Dying declaration can be sole basis for conviction without corroboration: SC [Read Judgement]

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that a dying declaration can be acted upon and be the basis of conviction even without corroboration [State of UP v. Veerpal & Anr].

A Bench of Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna placed reliance on the judgments in Paniben (Smt) v. State of Gujarat and Kushal Rao v. State of Bombay to hold that if the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and voluntary, it can base its conviction on it, without corroboration.

Pertinently, the Court also relied upon precedents to hold that the mere fact that there is more than one dying declaration, cannot be a ground to reject all dying declarations.

In a nutshell
– Dying declaration can be basis for conviction without corroboration;

– Merely because there are multiple dying declarations, all of them cannot be rejected;

– Magistrate is a disinterested witness, the question of doubting dying declaration recorded by magistrate does not arise;

– Accused who were acquitted by Allahabad High Court for bride burning convicted by Supreme Court and sentenced to life imprisonment.

To elaborate
The Court was hearing an appeal filed by the State of Uttar Pradesh against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court which had acquitted the accused in a murder case. The case was related to bride burning, in which the deceased was assaulted by her in-laws who demanded money from her. When she refused, they poured kerosene over her and set her on fire. She later died at a hospital.

The prosecution brought on record two dying declarations, one recorded by the police officer and another recorded by the magistrate. The trial court considered the same as well as the medical evidence and convicted the accused and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

On appeal, the High Court, however, acquitted the accused mainly on the grounds that there were two dying declarations – one recorded by the police on December 20, 2011 and another recorded on December 22, 2011 – and that there was a gap of two days between the two dying declarations.

The High Court disbelieved both the dying declarations and acquitted the accused by observing that according to the deceased, when she refused to give her in-laws the money, they tried to assault and she ran away. Under the pressure she might have poured the kerosene on herself, the Court opined.

On appeal, the Supreme Court considered two issues:

First, on the multiplicity of dying declarations and second on whether dying declaration can be the basis of conviction in the absence of corroboration.

As regards the first question, Court adverted to its judgment in Jagbir Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi) in which it was held that merely because there are two/multiple dying declarations, all the dying declarations are not to be rejected.

“It was observed and held that when there are multiple dying declarations the case must be decided on the facts of each case and the court will not be relieved of its duty to carefully examine the entirety of the material on record as also the circumstances surrounding the making of the different dying declarations,” the Court said.

In the instant case, the Court noted that there was no reason for the High Court to decline the dying declaration recorded by the Magistrate.

“As rightly observed by the trial court, if she had committed suicide by pouring kerosene there would have been injuries on the chest as well as injuries would not have been on the head and on the backside. In our view, such injuries as found on the body of the deceased could have been possible only if somebody had poured kerosene on her from behind her,” the Court said.

Regarding the second question, the Court held that no corroboration would be required for dying declaration if the same is voluntary and true. In the present case, the medical evidence was consistent with the dying declaration, the Court opined.

“We also find that the statements made by the deceased in her dying declaration are consistent with medical evidence which reveals that there were burns on all parts of the body except chest and sides of the abdomen and back. The burns are at such parts as could have resulted when a person, other than the deceased poured kerosene and set fire. As already noted, if the deceased had set herself on fire, her chest ought to have been burnt,” the order stated.

It, therefore, set aside the judgment of the High Court and restored the conviction verdict of the trial court.

“Respondent Nos. 1 & 2 original accused are held guilty for the offences punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the IPC and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and a fine of Rs. 10,000 each as awarded by the trial court,” the Court ordered.

Read Judgment here:

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