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Patient With 92% Burn Injuries Can Be In A Fit State Of Mind To Give Dying Declaration : SC [Read Judgment]

AKSHITA SAXENA
10 Aug 2019 5:40 AM GMT
Patient With 92% Burn Injuries Can Be In A Fit State Of Mind To Give Dying Declaration :  SC [Read Judgment]
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The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a murder convict by upholding the dying declaration given by his deceased wife. The Court held that the mere fact that the deceased had suffered 92% burn injuries per se would not mean that she was not fit to give the declaration. It also held that the a hyper technical view cannot be adopted by differentiating between 'conscious' and 'fit...

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a murder convict by upholding the dying declaration given by his deceased wife. 

The Court held that the mere fact that the deceased had suffered 92% burn injuries per se would not mean that she was not fit to give the declaration. It also held that the a hyper technical view cannot be adopted by differentiating between 'conscious' and 'fit state of mind' in deciding the veracity of a dying declaration.

The bench of Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph was hearing the appeal titled Bhagwan v State of Maharashtra. 

The appellant challenged the judgment of the Bombay High Court whereby he had been convicted under Section 302 of IPC for committing murder of his wife by setting her on fire after pouring kerosene on her, on the basis of her dying declaration.

The two main arguments raised by the appellant were that:

1. While the dying declaration certified that the patient was conscious, it did not certify that she was physically and mentally fit to make the declaration. It was claimed that his deceased wife had suffered 92% burns owing to which she could not have been fir to give a dying declaration.

2. The dying declaration bore the name of a person other than the person who was actually alleged by the Prosecution to have recorded it and was thus absolutely unreliable.

3. The Appellant had himself suffered burn injuries in an attempt to save his wife and he could not be held responsible for her demise.

The court rejected the arguments raised by the Appellant based on the following observations:

It was held that the court could not take a hyper technical view in differentiating between "consciousness" and "fit state of mind". The bench referred to the Constitution Bench decision of the SC in Laxman v. State of Maharashtra, 2002 (6) SCC 710 which held that a  dying declaration, which otherwise inspires confidence of the court, should not be discarded for the mere reason that all that is certified is that the patient was conscious and that it is further not certified that she was physically and mentally fit.

On facts, the Court noted that the doctor had certified the continued consciousness of the patient.

The court also opined that a person who had suffered 92% burn injuries could be in a fit condition to give a dying declaration, in view of the ruling in Vijay Pal v. State (Government of NCT of Delhi), 2015 (4) SCC 749.

"the mere fact that the patient suffered 92% burn injuries as in this case would not stand in the way of patient giving a dying declaration which otherwise inspires the confidence of the Court and is free from tutoring, and can be found reliable", observed the Court.

For the second contention so raised the court noticed that an unknown person was named in the dying declaration certainly because of a clerical error on the printed form of dying declaration. While condemning such carelessness, the court chose to ignore this error and upheld the reliability of the dying declaration.

On the third contention, the court held that minor burns sustained by the Appellant were a result of the natural response of a person set on fire, running around leading to those in the vicinity also catching fire. The same could not be used as a defence to plead innocence.

Lastly, Justice K. M. Joseph opined that "The unambiguous words came from the mouth of his deceased wife who cannot be expected to lie as she would be conscious that she would have to meet her maker with a lie in her mouth" and dismissed the appeal. 

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[Read Judgment]

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