allegations that the appellants/applicants took the niece of the informant to her matrimonial home, thereafter, she has been continuously harassed and maltreated again for bringing less dowry, which was also complained by her to the informant and the family members.

It was alleged that the appellants set ablaze the informant’s niece with the intention to kill her and when the informant and his family members got the said information, they took her to the hospital and on enquiry by the informant she narrated that all the appellants set her at ablaze with an intention to kill her.

During the treatment, informant’s niece lost her life.

Appellants Counsel submitted that the dying declaration is not trustworthy because, in the dying declaration, it has not been recorded that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to make the said dying declaration.

AGA for the State placed reliance on the dying declaration recorded by the Executive Magistrate to contend that there is no contradiction or inconsistency in the dying declaration so as to disbelieve the same. It was further submitted that Executive Magistrate in his deposition stated that before recording the dying declaration, he enquired about the mental status of the victim from the Doctor and on being satisfied regarding the fit mental status of the deceased, he proceeded to record the dying declaration and it is not the requirement of law that the Executive Magistrate was under an obligation to record his satisfaction that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to make the dying declaration.

AGA also placed reliance on the Supreme court decision in Laxman v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 6 SCC 710, wherein it was explained that medical certification is not a sine qua non for accepting the Dying Declaration.

Decision

Bench on prima facie reading of dying declaration noted that the deceased gave the dying declaration before the Executive Magistrate, who after having been satisfied that she was in a fit state of mind in giving the statement, recorded her dying declaration.

In the dying declaration, deceased categorically stated the manner in which she was burnt by the appellants.

It is trite law that the court should not be too technical when it feels convinced about the trustworthiness of the dying declaration, which inspires confidence, can be acted upon, without any corroboration.

Bench found a case against the appellants and hence bail was rejected.[Babli v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1461, decided on 09-12-2020]

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

Government of India has taken steps to strengthen legislative provisions to deal with incidents of sexual offences against women and girls.

Government of India has also issued various advisories to the States/ Union Territories from time-to-time emphasizing the strict actions to be taken by the police in cases of crime against women, including in cases of sexual assault which includes registration of FIR, collection of evidence for forensic examination and use of Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kit, completion of investigation in sexual assault cases in two months, use of National Database on Sexual Offenders for identifying and tracking repeat sexual offenders, etc.

Criminal laws relating to sexual offences against women provide, inter-alia, for the following actions to be taken by the Police in such cases:

Zero FIR

(i) Compulsory registration of FIR in case of cognizable offence under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). The law also enables the police to register FIR or a “Zero FIR” (in case the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of police station) in the event of receipt of information on commission of a cognizable offence, which includes cases of sexual assault on women.

Punishment to a Public Servant

(ii) Section 166 A(c) of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) provides for punishment to a public servant for failure to record FIR in relation to cognizable offences punishable under section 326A, Section 326B, Section 354, Section 354B, Section 370, Section 370A, Section 376, Section 376A, Section 376AB, Section 376B, Section 376C, Section 376D, Section 376DA, Section 376DB, Section 376E or Section 509 in IPC.

Police Investigation in 2 months | Rape

(iii) Section 173 of CrPC provides for completion of police investigation in relation to rape in two months. In order to facilitate the State police to monitor compliance, in this regard MHA has provided an online portal called Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) for monitoring the same. This is available exclusively to law enforcement officers.

Registered Medical Practitioner

(iv) Section 164-A of CrPC provides that in rape/sexual assault investigation the victim shall be examined by a registered medical practitioner under consent within twenty-four hours from the time of receiving the information relating to the commission of such offence.

Dying Declaration

(v) Section 32 (1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides that the statement, written or verbal, by a person who is dead shall be treated as relevant fact in the investigation 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. Hon’ble Supreme Court in its order dated 7th January 2020, in the matter of Criminal Appeal Nos. 194-195 of 2012 in the case of Purshottam Chopra & Anr. v. State (Govt. of NCT Delhi), directed that a particular statement, when being offered as dying declaration and satisfies all the requirements of judicial scrutiny, cannot be discarded merely because it has not been recorded by a Magistrate or that the police officer did not obtain attestation by any person present at the time of making of the statement.

