Dying Declaration – Importance of

The philosophy of law which signifies the importance of a dying declaration is based on the maxim nemo moriturus praesumitur mentire, which means, “no one at the time of death is presumed to lie and he will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth.” Though a dying declaration is not recorded in the court in the presence of the accused nor is it put to strict proof of cross examination by the accused, still it is admitted in evidence against the general rule that hearsay evidence is not admissible in evidence. The dying declaration does not even require any corroboration as long as it inspires confidence in the mind of the court and that it is free from any form of tutoring. At the same time, dying declaration has to be judged and appreciated in the light of surrounding circumstances. The whole point in giving lot of credence and importance to the piece of dying declaration, deviating from the rule of evidence is that such declaration is made by the victim when he/she is on the verge of death.
In spite of all the importance attached and the sanctity given to the piece of dying declaration, the courts have to be very careful while analyisng the truthfulness, genuineness of the dying declaration and should come to a proper conclusion that the dying declaration is not a product of prompting or tutoring.
The Hon’ble Apex Court in Atbir v. Govt. (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 9 SCC 1, taking into consideration earlier judgments in Paniben v. State of Gujarat, (1992) 2 SCC 474 and another judgment of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Panneerselvam v. State of T.N., (2008) 17 SCC 190, has given certain guidelines while considering a dying declaration:
(i) Dying declaration can be the sole basis of conviction if it inspires the full confidence of the court.
(ii) The Court should be satisfied that the deceased was in a fit state of mind at the time of making the statement and that it was not the result of tutoring, prompting or imagination.
(iii) Where the court is satisfied that the declaration is true and voluntary, it can base its conviction without any further corroboration.
(iv) It cannot be laid down as an absolute rule of law that the dying declaration cannot form the sole basis of conviction unless it is corroborated. The rule requiring corroboration is merely a rule of prudence.
(v) Where the dying declaration is suspicious, it should not be acted upon without corroborative evidence.
(vi) A dying declaration which suffers from infirmity, such as the deceased was unconscious and could never make any statement cannot form the basis of conviction.
(vii) Merely because a dying declaration does not contain all the details as to the occurrence, it is not to be rejected.
(viii) Even if it is a brief statement, it is not to be rejected.
(ix) When the eyewitness affirms that the deceased was not in a fit and conscious state to make the dying declaration, medical opinion cannot prevail.
(x) If after careful scrutiny, the court is satisfied that it is true and free from any effort to induce the deceased to make a false statement and if it is coherent and consistent, there shall be no legal impediment to make it the basis of conviction, even if there is no corroboration.” Umakant v. State of Chhatisgarh, (2014) 7 SCC 405.

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