Q Why is it in News ?
A Recently, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court awarded two policemen life sentences for the custodial death of a murder accused on the basis of the ‘Dying Declaration’ made by the victim prior to his death.
- CBI is the premier investigating police agency in India. It functions under the superintendence of the Deptt. of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances - which falls under the prime minister’s office.
Q What is Dying Declaration ?
- Section-32(1) of Indian Evidence Act, 1872, defines dying declaration as a statement written or verbal of relevant facts made by a person, who is dead. It is the statement of a person who had died explaining the circumstances of his death.
- This is based on the maxim ‘nemo mariturus presumuntur mentri’ i.e. a man will not meet his maker with a lie on his mouth.
- The general rule under Section 60 of the Act is that all oral evidence must be direct -he heard it, saw it or perceived it.
Q What are Rules for Admission of Dying Declaration ?
- The grounds of admission under a dying declaration have been based on two broad rules:
- The victim being generally the only principal eye-witness to the crime.
- The sense of impending death, which creates a sanction equal to the obligation of an oath in a court.
- Anyone can record the dying declaration of the deceased as per law. However, a dying declaration recorded by a Judicial or Executive Magistrate will add an additional strength to the prosecution case.
- A dying declaration may in several cases be the “primary piece of evidence to prove the genesis of occurrence”.
- The only requirement for such a declaration to be held perfectly accountable in court is for the victim to volunteer the statement and be of conscious mind.
- The person who records the dying declaration must be satisfied that the victim is in a fit state of mind.
Q What are Situations Where Court Does Not Accept it as a Evidence ?
- Though a dying declaration is entitled to great weight, the accused has no power of cross-examination.
- This is the reason the courts have always insisted that the dying declaration be of such a nature as to inspire full confidence of the court in its correctness.
- The courts are on guard to check if the statement of the deceased was a result of either tutoring, prompting or a product of imagination.
Q Is there always need of Supporting Evidence ?
- Several judgments have noted that it is neither rule of law nor of prudence that dying declaration cannot be acted upon without corroboration.
- If the court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and voluntary it can base conviction on it, without corroboration.
- Where a dying declaration is suspicious, it should not be acted upon without corroborative evidence because a dying declaration does not contain the details as to the occurrence.
- It is not to be rejected, equally merely because it is a brief statement. On the contrary, the shortness of the statement itself guarantees truth.
- Normally the court, in order to satisfy whether the deceased was in a fit mental condition to make the dying declaration, can look up the medical opinion.
- But where the eye witness has said that the deceased was in a fit and conscious state to make this dying declaration, the medical opinion cannot prevail.