Forensic Evidence

(vi)The Directorate of Forensic Science Services (DFSS) under the MHA has issued Guidelines for collection, preservation & transportation of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases for Investigation Officers and Medical Officers. In order to facilitate the State Police, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) has issued Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kits to every State/UT. It is necessary to use these SAEC kits in every case of sexual assault reported. MHA advisory dated 5th October 2020 in this matter may be referred. BPR&D and LNJN National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences (NICFS) have been regularly conducting Training and Training of Trainers (ToT) programmes on the procedure for collection, preservation and handling of forensic evidence for Police/Prosecutors and Medical Officers respectively.

Further, MHA stated, any failure of police to adhere to the mandatory requirements may not augur well for the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially in the context of women safety. Such lapses, if noticed, need to be investigated into and stringent action taken immediately against the officers concerned responsible for the same.

Read the Advisory here: ADVISORY


Ministry of Home and Affairs

[Advisory dt. 09-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.M. Gavhane and T.V. Nalawade, JJ., while partially allowing the appeal, held that,

“…with regard to offence under Section 498-A IPC, prosecuton has to prove that the accused in furtherance of their common intention caused cruelty within the meaning of cruelty given under explanation A and B of Section 498-A IPC.”

The present appeal was filed to challenge the judgment and order of Sessions Judge that had passed conviction and sentence for offence punishable under Section 498-A read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860, along with punishment under Section 302 read with 34 IPC.

Facts of the case were that the deceased was married to accused 1 about five months before the incident. While the deceased and accused 1 were cohabiting, the deceased sustained 86% burn injuries on 17-11-2007.

Later, dying declarations were recorded in which it was stated that since the marriage accused were harassing the deceased and asking her to bring Rs 10,000 from her parents. On account of the same, the deceased was assaulted and harassed.

On 16-11-2007, accused had beaten her by fist and kick blows and stick and on the morning of 17-11-2007, her father-in-law and mother-in-law caught hold her and her husband poured kerosene on her person and set her on fire by lighting the match stick and thus attempted to commit her murder.

Advocate for the appellants/accused 1 submitted that when both the dying declarations were recorded the deceased was not in a position to make a statement due to 86% burns suffered by her. Further, he stated that both the written dying declaration are not voluntary and trustworthy.

APP submitted that there was no material to show that dying declarations were the result of the product of imagination, tutoring or prompting.

Analysis & Decision of the Court

High Court stated that the death of the accused was not natural.

Looking to the defence of the accused and case of the prosecution it is to be seen whether the death of the deceased is homicidal, suicidal or accidental and if the death of deceased is homicidal whether the accused are responsible for causing burns to the deceased and to her death.

Nothing was found in favour of the accused in the cross-examination of medical officer. Court also noted that the contents of the dying declarations were not specifically put to the accused in the statement under Section 313 CrPC and as such no opportunity was given to the accused to explain the circumstances appearing against them in both the dying declarations.

Further Court found that kerosene residues were present on the burnt clothes of the deceased. If the deceased would have caught fire accidentally no kerosene would have been found on the clothes on her person. Evidence of the defence witness is not believable and sufficient to state that the deceased sustained burns accidentally.

Thus, accused 1 was responsible for causing burn injuries to the deceased and ultimately to cause her death.

Findings of the trial court that the prosecution has proved offence under Section 302 IPC against accused 2 & 3 father-in-law and mother-in-law of deceased is not correct and sustainable.

Hence in the above view, the appeal was partly allowed. [Dadarao v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 346, decided on 03-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of M.G. Sewlikar and T.V. Nalawade, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court to convict the accused under Section 302 of Penal Code and held that,

“ A person who pours kerosene on someone and sets him on fire has no right to say that he had no knowledge that this act of his would cause death or would cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.”

The present appeal was preferred against the conviction under Sections 302, 323 and 506 of Penal Code, 1860.

Facts

Appellant/accused was a liquor addict and one evening when he came to home, the deceased (wife) asked him why he consumed liquor after which the appellant/accused abused her and said that he would get rid of her.

