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Relevancy Of Fact: Dying Declaration

Can the identification through the dying declaration of a 99 percent burnt victim be considered and made relevant?

According to this definition, a deathbed declaration is proof that a person has provided about the events that led to his or her death. Despite the fact that it is undeniably hearsay evidence, its evidentiary value is limited to the exceptional. Because there is no way to cross-examine the evidence, hearsay testimony is often not admissible.

The concept of a dying declaration, on the other hand, represents the fact that a dying person would almost never lie about the events leading to his or her death. As long as the dying declaration is documented in line with the legal procedure and is free of any doubt, it might serve as the only foundation for convicting someone. If a 99 percent burnt victim's deathbed declaration is accepted, then a 100 percent burnt victims would be accepted as well, according to Vijay Pal v. State (NCT of Delhi).

When deciding, the court cited the case of Mafabhai Ngarbhai Raval v. State of Gujrat, in which it was found that 99 percent of burnt victims were capable of making a dying declaration. If Purshottam Chopra (Delhi) is provided as an example, the Supreme Court ruled that an appellant's conviction was affirmed because of the dying declaration of a 100 percent burnt victim whose testimony was taken into account. Identity plays a role in the death of the victim in the current case, and hence a 99 percent burnt victim's dying declaration would be taken into consideration and deemed meaningful.

Can the dying declaration of a person who has suffered 99 percent burnt injuries be acceptable?

When a dying pronouncement is properly documented, it can serve as the basis for a conviction in a court of law. Through a series of rulings, Section 32(1) has been widened by the court. Even though courts have divided on whether or not a person who has suffered a 99 percent burn injury can give an admissible dying statement after he or she has died, it has been held in most cases that the victim's capacity to give an admissible statement is more important than the severity of the injury itself to get a better grasp on the subject, a few examples must be examined. In the case of Vijay Pal v. State (NCT of Delhi[1], even statements provided by the victim who had suffered 100 percent burn injuries can be recognised, as the court ruled.

It relied on the decision in Mafabhai Ngarbhai Raval v. State of Gujrat[2] where it was found that a person with 99 percent burn damage might be regarded capable of making a deathbed declaration. " An inherent and obvious flaw had to exist for the trial court to substitute its own conclusion for that of the doctor in the aforementioned case, the Court concluded. According to the facts of the case, the deathbed statement was found believable.

The State of M.P. vs. Dal Singh[3] case shows that statements from burn victims can be relied upon, as long as they are regarded trustworthy in character. Taking into consideration the deathbed declaration of the deceased, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Purshottam Chopra v. State (Delhi)[4] on the basis of his 100 percent burn injuries. When someone has 99 percent burn damage, it does not bar them from making an end-of-life declaration that the Court can accept as credible and trustworthy. Even if a person has 99 percent burn damage, it does not mean that they are unable to speak.[5]

Evidentiary value of a statement if declarant survives?

Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act states that a statement made by a person who is still alive is not a dying declaration. When making a dying proclamation, it is assumed that the person making the statement is about to die and that they will not express anything but the truth in their final moments. As demonstrated in the case of Ramprasad[6], a declaration should be made before to death. Under CrPC section 164 (rather than section 32) of the act[7], declarations made by survivors are recognised as statements under the law.

Sections 155/145 of the Evidence Act define a prior statement for the purposes of contradiction[8] and corroboration, respectively (under Section 157 of the Evidence Act). Only in cases where the victim is still alive can a police officer's Dying Declaration be used.[9] As a result, the courts examine whether or not the admissions were voluntary and trustworthy.

Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows judges to accept a confession if both of the requirements are met. This means that the confession does not have to meet the onerous standards set forth in Section 32 of the Evidence Act in order to be admitted as evidence. There is no Section 32 of the Evidence Act that states that a statement is admissible as a dying declaration if it is made by an individual who is still alive at the time of the statement being made.

Briefly describe a recent case law of dowry death by burning the wife.

