Supreme Court: No rigid yardstick for acceptance or rejection of dying declaration

Case- Naresh Kumar v. Kalawati & Others

A woman had suffered 95% burn injuries in her matrimonial home on September 17, 1991, and succumbed in a hospital the next day.

There was no eye-witness and the case was based on circumstantial evidence of a dying declaration given by her against her husband and sister-in-law. The declaration was not certified by the doctor.
The case against them was filed under Section 498A (cruelty) and Section 302(murder).

In 2011, the Delhi High Court acquitted the accused as the Court was satisfied that it was a case of suicide.

The present plea is filed by the brother of the deceased, challenging the verdict of the High Court.

A Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice Navin Shah and Justice Krishna Murari heard the appeal.

The Bench stated that, a dying declaration is admissible in evidence under section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It alone can also form the basis for conviction if it has been made voluntarily and inspires confidence.

The court stated that the circumstances where benefit of doubt can be given to the accused. These are as follows:

1.If there are contradictions and variations which creates doubts about its truthfulness and affects its veracity and credibility.

2.If the dying declaration is suspect.

3.If the accused is able to create a doubt about the death or the declaration.

Therefore, there can be no rigid standard or yardstick for acceptance or rejection of a dying declaration.

The Bench further stated that based on the facts of this case, truthfulness of the dying declaration remains suspect and it cannot be assumed that there is no doubt of benefit in favour of the respondents and therefore, dismissed the appeal.

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