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Contradictory dying declarations: Proven one prevails

Multiple/Subsequent contradictory dying declarations by a deceased will not sustain in court of law if the version as reflected in the earliest dying declaration stands corroborated by evidence.

Published: 24th July 2017 07:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th July 2017 07:59 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Multiple/Subsequent contradictory dying declarations by a deceased will not sustain in court of law if the version as reflected in the earliest dying declaration stands corroborated by evidence of prosecution witnesses. The court will refuse to consider the plea of the accused to take into consideration one of the dying declarations which favours him or her.

A division bench of the Hyderabad High Court, consisting of Justice C V Nagarjuna Reddy and Justice MSK Jaiswal, dismissed an appeal by an accused against the order of a lower court which sentenced him to life imprisonment for causing the death of his wife. The case of the prosecution is that accused-appellant married her 12 years ago and the couple was blessed with two daughters.

But, in the past few years, he grew suspicious of her fidelity and harassed her. To escape his harassment, she went to her parents’ home several times but her parents and some other elders would convince her and send her back to her matrimonial home. On the day of the incident, she went to the field to collect wood and returned home in the evening. Suspecting her, he beat her. Weeping, she went inside to escape his blows. But, with an intention to kill her, he went inside, picked up a kerosene tin, poured the fuel on her and set her afire with a matchstick.

When she ran out of the house with flames engulfing her, her mother-in-law and some neighbours put out the flames and immediately rushed her to King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam with 95 per cent burns. On the same night, a magistrate recorded her dying declaration. On the following day, on receipt of medical intimation, a head constable visited the hospital and recorded her statement, basing on which a case was registered for investigation.

Later, at the request of the woman, the magistrate again recorded her dying declaration which varied from the one she had made two days earlier. She succumbed to the burns three days later. After investigation, police filed a charge sheet before the X Additional District and Sessions Judge (Fast Track Court), Visakhapatnam at Anakapalle. On consideration of the oral and documentary evidence, lower court convicted sole accused (husband) and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Aggrieved, he moved the High Court for relief.

The counsel for the appellant submitted that the dying woman had given conflicting versions in her statements, and urged the court to take into consideration her version that favoured her husband (appellant). On the basis of his wife’s last dying declaration, he was entitled to benefit of doubt, his counsel argued. On the other hand, the public prosecutor said that though there was a variation between the first two statements, the dying declaration which sounded natural and probably should be preferred.

The bench found that the woman, in her first dying declaration recorded by the magistrate, stated that her husband was responsible for her burns. In the second declaration recorded by the head constable, she stood by what she had told the magistrate. However, a completely different version reflected in the third dying declaration, which was again recorded by the magistrate at her request.

In a complete U-turn, she claimed that she had herself poured kerosene over her person and lit fire to herself as she was disgusted because children were not heeding her. Such complete volte face was evidently the result of tutoring as she, with death seeming a certainty, must have been made to realise that conviction of her husband may be detrimental to the interests of her two daughters. The first dying declaration reflected true version which was reiterated in the second. The bench dismissed the husband’s appeal, saying that there was no reason to interfere with the judgment of the lower court.

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