The Madras High Court has held as unsustainable in law a trial court’s finding that the statement made by a woman, who died of burn injuries, to her husband was not a dying declaration.

In its judgment on an appeal preferred by the accused challenging a trial court order, a Division Bench comprising Justices K.K.N. Basha and P. Devadass said the lower court judge had rejected the husband’s evidence without assigning any valid reason. As per his version, on enquiry, his wife had narrated how she had sustained the burns. The doctor who conducted the post-mortem opined that the woman died of hypovolemic shock due to burns.” Therefore, the woman’s statement to her husband would clearly amount to a dying declaration.

The prosecution case was that there was a dispute between Srirangan of Ettyapuram village, Somangalam, Kancheepuram district and his neighbour Selvam over a piece of land between their houses. On April 5, 2007, Srirangan left for work. When he returned home at 6.45 p.m., he found his wife, Rajammal, lying in front of the house with burns. On enquiry, she told him that when she was pouring water on the compound wall, water stagnated near the neighbour’s house. Even after she apologised, the accused beat her. Later, Selvam poured kerosene on her and his brother-in-law, Mani, struck a match.

The Bench held that merely because the doctor had not certified that the woman was in a fit state of mind to give a statement, the version recorded by police could not be thrown out. In his evidence, the Sub-Inspector categorically stated that he went to the hospital and recorded the victim’s statement. Thereafter, he sent a requisition to the Magistrate for recording the dying declaration. The statement recorded was treated as FIR and a case was registered for various offences. The trial judge rendered a finding that the statement recorded by the police official could not be construed to be a dying declaration and further, the same could not be relied upon as the Sub-Inspector had not obtained a doctor’s certificate that the woman was in a fit state of mind.

Citing various judgments, the Bench observed that there was no variation or inconsistency in the dying declarations, that is, the oral declaration given by the woman to her husband and the declarations recorded by the police official and the magistrate. The clear, cogent and consistent statements could not be discarded.

The Bench confirmed the life sentence awarded by the Sessions Judge, No. 2, Kancheepuram, on October 10, 2011, to Selvam and Mani.

While confirming the conviction on four others, the Bench modified the sentences imposed on them to one of the period already undergone and enhancing the fine amount imposed on each of the accused for each of the offences from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 2000.

The four had been implicated only in respect of an earlier incident which preceded pouring kerosene and setting afire the deceased.

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