Dying Declaration Made To Doctor Can’t Be Discarded Only Because Certificate Of Fit Mental State Not Appended: Orissa High Court

The Orissa High Court ruled in the case of Anjari Rout v. State of Odisha (JCRLA No. 88 of 2006), that a “dying declaration” made to a doctor cannot be questioned or should not be doubted simply because a certificate regarding the deceased’s mental state at the time of recording the declaration was not appended to it.

Brief Facts Of The Case: The informant (deceased’s father) filed the FIR reporting the alleged occurrence. A Section 307 IPC case was then registered. Later on, the victim succumbed to burn injuries. Appellant was thus  charged under Section 302 IPC. The prosecution presented oral and written evidence. Appellant presented no evidence. On the other hand, the Appellant did not lead any evidence. The lower court evaluated the prosecution’s evidence and the appellant’s defence plea and found the dead to have died due to murder. Appellant was convicted under Section 302 IPC and sentenced. The appellant appealed his conviction.

M.D. Das, amicus curiae for the appellant, argued that the lower court erred by finding the appellant guilty without properly evaluating the evidence and being ignorant of the law of dying declarations. Again, it was argued that the dying declaration before the doctor was not acceptable since it lacked an endorsement stating that the dead was mentally fit. He said the doctor had enough time to examine the victim and record her dying declaration in front of the I.O. or a Magistrate, but he didn’t. Citing Shyam Shankar Kankaria v. State of Maharashtra and Rupa Tiria v. State of Odisha, 2012 (I) ILR-CUT Cuttack 334, he argued that dying declarations are not reliable since the doctor and I.O. did not follow the process.

Mr. J. Katikia, the respondent’s Additional Government Advocate, said the lower court did nothing illegal. He said the appellant’s conviction is warranted and legal. The deceased told her family that the appellant lit her on fire by pouring kerosene on her body, which the lower court could not have disregarded. She also repeated it before the I.O. and told the doctor before her death. Mr. Katikia said the above dying declarations couldn’t be ignored. When the law decided that a dying declaration can be the only ground of conviction provided it is accurate and voluntary, the lower court appropriately considered them. In response to Mr. Das’s argument that the doctor did not add a certificate to the dying declaration nor record it in front of the I.O. or a Magistrate, he said that the declaration still had probative value. He relied on the Supreme Court judgement Laxman v. State of Maharashtra, arguing that a doctor’s certification is a rule of caution and the declaration’s truthfulness may be demonstrated otherwise. In that decision, the dying declaration was recorded by a Magistrate and there was no doctor’s certification regarding the victim’s mental fitness. The court held that this would not ipso facto render the declaration unacceptable, as its evidentiary value would depend on the case’s facts and circumstances.

Judgement: The High Court ruled that a “dying declaration” made to a doctor cannot be questioned or should not be questioned simply because a certificate detailing the deceased’s mental state of the deceased at the time of recording the declaration was not appended to it.  A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Radha Krishna Pattanaik held that a doctor was “the best person” to evaluate a victim’s mental state and noted that P.W.10 was able to understand the victim’s language and that, as a doctor, he was the greatest candidate to do so. The court also clarified that it is not true that someone else recorded the victim’s dying declaration, and that its acceptance is thus questioned because there is no medical document present. According to the Court, the absence of a certificate on Ext. 4 regarding the deceased’s mental state is of very little concern because it was noted by none other than a doctor himself.

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