‘Dying words not clinching proof’

If victim is in an unfit state of mind other evidence is needed for conviction: SC

May 29, 2019 09:45 pm | Updated 09:45 pm IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 18/02/2014: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan

NEW DELHI, 18/02/2014: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan

A dying declaration given by a victim in a possible unfit state of mind needs to be corroborated by other evidence to secure conviction, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and Deepak Gupta has referred to past judgments of the apex court to observe 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 either tutoring or 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 assailant,” the apex court said.

Once the court is satisfied that the declaration was true and voluntary, undoubtedly, it can base its conviction without any further corroboration, the court quoted a precedent, to acquit a person on the charge of murder of his wife in Pune.

“No doubt, a dying declaration is an extremely important piece of evidence and where the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is truthful, voluntary and not a result of any extraneous influence, the court can convict the accused only on the basis of a dying declaration,” Justice Gupta observed in the recent verdict.

The judgment was based on appeals filed by the accused, Sampat Babso Kale and his family members, against the judgment of the Bombay High Court in 2010 in a case of murder and dowry harassment.

It pertains to death of his wife due to 98% burn injuries at their home in Chinchwad in July 1989.

The prosecution based its case entirely on her two dying declarstions, one to the doctor who attended her and the other to a Special Judicial Magistrate in Pune. Both were examined as prosecution witnesses. They had testified that though she was sedated, she was lucid.

The trial court dismissed the case while the High Court upheld their guilt when the state appealed.

The apex court set aside the convictions and said she was suffering from extensive burns and was admittedly sedated at the time of her statements. The shock and administration of painkillers may have led her to suffer delusion. Thus, there was an implicit need to present corroborative evidence in the case. Besides, none of their neighbours who were present at the scene immediately after an alarm was raised were examined. This was a crucial lapse. The court ordered Kale to be released immediately.

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