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Dying declaration alone sufficient for conviction without verification or corroboration: Supreme Court

A dying declaration can be used as a reason and sole basis for convicting a person without needing to corroborate or verify such declaration was upheld by the Supreme Court of India through a bench led by HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE MR SHAH and HONOURABLE MRS. JUSTICE BV NAGARATHNA in the case of State of UP v. Veerpal & Anr. (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.   34 OF 2022).

Brief facts of the case are that an appeal filed by the State of Uttar Pradesh against the Allahabad High Court’s decision acquitting the accused in a murder case. The case concerned the bride cremation, in which the deceased was battered by his father-in-law, who demanded money from him. When they refused, they poured kerosene on it and set it on fire. He later died in a hospital. The prosecution recorded two dying declarations, one recorded by the police officer and the other by the magistrate. The court that held the hearing evaluated the same as well as the medical evidence and convicted the accused and sentenced him to life imprisonment. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court acquitted the defendants mainly on the grounds that there were two dying declarations, one that was recorded before police on 20.12.2011, and another on 22.12.2011 and that there was a gap of two days between the two dying declarations. When she refused to give her mother-in-law the money, they tried to beat her and she ran away. Under pressure that she may have poured kerosene on herself. On appeal, the Supreme Court considered two issues which are,the multiplicity of dying declarations and whether the dying declarations would be the basis for conviction in the absence of the dying declarations without verification.

The counsel on behalf of the state contended in the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court made a serious mistake by acquitting the accused of serious crimes pursuant to Article 302, read with Article 34 of IPC. In the present case, the Supreme Court should have trusted and evaluated the dying declaration recorded by the competent magistrate. There were convincing reasons given by the trial court, on its assessment of the evidence of the testimony before IO, which is considered the first dying declaration dated 20.12.2011 does not inspire confidence.

The counsel on behalf of the accused contended that in view of multiple dying declarations, the Supreme Court rightly acquitted the accused. There was no need to record another dying declaration on 22.12.2011. In the first dying declaration recorded on 20.12.2011, he stated that he committed suicide out of fear of his father-in-law and that the role given to his father-in-law was suicide. The first dying declaration dated 20.12.2011 was to chase after him only to beat, not to burn, and in the second dying declaration recorded by the Magistrate, he rolled over and blamed the victim – all other family members who passed away, the Supreme Court rightly decided. He refused to rely on the dying declaration recorded by the Magistrate/SDM. The deceased was mentally weak and committed suicide, so no murder case can be made.

The Apex court held that a dying declarations can be the basis for a conviction without any corroboration. Just because there are multiple dying declarations, not all of them can be denied. The judge is an impartial witness,the question of doubting the dying declarations recorded by the judge does not arise. Defendants acquitted by Allahabad for Bride cremation were convicted by the High Court, High Court and sentenced to life imprisonment. Based on judgments in the Paniben (Smt) v.State of Gujarat and Kushal Rao v. State of Bombay, if court is convinced that the dying declarations is valid, can base its conviction on it without proof if it is true and voluntary. Appropriately, the Court also relied on precedents to conclude that the fact that there were multiple dying declarations could not be a reason to reject all dying declarations.

Click here to read the judgement

Judgement reviewed by- Bhaswati Goldar

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