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-Report by Rhea Mistry

In Kamal Khudal v. the State of Assam, the supreme court stated that conviction can depend upon a dying declaration after corroborating and checking whether the said dying declaration is true. Even if the dying declaration is not corroborated, the court can move forward with the decision relying on it without any further verification.

Kamal Khudal is a convict, appellant herein, and has appealed to the supreme court to dismiss his punishment. Kamal Khudal and two others were accused of the murder of the deceased, Uttam Datta, and charged with an offense punishable under section 302 read with section 34 of the IPC.

In the judgment dated 10.06.2010, the two accused, Munna Bhoi and Kamal Khudal were charged with life imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 2000/- each, and if there is a default in payment of the fine, further punishment of rigorous imprisonment for a period of two months. Bipin Bhoi, the third co-accused was granted the benefit of the doubt and acquitted from the punishment.

In that case, on 15th July 2007 at 7 am, the co-accused, Munna Bhoi had come to receive the deceased, Uttam Datta, for paddy plantation adjacent to his liquor local shop. When the deceased had left with the co-accused, the brother of the deceased was present at home. After working in the field for some time, the deceased had tagged along with Munna Bhoi to his liquor shop where there was some commotion detected after going in shop as said by
the locals in its vicinity area.

After a few minutes of commotion, the deceased had come out with burns all over him, and this was witnessed by a local, Hanu Khetrapal. When asked about what had happened, the deceased had told him that the accused had poured hot Lali (the raw material used to make liquor) over him which caused him the burns. The deceased left and later his dead body was found in the drain of Duribam Tea Estate.

The learned counsel of the appellant asserted that the court had made an error in deciding the case. He stated that the judge considered the dying declaration without any corroboration and verification, and said the case is “reliable in legal evidence”. Arguing that as per the rule of prudence, the learned counsel stated the court should rely upon corroboration before relying on the dying declaration. The presence of the brother of the deceased, while the deceased went along with the accused, does not prove anything and cannot be considered as last seen together.

According to the medical reports of the postpartum of the deceased done by Dr. Nirmal Chutia, he examined that the deceased had healthy organs, but burns all over his body. His body has 75% of burns which caused multiple dark ecchymosis on his skin. Ecchymosis means discoloring of the skin resulting from blood underneath. He certified that the marks and injuries were caused after the death of the deceased and that the cause of death was shock and hemorrhage resulting from chest & skull injuries and skull injuries, including that on the thorax, multiple injuries had been detected.

The Supreme Court stated that the High Court decided the case accepting the dying declaration. The court said

“The law regarding the nature, scope, and value as a piece of evidence of oral and written dying declarations is now fairly well settled by various judicial decisions of this Court. A dying declaration, oral or written, before it could be relied upon, must pass a test of reliability as it is a statement made in the absence of the accused and there is no opportunity for the accused even to put it through the fire of cross-examination to test is genuine or veracity. The court has, therefore, subjected it to close scrutiny. But once the court is satisfied that it is a truthful version as to the circumstances in which the death resulted and the persons causing injuries, the law does not expect that there should be corroboration before it can be relied upon. However, if there are infirmities and the court does not find it safe to base any conclusion on it without some further evidence to support it, the question of corroboration arises.”

The maxim “Nemo moriturus praesumitur mentire” is put to use here which means that a person does not go to his creator with a lie in his mouth. The court believes that when a man is on the brink of death, the person will not lie.

The SC also stated that the appellant was arrested on 23rd July 2007 when he was supposed to be arrested on the 15th of July 2007. And that the appellant has not revealed what or where he was from the 15th of July to the 23rd of July. This proves that he was absconding. The Supreme court dismissed this appeal stating that there is no reason for them to interfere in the appeal and the judgment made by the High Court stands by.

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