The present article is written by Mudit Jain pursuing B.B.A.LL.B.(H) from Indore Institute of Law.
The goal of this study is to uncover the principle of “Leterm Mortem,” which means “words uttered before death” and is referred to as “Dying Declaration” in legal terms. The term “Dying Declaration” informs you what it means, however this project focuses on the topics that are important in the legal area when it comes to dying declaration. The research discusses those utterances that were turned into dying declarations, the many types of dying declarations that are allowed by law, their relevance in the law, and whether they have any value or not. And, if it does, what are the exceptions?
In some situations, a statement made by a cognizant individual who is aware that death is impending about what he or she thinks to be the cause or circumstances of death can be admitted into evidence during a trial.
A deathbed pronouncement is seen as reliable and trustworthy proof since it is widely assumed that most persons who are about to die do not lie. As a result, it is an exception to the Hearsay rule, which forbids using a statement made by someone other than the person who repeats it when testifying during a trial due to its inherent unreliability. If the individual who made the deathbed pronouncement had even the remotest chance of recovery, no matter how improbable, the statement is inadmissible in court. A person who makes a deathbed declaration must, however, be competent at the time the statement is made; otherwise, the statement is inadmissible. A dying declaration is generally brought by the prosecution, although it can sometimes be used on the accused’s side.
The term “Dying Declaration” refers to a written or spoken disclosure of significant facts made by a deceased individual. It is a statement made by a deceased individual describing the circumstances of his demise. This is founded on the adage ‘nemo mariturus presumuntur mentri,’ which means that a man will not face his maker with a lie on his lips. Our Indian law understands that ‘a dying man seldom lies.’Alternatively, ‘truth resides on the lips of a dying man.’ It is an exception to the rule against excluding hearsay evidence. In this case, the individual (victim) is the only eyewitness to the crime, and his confession would tend to negate the final goal of justice. Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with instances involving people who are deceased or cannot be traced.
Section 32: Statements of important fact made by a person who is deceased or cannot be located. Statement, written or oral, or important facts provided by a person who is dead, cannot be traced, has become incapable of giving testimony, or whose attendance cannot be obtained without a degree of delay or expense that appears to the Court unreasonable in the circumstances of the case.
(1) When it comes to the cause of death.
(2) Or is created in the course of business.
(3) Or against the maker’s interests.
(4) Or expresses an opinion on a public right, habit, or subject.
(5) Or refers to the presence of a relationship.
(6) Or is made in a will or deed pertaining to the family.
(7) Alternatively, in a document related to a transaction described in section 13, subsection (a).
(8) Or is created by a group of people and communicates thoughts about the subject at hand.
But in this situation, we’re looking at a concept called “dying declaration,” which deals with issues involving the cause of death. Subsection (1) of Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act mentions it.
Such comments are significant regardless of whether the person who made them was or was not alive at the time they were made, with the exception of death, and regardless of the nature of the process in which the reason for his death is called into question.
The question is whether A was murdered by B, or if A was murdered by A.
A dies as a result of injuries sustained during a transaction in which she was ravished. The question is whether A was slain by B in such a way that A’s widow may file a lawsuit against B. Statements made by A about the reason of his or her death, pertaining to the murder, the rape, and the actionable wrong under consideration, are significant facts.
The Supreme Court ruled in Ulka Ram v. the State of Rajasthan that “when a statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death or as to any circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in the case in which the cause of his death comes in question is admissible in evidence, such statement in law is compendiously called dying declaration.”
In P.V. Radhakrishna v. State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court stated that “the basis on which a dying declaration is allowed in evidence is reflected in latin proverb, nemo morturus procsumitur mentri, a man would not meet his creator with a falsehood in his lips.” Under this clause, information submitted by a person who died later pertaining to the reason of his death is admissible in evidence.
In one prominent instance, the accused’s wife borrowed Rs. 3000 from the deceased at an interest rate of 18%. A number of letters related to his debt had been signed by the accused’s wife and recovered from the deceased’s residence after his death. On 20th March 1937, the dead K.N. got a letter that was not signed by anybody; it was pretty obvious that it would have come from the accused’s wife, who asked him to come to Berhampur that day or the following day.
