Dying declaration must be made in the absence of friend or relative

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In a noteworthy judgment, the Bombay High Court ruled that the dying declaration of a victim should be recorded in the absence of a friend or relative.

A division bench of Justices Vijaya Kapse Tahilramani and AR Joshi made the landmark judgment while acquitting a mother sister duo from Pune, charged for bride burning. The court said that the victim’s dying statement was tainted as it was recorded in the presence of her mother.

“A dying declaration is relevant and material evidence in the prosecution of assailants. A truthful and reliable dying declaration may form the sole basis of conviction, even though it is not corroborated. But the court must be satisfied that it is truthful”, said the bench.

Furthermore, the court confirmed that while recording a dying declaration, it is necessary to ensure that only the person recording it, and in some cases, the medical officer is present. This move is necessary to confirm that the victim is neither tutored nor deterred while making the declaration.

Earlier, Pune’s Santosh Vaidu (32) and his mother Alkabai (42) moved the HC challenging a 2012 trial court’s order convicting them of murdering his wife Sunita. The couple married in the year 2006 and the complaint confirmed that she was harassed. On June 6, 2011, the police claimed that Sunita’s mother in law poured kerosene over her, while her son set her ablaze. In her dying declaration, Sunita accused both her husband and her mother in law of committing the sinful act. Subsequently, a lower court in 2012 sentenced the two to life imprisonment.

But, the HC said that the dying declaration was made in the presence of Sunita’s mother. “From the fact that Sunita’s mother Lata was present when the dying declaration was recorded, we find it unsafe to rely on it”., the court held.

The court further acquitted the mother son duo due to the absence of any credible witness.