On the night of the above-stated incident, when the deceased and her son went off to sleep, accused/appellant poured kerosene on the deceased and ignited the match stick and threw it at her and ran out of the house. Thereupon, accused/appellant poured water on her and extinguished the fire.

Two dying declarations were recorded wherein the deceased stated the same story as above, after which offences under Sections 307, 323, 504 and 506 of IPC were registered. Offence was converted under Section 302 of Penal Code as the deceased breathed her last.

Analysis

Sessions Judge found that both the dying declarations were voluntary and truthful.

“Principle on which dying declaration is admitted in evidence is based on the legal maxim “Nemo Moriturus Praesumitur Mentire”: i.e. the man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth. It is based on the principle that in the face of death, all the worldly aspirations of a man do not exist. It is unlikely that a person who is on death bed would falsely implicate an innocent.”

Principles of governing the dying declaration are enumerated in the case of Paniben v. State of Gujarat, (1992) 2 SCC 474.

Law on the dying declaration is that if the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and made voluntarily by the deceased, conviction can be based solely on it, without any further corroboration. When the dying declaration suffers from some infirmity, it cannot alone form the basis of conviction.

Dying declaration is enshrined in Section 32 of the Evidence Act as an exception to the general rule contained in Section 60 of the Evidence Act.

Court noted that the dying declaration was recorded and signed by the victim when the doctor declared her to be in a fit state to do so. Thus, both the dying declarations appear to be truthful and voluntary.

Bench observed that, accused had failed to explain the circumstances in which the incident occurred. Prosecution proved both the dying declarations. It also proved the presence of the accused at the time of incident and also proved that kerosene was detected on the clothes of the accused.

Having regard to the above, trial court did not commit any error in placing reliance on both the dying declarations and recording the conviction against the accused under Section 302 of IPC.

Counsel Shri Chatterji for the accused had contended that the accused had no intention of doing the said act i.e. the intention to murder as he had poured water on the person of the deceased soon after she was engulfed by fire.

For the above argument, Court stated that,

The act is so inherently dangerous that a man of ordinary intelligence can also contemplate that setting a person on fire would entail death or would cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

Thus, the High Court on noting the above held that the prosecution has proved that the death is homicidal. Bench also cited the Supreme Court’ decision in Suraj Jagannath Jadhav v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1608, wherein it was held that,

“Even assuming that the accused had no intention to cause the death of the deceased, the act of the accused falls under clause Fourthly of Section 300 IPC that is the act of causing injury so imminently dangerous where it will in all probability cause death.”

Hence, in view of the above, appeal is dismissed. [Navin Bhimrao Bansode v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 284, decided on 17-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Ranjit More and Surendra P. Tavadae, JJ., while disposing of the present appeal altered the conviction under Section 302 to Section 304 Part-II of Penal Code, 1860.

The Judgment and order of the Sessions Judge who had convicted the appellant under Section 302 IPC was challenged.

The facts pertinent to the case are that, the appellant was addicted to liquor and in the influence of the same he used to abuse and assault the deceased (Sarika). On the night of the incident, appellant picked up a quarrel on a petty ground and poured thinner on the person of Sarika and set her on fire. Later, appellant himself tried to extinguish the fire by putting water on the person of Sarika and took her to the hospital.

On the basis of the statement of Sarika, crime initially came to be registered under Section 307 of IPC. During the treatment, Sarika succumbed to injuries. After the post-mortem was performed, the offence under Section 302 IPC was added by the Investigating Officer. Later the appellant as arrested.

Advocate for the appellant submitted that the prosecution heavily relied on two written dying declarations and one oral dying declaration of the deceased. He further states that there are major flaws in recording the two dying declarations and they are concocted. Defence of the appellant is more probable than the prosecution theory.

Adding to his submissions, he stated that the appellant had no intention to kill his wife. Therefore the case falls under Section 304 Part-II of IPC.

APP for the State submitted that the dying declarations are consistent and there no flaws in recording the same. Thus, the same can form the basis for conviction under Section 302 IPC. Adding to his submission, APP stated that prior to the incident the appellant had threatened to kill his wife by setting her on fire and with this, it cannot be said that he had no intention of killing his wife.

