Supreme Court lays down the principles governing dying declarations

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 7th January 2020, in the matter of Purshottam Chopra & Anr. v. State (Govt. of NCT Delhi) pronounced that a particular statement, when being offered as dying declaration and satisfies all the requirements of judicial scrutiny, cannot be discarded merely because it has not been recorded by a Magistrate or that the police officer did not obtain attestation by any person present at the time of making of the statement.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

(Para 21) Some of the principles relating to recording of dying declaration and its admissibility and reliability could be usefully summed up as under:-

i) A dying declaration could be the sole basis of conviction even without corroboration, if it inspires confidence of the Court.ii) The Court should be satisfied that the declarant was in a fit state of mind at the time of making the statement; and that it was a voluntary statement, which was not the result of tutoring, prompting or imagination.

iii) Where a dying declaration is suspicious or is suffering from any infirmity such as want of fit state of mind of the declarant or of like nature, it should not be acted upon without corroborative evidence.

iv) When the eye-witnesses affirm that the deceased was not in a fit and conscious state to make the statement, the medical opinion cannot prevail.

v) The law does not provide as to who could record dying declaration nor there is any prescribed format or procedure for the same but the person recording dying declaration must be satisfied that the maker is in a fit state of mind and is capable of making the statement

vi) Although presence of a Magistrate is not absolutely necessary for recording of a dying declaration but to ensure authenticity and credibility, it is expected that a Magistrate be requested to record such dying declaration and/or attestation be obtained from other persons present at the time of recording the dying declaration.

vii) As regards a burns case, the percentage and degree of burns would not, by itself, be decisive of the credibility of dying declaration; and the decisive factor would be the quality of evidence about the fit and conscious state of the declarant to make the statement.

viii) If after careful scrutiny, the Court finds the statement placed as dying declaration to be voluntary and also finds it coherent and consistent, there is no legal impediment in recording conviction on its basis even without corroboration.

A particular statement, when being offered as dying declaration and satisfies all the requirements of judicial scrutiny, cannot be discarded merely because it has not been recorded by a Magistrate or that the police officer did not obtain attestation by any person present at the time of making of the statement. (Para 25.1)

The juristic theory regarding acceptability of statement made by a person who is at the point of death has its fundamentals in the recognition that at the terminal point of life, every motive to falsehood is removed or silenced. (Para 25.2)

Acceleration of diminishing of hope of life could only obliterate the likelihood of falsehood or improper motive. Of course, it may not lead to the principle that gravity of injury would itself lead to trustworthiness of the dying declaration. (Para 25.2)

In a death case, the motive remains essentially known to the deceased and to the offender; and a prosecution case cannot fail only for want of proof of motive. (Para 27.2)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_07-Jan-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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