K.N.’s widow informed the court that her husband had told him that Swami’s wife had invited him to Berhampur to get his money. The next day, K.N. left his residence for Berhampur, and his corpse, which had been chopped into seven parts, was discovered in a trunk in a train cabin at Puri on March 23rd. Because there was so much evidence against him, the accused was convicted of murder and condemned to death.
In Wazir Chand v. the State of Haryana, the Court noted the Pakala ruling and stated, “applying these to the facts of the case, their Lordships pointed out that the transaction in the case was one in which the deceased was murdered on March 21st & his body was found in a trunk proved to be bought on behalf of the accused.” The deceased’s remark on March 20th that he was going to the area where the accused was residing looked to be a statement about some of the circumstances of the transaction that ended in his death. As a result, the statement was correctly acknowledged.
The accused in R. v. Jenkins was charged with the murder of a lady. He assaulted her at midnight, but she recognized her since there was enough light to identify him. When the magistrate’s clerk inquired about the accused in order to record her statement, she stated that it was Jenkins who had committed the crime. When the clerk questioned if she said it with no prospect of rehabilitation, she said yes. However, when the clerk read the statement to her before she signed, she instructed her to include the term “at present” in the statement.
The court determined that the remark was not a deathbed declaration since her insistence on the words “at present” demonstrated that she had some, however flimsy, the chance of recovery.
Identifying Oneself through Dying Declaration
There is no specific type of dying declaration that is recognized or acceptable in court. However, with the correct identification, that must be operating as proof.
In another instance, the Supreme Court stated, “The core of the entire affair was as to who had stabbed the dead and why.” These critical details can be discovered in the dying declaration.”
1 Type of question and response
Where the deathbed pronouncement was not recorded in question-and-answer format, it was held that it could not be thrown out only for that reason. A statement recorded in the narrative may be more natural since it provides the victim’s interpretation of the occurrence.
2 Gestures and signals are the building blocks of communication.
The full bench of the Allahabad High Court held in the case of Queen-Empress v. Abdullah Accused had cut the throat of the deceased girl and as a result, she was unable to speak so, she indicated the name of the accused by the signs of her hand, it was held by the full bench of the Allahabad High Court “If the injured person is unable to speak, he can make a dying declaration by signs & gestures in response to the question. In another instance, the Supreme Court stated that “the usefulness of sign language would depend on who recorded the signs, what gestures and nods were made, what questions were posed, whether simple or difficult and how effective and intelligible the nods and gestures were.”
3. Statement language
Where the dead gave the statement in Kannada and Urdu, it was held that the statement could not be thrown out solely on that basis, or because it was only recorded in Kannada. Where the statement was in Telugu and the doctor recorded it in English, but another doctor took the care of interpreting the statement to the wounded person, the statement was deemed to be a genuine dying declaration.
4. Declaratory Statement
The Supreme Court underlined the need for verification of such declarations, particularly in a case like one where the wounded individual gave an oral statement to his mother, who was an interested witness. Such a proclamation must be approached with attention and discretion. A statement provided verbally by the individual who was knocked down with a lathi strike on the head and narrated as part of the F.I.R. by the witness who lodged the F.I.R. was recognized as a trustworthy statement for the purposes of Section 32.
5. Thumb Print
Because the victim had suffered 100 percent burns, a deathbed pronouncement confirmed by thumb impression was deemed dubious.
6. Statement Is Incomplete
The Supreme Court ruled that if a deceased does not complete the primary sentence (for example, the origin or reason for the crime), a dying declaration is untrustworthy. However, if the dead has told the entire narrative but fails to respond to the final formal query about what else he intended to say, the declaration can be relied on.
7. Where the declarer is still alive
In one case decided by the Supreme Court, the deceased who made the dying declaration was seriously injured but conscious throughout. The Court determined that the incoherence in his statement with relation to facts and circumstances was an insufficient reason not to rely on his statement, which was otherwise deemed to be genuine.