The entire theory of prosecution depends on dying declarations alleged to have been given by the deceased immediately after the incident. Sarika (deceased) had disclosed her brother that the appellant poured thinner and set her on fire by a match stick. She also stated that the appellant had threatened that if she disclosed the name she would be killed.

Further, it is to be noted that the sum and substance of the first written dying declaration shows that deceased disclosed the cause of the incident as a quarrel over a petty count. The second dying declaration was recorded by the Special Executive Magistrate.

While going through both the declarations, they both appear to be consistent and there seems to be no scope for concoction. The first oral dying declaration was made by Sarika to her brother and thereafter, Police and Special Executive Magistrate recorded Sarika’s statement with the opinion of Medical Officer. Nothing was brought on record to establish that the dying declarations were concocted.

APP relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324; wherein it was held that the conduct cannot be seen divorced from totality of circumstances.

Decision

In the present case, it is established on record that due to quarrel between the appellant over a petty issue he poured thinner on the person of deceased and set her on fire. Taking into consideration the same it cannot be said that the appellant out of control did act of setting his wife on fire but subsequently he extinguished the fire by showing his remorse towards the act of setting fire. Therefore, the appellant had no intention to kill his wife and the said act cannot fall into the purview of Section 302 IPC but it squarely falls under the provisions of Section 304 Part-II IPC.

Thus, relying on the ratio of the decision in Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324, Court was inclined to alter the conviction punishable under Section 302 to 304 Part-II IPC. [Avinash Baburao Rayate v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 873 of 2010, decided on 31-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of P.N. Deshmukh and Pushpa V. Ganediwala, JJ., allowed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC and for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC. 

The appellant was convicted for the murder of his wife. It was alleged by the prosecution that the appellant used to ill-treat and harass the deceased after consuming liquor. The deceased died as a result of a hundred percent burn injuries. The conviction of the appellant was based on the dying declaration of the deceased recorded in the hospital. Aggrieved by his conviction, the appellant filed the instant appeal. 

The High Court considered the submissions made by R.M. Daga, Advocate appearing for the appellant, and S.P. Deshpande, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State. 

Perusing the order of the trial court, the high court noted that the order convicting the appellant was based only on the dying declaration of the deceased. Considering the post mortem report, the Court found that the deceased died of hundred percent burn injuries.  In such circumstances, the Court was of the opinion that a bare perusal of the dying declaration would reveal the deceased’s thumb impression thereon with clear ridges, which creates a doubt in the case of the prosecution. 

Moreover, no medical officer was examined by the prosecution to bring on record the fact of the physical and mental state of the deceased before and after recording the statement, nor there is anything on record to establish that in spite of any attempts made by the prosecution, no presence of concerned medical officer could be obtained. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in State of H.P. v. Jai Lal, (1999) 7 SCC 280. wherein it was held that the report of an expert witness cannot be accepted as it is unless the expert witness has been examined and in the absence of examination of the medical expert, the certificate given by him cannot be read into evidence. It was also held that medical witness is an expert witness and his evidence stands on a different pedestal than an ordinary witness.    

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of the trial court conviction the appellant. [Pravin v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 95,  decided on 07-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Sabina and Goverdhan Bardhar, JJ., while dismissing the appeal upheld the judgment passed by the trial court.

In the instant case, respondent Nafisa in her dying declaration stated that her husband Amin who is the appellant, in this case, used to beat her out of matrimonial home under the influence of liquor. On 14-08-2011 Amin under the influence of liquor gave beatings to her and poured kerosene oil on her and set her on fire around 8-9 pm. The children were sleeping at that time so she raised an alarm she was taken to the hospital by her neighbours. Meanwhile, the appellant fled away from the spot. Respondent’s statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Respondent died on 15-08-2011 at 3:30 am so the offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 was added. 

During the investigation, appellant said he was falsely framed in this case and said his wife had prepared meals and had served to children and he had no knowledge of how the fire was caught. Moreover, he said he tried to extinguish the fire and suffered injuries on his hands and face. When children were examined they didn’t support prosecution case and said their father tried to extinguish fire. Medical examination of the appellant said he suffered burn injuries on his hands and forearm. Even the parents of the deceased also admitted that she never complained about her husband to them. 

