|6 SCC 213(2021)
|DATE OF JUDGMENT
|May 07, 2021
|The Supreme Court of India
|State of Karnatka
|The Evidence Act, 1872; The Indian Penal Code, 1860; The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
|The Indian Penal Code, 1860– Ss. 34, 302, 307, 102, 504 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973– Ss. 313, 378 The Indian Evidence Act, 1872–S. 32
|CJI N.V. Ramana, Hon’ble Justice Surya Kant and Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose
The Case Jayamma & Anr. V. The State Of Karnataka revolves around the issue that whether the judgement could be given solely based on a dying declaration under Section 32 (1) of the Indian Evidence Act.
Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 defines the term ‘dying declaration’ as a statement of facts either written or verbally made by the deceased. This statement carries the explanation of circumstances that led to the death of a person.
The present case has undergone through all the Courts, i.e., the Trial Court, the High Court, and the Supreme Court, where the final verdict was given by Supreme Court of India on May 7, 2021.
It’s crucial to know the probability of truth and how prudent it is when a court of law is bound to make a justified decision in favour of the victim or person who is accused of a crime while taking into consideration the aspects of law. The law of evidence is based on a cardinal principle which suggests that facts of the case must always be supported and proved by direct evidence but not in case of Dying Declaration it is backed by an exception that makes it admissible in court.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- Both appellant and respondent in this case are close relatives, the appellant was Jayamma, the spouse of Reddinaika. The respondent, who was deceased, was Jayamma, the spouse of Ramanaika.
- On September 10, 1998, a quarrel took place between the two parties in which Thippeswamynaika, son of the dead Jayamma, injured and assaulted the husband of the Appellant i.e., Reddinaika.
- After that, the Appellants went to the deceased’s house and confronted him about the assault committed on Reddinaika on September 21, 1998 and sought Rs. 4000/- for the medical expenses paid while the appellant’s husband Reddinaik’s treatment. Once again, both parties indulged in verbal confrontation, which led the appellant to pour kerosene on Jayamma and lit her on fire, alleged by the respondent.
- After hearing screams and cries of Jayamma, her family members immediately took her to primary health care centre, where Doctor A. Thippeswamy treated her. The medical reports were immediately forwarded to Thalak Police Station. S.H.O. V.Mallikarjunnapa recorded Jayamma’s statement in presence of Dr. A. Thippeswamy.
- Since Jayamma was in a critical condition, she was referred to the Government Hospital, Chitradurga but on September 23, 1998, at 5:30 am, Jayamma succumbed to her injuries. Since Jayamma was in a critical condition, she was referred to the Government Hospital, Chitradurga but on September 23, 1998, at 5:30 am, Jayamma succumbed to her injuries. Since Jayamma was in a critical condition, she was referred to the Government Hospital, Chitradurga but on September 23, 1998, at 5:30 am, Jayamma succumbed to her injuries.
- The police subsequently filed a motion with the court, requesting that the offence be registered under section 302 read with section 32 of IPC rather than section 307 r/w sec.34. The post-mortem study revealed that Jayamma died as a consequence of unbearable pain she was experiencing as a result of her burn wounds. During the investigation, appellants were arrested and eventually released on anticipatory bail.
- The case was dealt by trial court and it took note of the fact that the sle material evidence on record was dying declaration which is the statement of the deceased.
- The accused were not convicted due to a lack of genuineness and evidence (except for the dying declaration). Therefore, the court acquitted the appellants. During the High Court hearing, it was decided that the judgement of the trial court would be reversed. The HC of Karnataka decided that a dying declaration was enough to convict an accused. The Hon’ble court convicted the accused under “section 302” read with “section 34” of IPC.
- Whether the death was suicidal or homicidal ?
- Whether the prosecution has successfully established that the deceased died a homicidal death at the hands of the appellants?
- Whether the High Court erred in reversing the findings of the trial court in the exercise of its power under Section 378 of the CrPC?
- Whether the injured was in fit state of mind to make a statement before officer proceeded to record the statement?