In the case of Bhateri Devi and Others v. State of Delhi, the husband attempted to burn his wife on the pretext of dowry. The case was prosecuted as a dowry death as the incident took place within seven years of marriage and was motivated by financial gain.

The court first examined whether the elements of a dying declaration were fulfilled in the present case. As has been established in the case of Ramawati Devi v. State of Bihar,[10] if a dying declaration is made voluntarily and is true, then a conviction may be based on the same. The court however also reiterated the fact that the victim must be in fit state of mind to make such a dying declaration which can be admissible in court, as was observed in the case of Nanhau Ram v. State of M.P.[11]

The court has also clarified in the case of Ram Kumar @ Nanki v. State of Madhya Pradesh, that a person will be prosecuted with dowry death only if the declaration proves that the accused committed the offence and the surrounding circumstances support this conclusion.

In the present case, the court first established that the declarant was in a fit state of mind to make the statement, saying that the lack of a medical certificate does not bar the declaration from being accepted as long as it was rational and did not blame third parties. Furthermore, despite the fact that the death happened within seven years of marriage in this case, the statement indicated categorically that the declarant set herself on fire during a personal disagreement.

Due to a lack of evidence indicating the spouse requested dowry and the prosecution's inability to build a prima facie case under Sections 304-B and 498-A of the IPC, the appellant was given the benefit of the doubt and acquitted by the court.

Evidentiary value of dying declaration together with exceptions thereof.

The notion of dying statement has been widely known for a long period of time. It is founded on the principle "Nemo moriturus praesumitur mentire", which means that a person will not approach the Almighty with an untruth in the moments preceding death. The admissibility and credibility of the victim's deathbed declaration has always been a point of contention for courts to resolve and upon which to establish the accused's guilt.

Under Section 32 of the Act, Dying Declarations are unquestionably accepted, and because they are not uttered under oath, their authenticity cannot be established by cross-examination. As a result, before determining the statement's worth, the courts must analyse and moderate it.[12] The Dying Declaration is evaluated similarly to other pieces of evidence, in light of the circumstances and in line with the weight of evidence standard.[13]

The following are the exceptions to the dying declaration:
  1. Mental Ability:
    The declarant's mental condition is a significant issue for determining the evidential value of dying pronouncements,[14] and where such mental capacity is lacking, the declarations are disregarded.[15]
  2. Declaration Inconsistency:
    When the declarant's testimony seems to be inconsistent, misleading, or dubious, it cannot be accepted as evidence. Multiple declarations containing facts that contradict one another are frowned upon by the courts.[16]
  3. Cannot Be Relied Upon:
    There are a variety of reasons why the Courts may deem the Dying Declaration superfluous and irrational, and hence reject it. Acceptance would be devoid of any logical contradiction.

Evidentiary value of Dying Declaration based on suspicion

The courts have time and again reiterated that the evidentiary value of dying declaration is dependent on the truth of the statements made and whether such statements were made voluntarily. In the case of Paniben v. State of Gujarat,[17] it was observed that if a court is satisfied that a dying declaration is both voluntary and true, then a conviction made out of the same need not be corroborated.

However, the court also relied on the judgment of Rasheed Beg v. State of Madhya Pradesh,[18] and clarified that if the court is indeed suspicious of such declaration, then it must not be accepted without some corroborative evidence. It also relied on the case of Ram Manorath v. State of U.P.,[19] and explained that if the dying declaration suffers from infirmity, then such declaration cannot be basis of conviction.

Hence, it is evident through the decisions made by the apex court that in the event that there is any suspicion with regard to the truth or the voluntary nature, or in any other aspect, of a dying declaration, then in such a case the dying declaration must not be acted upon without some corroborated evidence.

Evidentiary value of a medical officer's opinion and about the fit and conscious state of the deceased, effects of being medicated, delusional etc.

Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, read in conjunction with Rule 33 of the Criminal Rules of Practice, provides for the admission of a dying declaration. The rule details the procedures that must be followed by a magistrate when recording such a declaration. The obligation to establish the victim's mental competence in circumstances of dying declaration is quite crucial.