Therefore, the question before Court was that the statement recorded as dying declaration under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 recorded by the magistrate the entire case should rest upon it.

The Court relied on the case Muthu Kutty v. State of T.N., (2005) 9 SCC 113 where Supreme Court laid down that though the dying declaration is of great value and importance, the accused is left with no power of cross-examination. The Court has to be on guard “that the statement of deceased was not as a result of either tutoring, or prompting or a product of imagination”. In another case of Munnu Raja v. State of M.P., (1976) 3 SCC 104, the Supreme Court laid down that there is neither rule of law nor of prudence that dying declaration cannot be acted upon without corroboration.

The Court opined that the dying declaration in this case was obtained by all legal means as it was recorded by magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the doctor deemed her fit to give statement and it was also signed by doctor and moreover no reason was established of her to such a thing in her death bed. The appellant neither took her wife to the hospital and nor was present in the hospital during the time of treatment. Moreover, the medical examination of the appellant happened on 28-09-2011 and the incident took place on 14-08-2011. Delay of so many days further questions the credibility of the medical report. This establishes guilt in the mind of appellant. [Amin v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 3945, decided on 23-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Prashant Kumar Mishra, J. disposed of a criminal appeal where he altered the conviction of the appellant from the one under Section 302 (punishment for murder) to that under Section 304 Part I (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Penal Code.

The appellant was convicted for the murder of her sister-in-law. The appellant had developed a fancy for the deceased. The marriage of the deceased was fixed on the day previous to the incident. On the morning of the day of the incident, the appellant inflicted axe blow on the deceased in the field. She went to her house and after some time she was taken to the police station where she registered FIR. After that, she was taken to the hospital but she died on the way. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

The High Court noted that the deceased having died immediately after lodging FIR, it was required to dwell on the legal character of the said FIR, as to whether the same was admissible in evidence as dying declaration. Relying on Dharam Pal v. State of U.P., (2008) 17 SCC 337, the Court observed: “The legal position is therefore well settled that the FIR lodged by the deceased would attain the character and legal status of dying declaration if the victim dies before his/her examination in the Court.” Considering the same, the Court upheld the finding that the appellant committed the act that resulted in the death of the deceased.

However, the Court considered medical opinion of the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on the deceased, who stated that the deceased would have been saved if she would have been administered treatment immediately after the incident. The relatives of the deceased committed mistake by taking her first to the police station, rather taking her to the hospital. Considering such mitigating circumstances, the High Court altered the conviction of the appellant mentioned above. Also, the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to him by the trial court was reduced to 10 years, as already undergone by the appellant.[Ram Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 83, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. set aside the impugned judgment and conviction of the appellant by extending the benefit of doubt.

The prosecution’s case was hinged on the dying declaration made by the deceased Haji Muhammed Zamin Khan (complainant), in which he said that he was on his way back from a condolence meeting when the respondent herein fired upon him. After making this statement to the police, he succumbed to his wounds. The accused was arrested, convicted under Section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced to death. Peshawar High Court however altered the death penalty into imprisonment for life. Aggrieved by the said order, the present appeal was filed by complainant’s son.

The learned counsel for the appellant, Astagfirullah, contended that in the absence of any mitigating circumstance, there was no occasion for the learned High Court to alter the death penalty into imprisonment for life. Whereas learned counsel for the accused-respondent, Ghulam Mohyuddin Malik, questioned the legality of conviction on the ground that the case was founded primarily on a dying declaration and the prosecution miserably failed to show as to who recorded deceased’s last words and thus it was unsafe to maintain the conviction.

The Court noted that the statement of the deceased was recorded by Munawar Khan, one of the prosecution witnesses, who dictated it to Khan Ghalib Khan (another prosecution witness) to be recorded in the first information report. However, the second prosecution witness denied recording the first information report and thus it was unknown as to who had recorded the deceased’s last words.

