Bombay HC: Eyewitness evidence would prevail over dying declaration if deceased was adversely motivated

Eyewitness evidence would prevail over a dying declaration if the deceased was adversely motivated and the statement of the eyewitness inspires confidence, observed the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 10:08 PM IST
article-image
Bombay High Court | PTI

Eyewitness evidence would prevail over a dying declaration if the deceased was adversely motivated and the statement of the eyewitness inspires confidence, observed the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court.

“Where it is proved that the mental condition of the deceased was motivated adversely due to the immediate past events, the circumstances do not support the dying declaration, and the evidence of ocular witnesses inspires confidence, the ocular evidence would prevail over the statement of the deceased as to the cause of his death,” Justice SG Mehare said on January 20, upholding the acquittal of the man and his family accused of murdering his wife over dowry demands.

The man and his family were also tried for ill treatment and abetment to suicide.

Events before her death could have made her mental condition to become vindictive, the court said. “The events that happened in her (deceased’s) marital life motivated her intellect and her mental condition became vindictive. Therefore, she did not give the correct statement as to her cause of death,” said the court.

The judge even rapped the prosecution for failing to call independent eye witnesses to depose during the trial despite having recorded their statements. “The prosecution cannot withhold the best evidence only for the reason that the testimony of a such witness is against its case. The prosecution is always supposed to be neutral. It does not investigate the crime only for the person aggrieved. It has to treat the accused and the person aggrieved equally. Its primary job is to bring the true facts and material on record and assist the courts in arriving at the correct conclusion,” the court observed in its 23-page order.

According to the prosecution, the woman died within four months of marriage. Within two months of marriage, she was living alone in the in-laws house as they had shifted to another village because of constant fights, the prosecution said. On October 27, 2004, she was harvesting jowar when her husband and in-laws poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze, the prosecution alleged.

It relied on her three dying declarations, which had discrepancies. In the first dying declaration, the woman said that her husband and in-laws do not reside with her. Hence, she went to the field to harvest the crop. She alleged in her second dying declaration, recorded about 4.5 hours later, that she was ill treated and there were dowry demands. She added that they were regularly visiting her and abusing her. In her third dying declaration, she stated that the accused set her on fire in the standing crop of jowar.

The trial court found the defence eyewitnesses to be reliable and acquitted the accused on April 21, 2007.

The woman’s father then challenged their acquittal before the high court.

The defence pointed to the statements of labourers hired to cut the crop, who consistently testified that the woman came to the field, asked the labourers to stop plucking, went to the cattle shed, poured kerosene on herself, and set herself on fire.

The past conduct of a person is relevant to determine whether it was a homicide or suicide, said the court.

The accused alleged that the deceased’s father wished to transfer the husband’s share of the income to her and that she was threatening to commit suicide.

Considering these circumstances, the court said that the probability of being depressed is high. “The possibility of cooking up a story of dowry demand cannot be ruled out,” the court said while upholding the acquittal.

(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )

(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here.  To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

RECENT STORIES

Mira Bhayandar: Electricity bill fraud cases return as elderly man duped of ₹2.45 lakh

Mira Bhayandar: Electricity bill fraud cases return as elderly man duped of ₹2.45 lakh

Mumbai: Innovation from scrap! CR launches high-powered vacuum cleaner to collect garbage from...

Mumbai: Innovation from scrap! CR launches high-powered vacuum cleaner to collect garbage from...

Maharashtra: Discord increases between BJP & Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena Thane

Maharashtra: Discord increases between BJP & Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena Thane

Supreme Court refuses grant Maharashtra license to bike taxi aggregator Rapido

Supreme Court refuses grant Maharashtra license to bike taxi aggregator Rapido

JEE 2023: Pune's Omkar Raichurkar tops exam with 99.99 percentile, Apurva Mahajan topper among girls...

JEE 2023: Pune's Omkar Raichurkar tops exam with 99.99 percentile, Apurva Mahajan topper among girls...