8. Lack of a medical fitness declaration
When a dowry victim’s deathbed declaration was challenged on the grounds that a doctor’s certificate of mental fitness for the statement was missing, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal since the case was not entirely based on the declaration. The facts were on record demonstrating that the wounded woman had gone to the hospital all alone changing cars on the way. This was substantial proof in itself to demonstrate her fitness.
9. At the location where interested witnesses were attending to the deceased
The Gauhati High Court ruled that where interested witnesses were present on the deceased when he was making a dying declaration and the deceased was neither physically nor mentally fit due to the injuries, no confidence could be placed on the dying statement, in the absence of proof demonstrating that the death was physically and mentally capable of making the deathbed statement and was not the subject of any tutoring.
10. When the statement is unrelated to the cause of death
When the individual giving the statement is not proven to have died as a result of the injuries sustained in the event, his statement cannot be claimed to be the cause of his death or any of the transactional conditions that culminated in his death.
11. Medical Report
The doctor at the hospital clearly wrote in the hospital’s Accident Register that the patient was aware, her orientation was fine, and she answered the question presented to her well. Her statement could not be dismissed based on her injury or post-mortem report, which said that “given the severity of the deceased’s injuries, she couldn’t possibly be in a position to make a remark. It was decided that if the medical assessment of fitness was accessible to the magistrate who was to record the statement, it was not essential for the magistrate to conduct an independent fitness investigation.
12. Doctor’s statement
In the case of a bride burning, the doctor who treated the dead testified that shortly after her admission, she told him that her husband had put kerosene on her garments and lit her fire. The doctor noted it in the case files. The doctor’s evidence was backed by the contemporaneous record. The doctor’s evidence was backed by the contemporaneous record. The doctor had no motivation, according to the Court, to fraudulently depose against the accused or produce fake case files.
13. FIR as a declaration of death
In K. Ramachand Reddy v. Public Prosecutor, it was determined that if an injured individual filed an FIR and subsequently died, the FIR was significant as a dying statement.
14. Dowry Death, Wife Burning, and Other Incidents
The Apex Court ruled that the death of a married lady in the marital home three or four months after her remarks expressing the risk to her life was a statement explaining the circumstances of her death. In a case of wife-burning, after recording her confession that her husband had set afire, she asked gently that her husband not be punished. It was alleged that she sought to clear her husband on this grounds. The court responded as follows:
This is a beautiful emotion that originates from the ideals of Indian femininity; a wife who has been set afire by her husband, according to custom, does not want her husband to be violently beaten. This emotion prompted a dying sad lady to declare that even if she were dying, her husband should not be abused. We don’t see how this remark can be turned into one that exonerates the guilty. In a subsequent application of this concept to a case involving “that horrible form of murder” known as woman burning, the Apex Court stated: “The three dying declarations confirmed by additional circumstances are sufficient in our opinion to bring home the offense.” The council has attempted to dismiss these assertions, failing to recognize that these are the moaning utterances of a dying lady in the grip of horrible anguish, which cannot be assessed by the standard of completeness of particulars that witnesses may provide in other instances. Discrediting such deathbed statements for short-falls here and there, or even in many areas, is unrealistic, unnatural, and immoral if there is any credibility at all. The heinous crime in this instance occurred in the house and in the presence of the spouse who was convicted. When a bride gave a statement to the physicians, she was 80 percent burned. However, physicians determined that she was in good enough health to make a statement. The court stated that based on the fact that she had 80 percent burns, no inference could be formed that she could not have made the remark. Where the dead wife’s declaration was only deposed by her mother, the Court ruled that this was insufficient evidence to convict.
15. Relatively made or implicated statements
In the subsequent case of Barati v. the State of U.P., the Supreme Court ruled that a deathbed declaration made to the deceased’s family can be trusted if adequately proven. In this case, the dead, who was slain by pouring acid on him, initially told his brother and son, The court ruled that the testimony was credible because it was repeated at the police station and again at the hospital charging the accused. Where the deathbed remark was recorded by the deceased’s wife, the Supreme Court did not dismiss it solely on that basis, adding that such evidence should be reviewed with care.
