07 May 2121

The dying declaration is only a piece of untested evidence and must like any other evidence satisfy the court that what is stated therein is unalloyed and truth and that is safe to act upon - Supreme Court of India

Case : Jayamma & Anr. v. State of Karnataka Criminal Appeal No. 758 of 2010 with Criminal Appeal No. 573 of 2016

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Chief Justice of India N. V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose

Decided on : 07 May 2121

Relevant Statutes

Sections 302, 34, 504, 307 and 114 of Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Section 32 of Evidence Act, 1872.

Brief Facts and Procedural History

1. The parties in the present case are closely related. The case of the prosecution is that there was long-standing enmity between the families of Jayamma wife of Reddiniaka(Appellant No.1) and Jayamma wife of Sana Ramanaika (deceased) are in connection. A quarrel took place on 10.09.1998 in which, Thippeswamynaika son of the deceased assaulted and injured Reddiniaka (Husband of Appellant No.1).

2. Thereafter the appellants went to the house of the deceased on 21.09.1998 and confronted her about the same assault. The appellants demanded Rs. 4000/- for the cost incurred on the medical treatment of Reddiniaka. After a heated argument, the appellants allegedly doused the deceased Jayamma in kerosene and set her on fire.

3. Dr. A. Thippeswamy was the one who provided primary treatment to the injured Jayamma including administrating her certain pain killers. The doctor sent the medico-legal case information to the Thalak police station. On receipt, SHO K.V. Mallikarjunappa reached the hospital and recorded the statement of injured Jayamma. On being notified about the death of Jayamma the Police, centre requisition to the Court, requesting the offence under Section- 307 read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, be altered to offence under Section 302 read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. 

4. During the trial, several prosecution witnesses turned hostile

5. Since, it was not in dispute that Jayamma died due to burn injuries, the crucial question before the trial court was whether the death was suicidal or homicidal. The trial court noted that the sole material on the record of the connect the accused person with the offence of murder was the statement of the deceased which was being treated as a dying declaration. Consequently, the court held that the prosecution had failed to discharge its anas and acquitted the appellants.

The Issues of the Case

Whether the Death was suicidal or homicidal?

Whether the High Court erred in reversing the findings of try part in the exercise of its powers under section 378 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973?

Whether the prosecution has successfully established that the deceased died a homicidal death at the hands of the appellants?

Whether the injured was in a fit state of mind to make a statement before the officer proceeded to record the statement?

Whether the victim made the statement and if so, whether such statement can be the solitary foundation for conviction of the appellants?

Whether the prosecution was able to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused person to kill the victim went to her home?

The Observations of the Court

1. It may be seen that the entire case revolves around the evidentiary value of the purported dying declaration dated 22.09.1998. Before they advert to actual admissibility and credibility of the dying declarations, it was beneficial for them to brace themselves of the case law on the evidentiary value of dying declaration and the sustenance of conviction scholarly based the respond. The Honourable Supreme Court briefly noticed in these judgements:

a. In the case of P.V. Radhakrishna v. the State of Karnataka(2003)6 SCC 433,16 the court considered the residual question of whether the percentage of burns suffered is a determinative factor to affect the credentials of a dying declaration and the probabilities of its recording. It was held that there is no hard and fast rule of universal application in this regard and much would depend upon the nature of the burns, the part of the body affected the impact of burn on the faculties to think of other relevant facts.

b. In the case of Shyam Shankar Kankaria v. the State of Maharashtra(2003)13 SCC 10,11, it was restated that the dying declarations only a piece of untested evidence and must like other evidence satisfy the court that what is stated therein is the unalloyed truth and that is safe to act upon.

The Decision Held by the Court

1. The additional session judge found it difficult to uphold the conviction only based on a dying declaration.

2. Consequently, both appeals were allowed. The order of the court was set aside and the appellants were set free. Since they were already on bail their bail bonds were discharged.

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