- Whether the Dying Declaration can be sole reason for conviction of the appellants?
CONTENTIONS OF APPELLANTS
- The appellant’s learned counsel argued that decision made by Trial Court was logical and fair. But on other hand the verdict given by High Court was incorrect and erroneous.
- They have stated that the court failed to evaluate the entire evidence and also haven’t dealt with the specific finding of the trial court which was the courts obligation under the sec. 378 of CrPC.
- They questioned on the credibility of the sole evidence of Dying Declaration presented by the prosecution. By referencing about the case of Paparambaka Rosamma and ors. Vs. The State of A.P. 1999, argued that a medical certificate stating the victim’s medical fitness as to her mental state and condition at time of giving statement should have been taken into account and High Court should not have relied on such declarations as there is no concrete proof of victim’s mental state and condition.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
The learned State Counsel asserted its support in favour of conviction by the High Court. The High Court gave well reasoned, logical reasoned judgement. It supported the arguments by giving reference of the case of Vijay Pal V. State (Government of N.C.T. of Delhi), 2015, where it was contented that even in the cases where 100% burn injuries had taken place, the dying declaration could still be relied upon to prove conviction of accused.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India noted that the High Court had relied heavily upon the statement treated as a dying declaration of the deceased. It rejected the dying declaration by arguing that injured victim was an old illiterate person, not in normal state of mind, it is not expected to narrate the minutes details of incident with such high precision and accuracy. The deceased, before her death, was administered highly sedative painkillers. She was reeling in pain and was in great agony and their were great chances of her being in state of delusion and hallucinations. There were loopholes and contradictions between the statement of Dr. A. Thippeswamy and police officer K.V. Mallikarjunappa in order of burn injuries on different body parts of victim. The police officer K.V. Mallikarjunappa admitted that he didn’t seek prior permission with doctor whether the injured was in fit state of mind to give a statement or not. The alleged motive for homicidal death is very doubtful, there are no concrete evidences to prove the accusation. The family members didn’t even informed the police about the crime it was the doctor who informed the police and report the incident. The Hon’ble Supreme Court was reluctant to accept the contents of the dying declaration. It further said that the victim was brought to the Civil hospital at 12:30 on September 22, 1998. She died due to burn injuries almost after 30 hours, i.e., at 5:30 am on September 23, 1998. There was adequate time to call the Executive Magistrate, but the same did not happen.
After analysing the case and all factual and circumstancial facts hon’ble supreme court observed that Jayamma was in great agony and was mentally and physically disturbed, moreover she was illiterate old women who can’t give accurate report of whole incident with such precision. The court pointed out that after the incident she was alive for almost 30 hours but the authorities didn’t informed the magistrate to record her statements. The Supreme Court noted noted that High Court had relied on Dying Declaration of the deceased and Corroborative statements from police officer and doctor who were only people present at the time when statements were made.
The present case raised several doubts on the validation of dying declaration,whether it can be used as a sole evidence in the cases. The additional bench found it quite difficult to uphold the conviction based on dying declaration, the court also set aside conviction based on dying declaration, it believed that high court’s power under section 378 of CrPC should not have been easily invoked in this case.
The Latin maxim Nemo moriturus praesumitur mentire, which simply translates as “A man would not face his creator with a lie in his mouth” or a person would not lie on his deathbed”. A dying declaration is piece of evidence that revolves around this maxim and is admissible in the court of law without being cross examined, as it constitutes final words of a person who is about to die. Here, in this Jayamma & Anr. V. The State Of Karnataka case Supreme Court examined the issue of Dying Declaration can act as a sole piece of evidence or not. The definition of a dying declaration is embodied in the evidence Act it is “a statement of facts narrated by the victim before death, containing all the circumstances and details of the incident”. A dying declaration can only be admissible in court if the individual making the statement is in a fit mental state, which must be certified by a doctor, and the statement must not be influenced in any way.
Written by Muskan Sharma an intern under legal vidhiya
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