It was observed that dying declaration is an exception to the general rule of direct evidence and it is admitted to the detriment of an accused without the opportunity of cross-examination upon the declarant under the belief that a person, face to face with God, would tell nothing but the whole truth. Therefore, it was held that prosecution must demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the dying declaration comprised of the words of declarant alone without extraneous prompting or additions. Thus, the person who recorded the dying declaration is the most important witness to verify its veracity. However, this person was missing in the present case.

In view of the above, the Court held that it was grievously unsafe to maintain the conviction and hence by extending the benefit of the doubt to the appellant, the appeal was dismissed and respondent was directed to be released.[Somaid v. Ali Gohar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 9, decided on 30-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Pritinker Diwaker and Ali Zamin, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by the accused and held that the trial Judge was justified in convicting the appellants under Sections 302 and 34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

In the present case, the deceased Radhey Shyam Maheshwari was a practicing lawyer and also an active politician. Accused Chob Singh was earlier a block President of Congress party and he was expelled due to his anti-party activities. Since then he had inimical relations with the deceased. When deceased was going to the house of Advocate Rajendra Pal Gupta, the accused Chob Singh apprehended him and accused Dharma Pal and other three other accused attacked him. Dying declaration was also recorded regarding the same. Trial Judge framed charges against the accused-appellants and the deceased accused under Sections 302 and 34 IPC; whereas against accused-appellant, an additional charge was framed under Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959. During the pendency of the trial, accused Chob Singh expired and the trial court proceeded with the case of remaining three accused persons. The trial Judge convicted the accused on the basis of the dying declaration and statements of two prosecution witnesses. The trial judge convicted the accused-appellant and acquitted Shyam Lal under Section 25 of Arms Act. The present appeal was filed challenging the said order.

Learned counsel for the appellant, Arvind Kumar Srivastava, contended that prosecution witnesses 1 and 2 were not trustworthy, and that language of dying declaration prima facie showed that it was a concocted piece of evidence. He submitted that no one in his dying declaration would say that he is making a statement on oath.

Learned counsel for the State, Amit Sinha, supported the impugned judgment and argued that the statement of the two eye-witnesses were supported by the injury/medical report of the deceased and that the dying declaration of the deceased was fully reliable and trustworthy as the same was duly certified by the Doctor and the recorder of dying declaration i.e. the Executive Magistrate had administered oath to him before the accused died.

The Court placed reliance on Ramakant Mishra v. State of UP, (2015) 8 SCC 299 where it was held that mere fact that in the dying declaration an oath had been administered to the deceased before recording the same, would not doubt the credibility of the dying declaration and would not nullify the same.

Taking cumulative effect of all the facts and evidence it was held that the trial judge was justified in convicting the appellants as the Court found no substance in the argument of the defense that due to his physical condition the deceased was not in a position to make any such dying declaration. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.[Vidya Ram v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2265, decided on 07-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and Arindam Lodh, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the decision of the Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted and sentenced under Section 302 IPC for committing the murder of his wife.

The appellant was alleged to have poured kerosene on his wife and put her ablaze. He was accordingly convicted by Sessions Judge. Senior Advocate P.K. Biswas assisted P. Majumdar, Advocate representing the appellant challenged the dying declaration made by the deceased wife. It was argued that the dying declaration was not taken in accordance with the established principles of law and thus could not form the basis of recording conviction against the appellant. Per contra, A. Roy Barma, Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State submitted that the objections relate to some technical defects which should be ignored.

The High Court, on careful scrutiny of evidence, found that the signature or thumb impression of the victim could not be taken on the dying declaration as her hands were totally burnt. The Court put reliance on Inder Singh v. State (UT of Delhi), (1978) 4 SCC 161 and Pattu Rajan v. State of T.N. (2019) 4 SCC 771. It was stated: “There is no thumb rule that dying declaration must be certified by doctors. It can be said to be only a rule of prudence. In our considered view, if the person who records the dying declaration is convinced with the fitness of the victim at the time of recording the declaration in question, then, there is no reason to doubt the reliability or credibility of the dying declaration.”

