This article deals with some basic concepts of the law of evidence. Here, we are elaborating on the doctrine of Res gestae and dying declaration under section 6 and section 32 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively. The law of evidence is a procedural law, in which if there is any absurdity, it will be considered as the failure of justice. These sections at certain points or under certain circumstances may create dilemma while being interpreted. But if we read both the sections together, we can easily determine the basic similarities and differences between the above sections and also can determine when they co-exist and when they are repugnant in nature. In order to clear the misconception and confusion, we have done a critical analysis with the help of various case laws to identify the distinct applicability of both the sections as it is very necessary to understand.
Keywords: Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Section 6-Doctrine of Res Gestae, Section 32-Dying Declaration.
Doctrine of Res gestae and Dying Declaration
In India, in the process of delivering justice, the court doesn’t only look into the facts of the case but also relies on the truthfulness of the declaration made by the parties. These declarations by the parties are to be made under and according to a procedural law which is the Indian evidence Act, 1872. There have been many difficulties in understanding various parts of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. These complications in understanding this act occur due to the overlap and contradictions in some of the provisions given under this act. This creates absurdity and ambiguity while interpreting the statute or law.
In this article, we will put the spotlight on two sections of the Indian Evidence Act, the doctrine of Res Gestae (section 6) and dying declaration (section 32) and will lay down some similarities, differences, their coexistence, and their true nature of applicability with few case references.
Doctrine of Res Gestae
Section 6 of this Act deals with the relevance of facts that are part of the same transaction, which means, those facts which are not in the issue but have a connection to the facts in issues that will be considered as relevant. In other words, the facts which surround the facts in the issue will be considered as relevant facts. The main ingredient of this section which decides the relevance of the surrounding fact is the same transaction which is clearly stated in the section, whether the transaction occurs at the same time, same place or different time, different place. This surrounding fact which is relevant is known as Res Gestae because of which this section is also known as the doctrine of Res Gestae.
When it comes to same transaction, it should not be interpreted in a strict manner. As far as the law is concerned, we can use the golden rule of interpretation in order to interpret the word ‘same transaction’. We have to determine the main intention, so we can’t use a technical method to determine the meaning of same transaction. There is a case law which can explain us the value of same transaction in the above section. In R v. Bedingfield, a woman came out of the room suddenly and said to her aunt, “Aunt! See what Bedingfield has done to me”. The woman in this case had her throat cut. According to the court, the statement was not admissible under the doctrine of Res Gestae as there was an absence of same transaction. If the woman had shouted at the time when the offence occurred, then the doctrine of Res Gestae would have been applicable. But here, in the above case, the statement made by the women was after the incident was over. So, the acts along with statements which should be spontaneous and simultaneous during, immediately before or just after, but not when act is over, will be considered as Res Gestae.
Section 32 of this act deals with the concept of Dying declaration. Dying declaration is a statement made by the person who is on the verge of dying; it may include cause of death or any relevant circumstances or transaction which resulted to death. These statements are relevant under section 32 of this act. Dying declaration can be both oral and written.
Most of the time, it is difficult to understand the magnitude of the case and it creates a dilemma whether to oversee the case under doctrine of Res Gestae or dying declaration because sometimes both the sections are either repugnant to each other or coexist in the same transaction.
In Amar Singh v. State of Rajasthan, the deceased woman’s husband was convicted under sections 304B and 498A of the Indian penal code, 1860. The deceased woman’s mother and brother stated that a month before her suicide, she conveyed to them that she was facing ill treatment, harassment and her spouse used to taunt her on her family’s pecuniary status. The spouse of the deceased also visited their house demanding 10,000 rupees. The former statement given by the deceased woman to her family was considered as dying declaration by the court of law and hence the appellant was convicted. The argument from the appellant’s side was that the evidence given by the deceased woman’s mother and brother is merely hearsay evidence which is not admissible in the court of law as its credibility is null in nature. The court referred to the precedent case Pakala Narain Swamy v. Emperor in which Lord Atkin held that circumstances of transaction which resulted into the death of the person will be admissible in the court of law as dying declaration. These circumstances of transaction must relate or should have a reasonable connection with the event that occurred. Hence, the statement given by the mother and brother of the deceased woman in the case of Amar Singh vs. State of Rajasthan the court held that the statement was admissible under section 32 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Thus, we can conclude from the above cases that dying declaration is an exception to hearsay evidence.
Co-existence & Similarities of Section 6 & Section 32
In R. v. Foster, the witness didn’t see the occurrence of the accident but he saw a speeding truck. Later on, he was at the accident site and the deceased before dying, explained to the witness about the occurrence of the accident. The court held that the statement given by the witness will not be considered as the hearsay evidence because the deceased person conveyed the happenings of the incidents within the same transaction which makes it an important ingredient of doctrine of Res Gestae. Hence, the statement made by the witness was admissible in court and also considered as a relevant one.
We can conclude from this case that Res Gestae is also an exception to the hearsay evidence. We can also conclude that the statement given by the deceased to the witness can also be considered as dying declaration under section 32 of Indian Evidence Act. Here, applicability of both the sections can be seen. This means the coexistence of doctrine of Res Gestae (section 6) and dying declaration (section 32) can arise under certain circumstances.
The F.I.R. is another document to juxtapose between doctrine of Res Gestae and dying declaration. When a person witnesses the whole incident from the start to the end of the event ignoring the time factor between the occurrences of the incident and filing of the F.I.R., then that F.I.R. will be considered as Res Gestae. Similarly, if a person had filed an F.I.R. and he dies after filing it and his death is related to the mentions in the F.I.R., then the F.I.R. will amount to be a dying declaration.
Difference between Res Gestae & Dying Declaration
The prime difference between the doctrine of Res Gestae and dying declaration is the presence of one ingredient i.e. same transaction. Same transaction is an essential criterion for a fact to fall under doctrine of Res Gestae because the relevance of facts is determined by this ingredient under section 6 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 whereas the component of same transaction is not an essential ingredient for dying declaration. Dying declaration mainly focuses on the circumstances of transaction which should have a reasonable proximity of connection with the main offence. These circumstances may or may not be within the same transaction. So, in this situation, when the question arises on the same transaction, both the sections are repugnant to each other.
Being a future lawyer, one must learn to read the procedural laws within an act with respect to all the provisions given in that particular act. There are some sections within an act which are related to each other and when they are read with respect to each other or compared to each other, then the outcome is a very justifiable and produces the correct interpretation of these laws. We need to understand the intention of these laws clearly and critically analyze each and every part of such procedural laws. Such analysis must be done with other procedural laws as well such as The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. This method will always come handy especially for students who will opt for litigation as a career.
Author- Anirudh Jena and Hammad Ahmed Ansari,
ALL INDIA LEGAL FORUM