As a result, it is vital that the medical practitioner conducts an examination prior to recording the statement to ascertain the declarant's mental condition as has been observed in the case of Amar Singh v. State of M.P.[20] As a result, when there is insufficient evidence to support the declarant's mental and physical health, such a declaration will be deemed inadmissible.

In the case of Gulzarilal v. State of Haryana,[21] it was observed that medical practitioners have been found to be both a credible witness and an objective expert, which means that any Dying Declaration made by such individuals may be accepted and their opinion considered.

On the other hand, as observed in the case of Poonam Bai v. State of Chhattisgarh,[22] requiring a physician's certification is only a preventive step that should be applied based on the facts and circumstances of the case; the real issue is whether or not the dying proclamation is genuine and voluntary. Medical opinions provided by medical practitioners serve as a prima facie implication of the victim's mental ability, but other pertinent criteria should be considered as well.

Conclusion and suggestions to improve the prevailing Law of the Land
After an in-depth analysis of the concept of Dying Declaration, it is evident that dying declaration will be accepted and holds the same evidentiary value as corroborated evidence, in the event that the court is satisfied that the declaration is true as well as voluntary. The court has, however, taken into consideration the fact that if there is any suspicion with regard to the statement then the dying declaration needs to be corroborated with some evidence, in accordance to the case of Rasheed Beg v. State of Madhya Pradesh.[23]

While the concept of a dying declaration is indeed in furtherance of the principles of justice, some suggestions may be implemented to improve the prevailing law:
  1. Firstly, rules might may be established requiring the magistrate to record the dying declaration so that it may be examined for its authenticity. With an increase in the technological domain in society it could lead to a significant decrease in the disputes regarding the evidentiary value of a dying declaration;
  2. Secondly, in the event of an extreme circumstance where a magistrate, doctor, or other authorised individual is unable to record a dying declaration, any individual should be permitted to record a video of a dying declaration which shall be acceptable in court;
  3. Thirdly, stricter guidelines may be established with regard to the implementation of the rules which have been corroborated to ensure the authenticity of the declaration; and
  4. Lastly, there should be an aspect of public awareness involved with respect to the concept of dying declaration and its significance.

  1. Vijay Pal Vs. State (NCT of Delhi), AIR 2015 SC 1495.
  2. Mafabhai Ngarbhai Raval v. State of Gujrat, AIR 1992 SC 2186.
  3. State of M.P. v. Dal Singh AIR 2013 SC 2059
  4. Purshottam Chopra v. State (Govt. Of Delhi, AIR 2020 SC 476.
  5. Bhagwan v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 8 SCC 95.
  6. Ramprasad v. the State of Maharashtra, (2016) AIR SC 2292.
  7. S. Arul Raja v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2010 SCC 8 233.
  8. Maqsoodan v. State of U.P AIR 1983 SC 126.
  9. Shankaria v. State of Rajasthan 1978 4 SCC 453.
  10. Ramawati Devi v. State of Bihar, (1983) 1 SCC 211.
  11. Nanhau Ram v. State of MP, (1988) SCC (Cri) 342.
  12. K.R. Reddy v. Public Prosecutor, AIR 1976 SC 1994.
  13. Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay, AIR 1958 SC 22.
  14. Laxman v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 6 SCC 710.
  15. Amar Singh v. State of M.P., 1996 Cri LJ MP.
  16. Ramilaben v. State of Gujrat AIR 2002 SC 2006.
  17. Paniben v. State of Gujarat, 1992 SCR (2) 197.
  18. Rasheed Beg v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1974) 4 SCC 264.
  19. Ram Manorath v. State of U.P., 1981 SCR (3) 195.
  20. Amar Singh v. State of M.P., 1996 Cri LJ (MP) 1582.
  21. Gulzarilal v. State of Haryana, AIR 2016 SC 795.
  22. Poonam Bai v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2019) 2 SCC 754.
  23. Rasheed Beg v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1974) 4 SCC 264.

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