The Court further observed: “Another important aspect to be borne in mind is that in our country, the Executive Magistrates or the Doctors are not adequately trained in such affairs. Keeping in mind the principle enunciated in Pattu Rajan case we are also of the considered view that the traditional dogmatic hyper-technical approach should be replaced by the realistic and traditional approach  for administering justice in a criminal trial.” In such conspectus, it was held that there was no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment and the appeal was, therefore, dismissed.[Khokan Sarkar v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 197, decided on 25-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Bench of B.P. Dharmadhikari and Prakash D. Naik, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal and set aside the decision of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 302 IPC for murdering his wife.

The appellant was convicted on the basis of dying declaration recorded by his deceased wife. It was alleged that on the fateful day, the appellant and his wife had a quarrel after which he poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze. The wife untimely succumbed to burn injuries in hospital. Aggrieved by his conviction recorded by the trial court, the appellant filed the present appeal.

Neha Bhide, Advocate, representing the appellant contended that there were lacunae in the dying declaration, it was unreliable and a fake document. Per contra, V.V. Gangurde, APP, appearing for the State submitted that there was nothing to doubt the genuineness of the dying declaration.

The High Court noted that the infirmities in the dying declaration spoke volumes about its genuineness. It did not bear the endorsement of the Doctor as to whether the wife was in a fit state to make a statement. There were interpolations at more than one places in the declaration. There was no description as to whether the thumb impression was of the right hand or left hand. The Court observed: “A dying declaration can be the basis of conviction, if the Court comes to the conclusion that it represents truthful version. To pass the test of reliability a close scrutiny is necessary as the accused has no opportunity to cross examine the maker of dying declaration. It must inspire full confidence of the Court regarding its correctness and voluntariness and court must ensure that the statement was not the result of tutoring, prompting or product of imagination.” 

Holding that the dying declaration in the present case failed to pass the test of reliability, the Court was of the opinion that appellant deserved to be given benefit of doubt. Consequently,the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted of charges as framed. [Ashwini Rammeher Sharma v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 803, decided on 08-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In absence of convincing evidence for sustaining the conviction of the appellants (in-laws), Sadhana S. Jadhav, J. reversed the trial court’s judgment whereby they were convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A (cruelty to woman) IPC.

Ujawala (deceased) was married to Pravin, son of the appellants. She had disclosed to her parents that she was happy with Pravin, but was ill-treated and harassed by her in-laws. On 06-04-1995, she immolated herself. Pravin extinguished the fire and took her to the hospital, but she succumbed to burn injuries. Appellant’s conviction rested on the dying declaration made by Ujwala where she categorically stated that the appellants quarreled with her and abused her for no reason, and therefore being fed up, she immolated herself.

Shekhar A. Ingawale, Advocate represented the appellants. Per contra, Pallavi Dabholkar, Assistant Public Prosecutor appeared for the State.

The High Court noted some pertinent facts: (i) There was a doubt as to endorsement  of the Doctor that Ujawala was in a fit condition to give the statement; (ii) as per the record, Ujwala sustained 100% burn injuries on both hands, in spite of that a clear thumb impression was obtained on her statement; (iii) the statement was snot read-over to Ujwala; (iv) Ujwala’s father was present at the time of recording of her statement  and even countersigned it. Such and other facts, in the Court’s opinion, spelled a doubt on the veracity of Ujwala’s dying declaration.

The Court additionally noted that options were open to Ujwala. She was working in a factory, was economically independent and her husband was supportive. In such a view, it was held that no conviction could be recorded solely on the basis of the dying declaration. The appeal was thus allowed. [Nana Dhondiram Lad v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 605, decided on 15-03-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of MM Shantanagoudar and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has held that it cannot be laid down as an absolute rule of law that a dying declaration cannot form the sole basis of conviction unless it is corroborated by other evidence. It was held that:

“A dying declaration, if found reliable, and if it is not an attempt by the deceased to cover the truth or to falsely implicate the accused, can be safely relied upon by the courts and can form the basis of conviction. More so, where the version given by the deceased as the dying declaration is supported and corroborated by other prosecution evidence, there is no reason for the courts to doubt the truthfulness of such dying declaration.”

The Court was hearing a matter wherein the deceased had died after the accused stabbed him during a quarrel relating to land dispute. He gave a statement to the Doctor when he was taken to primary care and that statement, in which the victim narrated the occurrence including the names of the assailants, was treated as a dying declaration. The Trial Court had, upon appreciation of the material on record, acquitted all the accused and held that the dying declaration of the victim was unreliable.

