M.P. High Court acquitted the accused “on a flimsy ground”

The trial court or the High Court may not look for corroboration of a dying declaration, particularly in dowry cases, to prove the guilt of an accused unless this statement suffers from any infirmity, the Supreme Court has held.

“The person who records the dying declaration must be satisfied that the maker is in a fit state of mind and is capable of making such a statement,” said a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Dipak Misra. But the requirement of a doctor’s certificate on the state of the dying person was not essential in every case.

‘Indication must be definite’

Writing the judgment, Justice Chauhan said a dying declaration could be oral or written. Any adequate method of communication — use of words, signs or otherwise — would suffice “provided that the indication is positive and definite. There is no requirement of law stating that a dying declaration must necessarily be made before a magistrate, and when such statement is recorded by a magistrate, there is no specified statutory form for such recording.”

‘Exaggeration needn’t belittle evidence’

As for discrepancies, embellishments and improvements, the Bench said that “in every criminal case the same are bound to occur” for reasons of common errors on the part of witnesses in observation, due to lapse of time or mental disposition such as feelings shock or horror that existed at the time of occurrence.

The court must form its opinion on the credibility of a witness and record a finding on whether his deposition inspired confidence. “Exaggeration per se does not render the evidence brittle.”

In the instant case, according to the prosecution, Kusum Rani was burnt alive by her parents-in-law and her husband Chandrabhan bolted the door of her room from outside. The trial court in Madhya Pradesh awarded life sentence to the three, treating it as a case of dowry death. On appeal, the Madhya Pradesh High Court acquitted them for want of evidence.

Allowing the State’s appeal against their acquittal, the Supreme Court said: “Upon proper appreciation of the evidence on record, the trial court found the dying declaration to be entirely believable and worth placing reliance upon, but the High Court on a rather flimsy ground, without appreciating material facts, has taken a contrary view.”

Setting aside the judgment, the Bench directed the three respondents to surrender within four weeks, failing which the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Damoh, should take them into custody and send them to jail to serve the remaining part of their sentence.

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