Dying Declaration’s Evidentiary Value
The evidentiary value of a dying declaration was observed in K.R. Reddy v. Public Prosecutor as follows: “The dying declaration is undeniably admissible under section 32 & not being a statement on oath so that its truth could be tested by cross-examination, the court has to apply the scrutiny & the closest circumspection of the statement before acting upon it.” While the words of a dying man are held in high regard because a person on the verge of death is unlikely to tell lies or connect a case in such a way as to implicate an innocent person, the court must be wary of the deceased’s statement being the result of tutoring, prompting, or a product of his imagination. The court must be convinced that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to give the statement after he had a clear chance to witness and identify his assailants and that he was giving the statement freely and without resentment. Once the court is convinced that the deathbed confession is accurate and voluntary, it may suffice to establish the conviction even without more evidence.”
In Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay, the Supreme Court established the following rules concerning dying to dying declarations:
- There is no absolute rule of law stating that unless verified, a deathbed declaration cannot be used as the only ground for conviction. A genuine and voluntary declaration requires no verification.
- A dying pronouncement is not less reliable than any other piece of evidence.
- Each case must be decided on its own facts, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the deathbed statement.
- A dying declaration is treated the same as any other piece of evidence and must be assessed in light of the surrounding circumstances and in accordance with the principle controlling the weight of evidence.
- A dying declaration that has been properly recorded by a competent Magistrate, that is to say, in the form of questions and answers and, as far as practicable, in the words of the maker of the declaration, stands on a much higher footing than a dying declaration that is based on oral testimony, which may suffer from all the infirmities of human memory and human character.
- To assess the reliability of a dying declaration, the court must consider circumstances such as the dying man’s ability to observe, for example, whether there was sufficient light if the crime was committed at night; and whether the dying man’s capacity to remember the facts stated had not been impaired by circumstances at the time he made the statement beyond his control; that the statement was consistent throughout if he had several opportunities to make a dying declaration separate from the official record of it; and that the statement was made at the earliest opportunity and was not the result of tutoring by an interested party.”
Exception of Dying Declaration
There are several instances in which the dying person’s statement is not admissible in court. The following are the conditions:
- If there is no question concerning the deceased’s cause of death. For example, if a person states anything in his declaration that is not distant or has a link with the cause of death, the statement is irrelevant and hence not be admissible.
- The declarant must be competent to make a dying declaration; if the declaration is made by a child, the statement will not be admissible in court, as it was stated in the case of Amar Singh v. State of M.P that the statement would not be considered reliable without proof of mental and physical fitness.
- Inconsistent statements have no value and cannot be regarded as evidential in nature.
- The deceased’s remark should be devoid of any influential pressure and should be stated spontaneously.
- It is absolutely permissible for the court to reject any incorrect declaration that is contradictory in character.
- If the statement is deficient in the sense that it cannot answer the key questions that are required to be found guilty, and on the other hand, the statement delivers nothing, it will not be considered.
- The doctor’s judgment and the medical certificate should back up the deceased’s statement and demonstrate that he is capable of understanding what he says.
- If the statement contradicts the prosecution’s case. The following issues should be considered by the Supreme Court in this respect.
Section 32(1) of the IPC does not expressly reference the dying declaration. It is the statement made by the person who is about to die, and that statement will be used as evidence in court to determine how his death occurred and who the mugger is. There are many circumstances that rely on the dying statement, and it should be handled properly since the dying declaration is the weapon that condemned the accused and served as powerful proof. The admissibility of a dying declaration was allowed in our Indian court since the law presumes that a man will never lie in his final leaving words, i.e. in his last parting words, as no one will face his maker with a falsehood. This is because a guy who is about to die has all of his needs and wants to be met, and his interest in self-deeds has waned, thus he rarely lies. However, if the deathbed declaration is discovered to be made deliberately, the court has the authority to reject the statement. Or, as previously mentioned, there are additional events and circumstances that, when combined with a deathbed pronouncement, make it admissible.
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