Noticing that the Trial Court had given more weightage to the minor variations found in the evidence   of the prosecution witnesses as compared to the information found in the dying declaration, the Court said:

“The courts cannot expect a victim like the deceased herein to state in exact words as to what happened during the course of the crime, inasmuch as it would be very difficult   for   such   a   victim, who has suffered multiple grievous injuries, to state all the details of the incident meticulously and that too in a parrot­like manner.”

The Court also said that the Trial   Court   was wrong in assuming that   the   Investigation   Officer   in collusion   with   the   doctor   wilfully   fabricated   the   dying declaration. It said:

“It is needless to state that the Investigation Officer and the doctor are independent public servants and are not related either to the accused or the deceased.  It is not open for the Trial Court to cast aspersions on the said public officers in relation to the dying declaration, more particularly when there is no supporting evidence to show such fabrication.”

[Laltu Ghosh v. State of West Bengal, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 236, decided on 19.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Sunil Gaur and Pratibha M. Singh JJ., dismissed an appeal against conviction before it. The appellant had been convicted under Section 302 IPC for the pre-meditated murder of the deceased and pleaded for scaling down of the offence convicted for to culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 IPC.

The trial Court had convicted the accused relied on the dying declaration of the deceased (Ext. PW 3/A), the evidence of his wife (PW 3) and the evidence of the accused’ brother (PW 7). The appellant challenged the conviction on the grounds that the evidence of the initial investigating officer (PW 19) and the accompanying constable (PW 14) were inconsistent regarding the time of preparation of rukka (statement given) and that the same creates serious doubts as to authenticity of the prosecution’s case. Further, the appellant submitted that PW 7’s statements in the cross examination were vastly different than his statements in the examination-in-chief and hence, the ocular evidence is inconsistent and unreliable.

The Court took note of the submissions and held that the dying declaration of the deceased was fully corroborated by evidence of PW 3 who was an eyewitness to the incident. Her testimony remained unshaken in the cross-examination. Regarding PW 7 turning hostile, the Court observed that his cross-examination had taken place almost 13 months after recording of evidence and opined that such a long gap may have urged him to turn hostile.

Relying on the Supreme Court judgment in Ramesh v. State of Haryana, (2017) 1 SCC 529, the Court reiterated that it is common for witnesses to turn hostile in criminal cases and that it should not be a reason to let the accused go scot free if there are other evidences to support the charges against the accused. Explaining the importance attributed to a dying declaration, the court relied on Lakhan v. State of M.P., (2010) 8 SCC 514 to reiterate that a conviction can be upheld solely on the basis of a dying declaration meaning that a dying declaration is to be disbelieved only if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the same. The rukka was thus held to be reliable evidence unshaken by the contradictory versions of PW 7. Appeal dismissed. [Vishal v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 8709, decided on 21-4-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Asking the Courts to be careful while dealing with dying declarations, the Court held that a mechanical approach in relying upon a dying declaration just because it is there is extremely dangerous. The court has to examine a dying declaration scrupulously with a microscopic eye to find out whether the dying declaration is voluntary, truthful, made in a conscious state of mind and without being influenced by the relatives present or by the investigating agency who may be interested in the success of investigation or which may be negligent while recording the dying declaration.

Regarding the approach to be followed in case of more than one dying declaration, the bench of Kurian Joseph and R.K. Agrawal, JJ held that the intrinsic contradictions in such dying declarations are extremely important. It cannot be that a dying declaration which supports the prosecution alone can be accepted while the other innocent dying declarations have to be rejected. However, it was held that the courts below are fully entitled to act on the dying declarations and make them the basis of conviction, where the dying declarations pass all the above tests. It was further held that The courts must bear in mind that each criminal trial is an individual aspect. It may differ from the other trials in some or the other respect and, therefore, a mechanical approach to the law of dying declaration has to be shunned. [State of Gujarat v. Jayrajbhai Punjabhai Varu, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 688, decided on 11.07.2016]