IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 707 OF 2004
1. Anand @ Bhausaheb Yuvraj Patil. ) Age 28, ) [At present in Central Prison, Thane] ) )
2. Smt. Lilabai Yuvraj Patil, ) Age 54, ) )
Both residing at Building No.59B, 2786 ) Vartak Nagar Police Line, Thane ) ..Appellants. Taluka and District Thane ) (Original Accused Nos. 1 and 2)
The State of Maharashtra, ) ...Respondent. Mr. A. Majeed Menon for Appellant Nos. 1 and 2. Mrs. V.R. Bhosale, APP for the State. CORAM: V. M. KANADE &
A.M. THIPSAY, JJ
DATE : OCTOBER 10, 2011
ORAL JUDGMENT: (Per V.M. Kanade, J.)
1. Appellants are original accused Nos. 1 and 2. (For the sake of convenience they shall be hereinafter referred to as 2
"accused Nos. 1 and 2".) They are challenging the judgment and order passed by the Ad-hoc Sessions Judge, who, by his judgment and Order dated 28/05/2004, convicted them for the offence punishable under section 302 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for life. They were also convicted for the offence punishable under section 316 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for five years. Fine of Rs 1000/- was imposed upon them on each count and, in default, sentence of rigorous imprisonment for three months was imposed. They were also convicted for the offence punishable under section 323 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for three months and to pay fine of Rs 500/- each and, in default, to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one month. They were also convicted for the offence punishable under section 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years and to pay fine of Rs 500/- and, in default, to suffer further rigorous imprisonment for three months. Sentences were directed to 3
2. During pendency of the appeal original accused No.2 was released on bail. Accused No.1 is in jail since the date of his arrest. He was released on bail only for a period of two weeks.
3. Prosecution case, in brief, is that the accused Nos. 1 and 2 and 3 to 11 used to ill-treat the deceased Jyotsna. She was the wife of accused No.1 and on 18/02/2001, original accused Nos. 1 and 2 poured kerosene on her and set her on fire. Accused No.1 and Jyotsna got married in April 2000. Between 14/10/2000 and 18/02/2001 she was subjected to cruelty by the accused Nos. 1 and 2 and accused Nos. 3 to
11. On 18/02/2011, at about 7.15 a.m to 7.30 a.m, the accused No.1 went on his duty and there was an altercation between the husband and wife and, thereafter, Jyotsna was set on fire. The neighbours came and extinguished the fire and the mother-in-law and her neighbours took her to the hospital. However, she succumbed to the injuries. 4
4. Prosecution examined in all 13 witnesses. Statements of the accused were recorded under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The accused examined one witness in their defence. Trial Court convicted accused Nos. 1 and 2. Trial Court, however, acquitted accused Nos. 3 to
5. The learned Counsel appearing on behalf of original accused Nos. 1 and 2 has taken us through the judgment and order of the Trial Court and also the evidence adduced by the prosecution and the defence. At the outset, he fairly conceded that so far as the offence punishable under section 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code is concerned, there is sufficient material on record which indicates that the Trial Court was justified in convicting the accused for the said offence. He submitted that the question which was required to be decided by this Court was : whether the death of Jyotsna was accidental or homicidal? He submitted that there was no sufficient material on record to implicate the accused for the offence punishable under section 302 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code 5
and it was not clear whether the said incident had happened on account of an accident or was a case of suicide. It was, therefore, submitted that the accused Nos. 1 and 2 were entitled to get benefit of doubt. He further submitted that four dying declarations were recorded by the police. In the first two dying declarations, the deceased had stated that the incident had taken place on account of an accident, whereas, in the last two dying declarations, she had stated that her husband had set her on fire. It was submitted that, under these circumstances, no reliance could be placed on the dying declarations. He submitted that so far as accused No.1 is concerned, he was on night duty on 17/02/2001 and he was to be relieved on 18/02/2001 at 8.30 a.m. It was submitted that the entry was made in the muster which indicated the since telephone call was received at the Police Station that accident had taken place in his house, he was relieved from the duty. It was, therefore, submitted that the presence of accused No.1 was not established by the prosecution and none of the witnesses has stated or talked about his presence. The learned Counsel relied on the 6
judgment of the Apex Court in Smt. Kamla vs State of Punjab1 and submitted that where there were multiple dying declarations and there were inconsistencies in all the dying declarations, it was not proper to pick out one statement in which the accused was implicated and convict the accused on that basis.
6. On the other hand, the learned APP appearing on behalf of the State submitted that even if there are multiple dying declarations, if the Court comes to the conclusion that dying declaration is voluntary and truthful and genuine and has been made when the deceased was in a conscious state of mind then, in such case, it could form the basis for conviction even if there was no other corroboration. The learned APP relied upon the judgment of the Apex Court in Puran Chand vs. State of Haryana 2. She also relied on the judgment of the Apex Court in Bijoy Das vs. State of West Bengal3 and, lastly, on the judgment of the Apex Court in Lakhan vs. State of Madhya Pradesh 4. 1 1993 CRI.L.J.68
2 (2010) 6 SCC 566
3 (2008) 4 SCC 511
4 (2010) 8 SCC 514
7. After having heard the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of accused Nos. 1 and 2 and the learned APP appearing on behalf of the State, in our view, prosecution has not established its case beyond the reasonable doubt in respect of the offence punishable under section 302 read with section 34 and sections 316, 323 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and benefit of doubt will have to be given to the accused for the said offences. However, so far as offence punishable under section 498-A read with section 34 is concerned, there is sufficient material on record and, in our view, Trial Court was justified in convicting the accused for the said offence. In our view, however, mother of the deceased is entitled to get compensation. Even otherwise, the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of accused Nos. 1 and 2 has fairly conceded that so far as offence under section 498-A is concerned, there being sufficient material on record, he does not seriously press his appeal in respect of the said offence.
8. So far as the offence punishable under section 302 read 8
with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code is concerned, the prosecution has relied on two dying declarations viz the dying declaration which is at Exhibit-32 and another dying declaration which is at Exhibit-66. In both these dying declarations, deceased has stated that the accused committed the said offence. The defence, however, examined one witness viz Dilip Pandhare who was the Special Executive Magistrate. He has stated that he had received a requisition letter dated 18.2.2001 in which it was stated that one woman was admitted in the hospital and she has sustained burn injuries and he was asked to record her dying declaration. The said requisition letter is at Exhibit-67. It was signed by PSI Kingi who showed the reports at Exhibit-64 and 65 issued by the Medical Officer in respect of the condition of the patient Jyotsna. He has stated that he then went to Burn Ward on 18/02/2001 at about 8.15 a.m and recorded statement of Jyotsna. That dying declaration is at Exhibit-119. He has stated that, again, on the same day, at about 11.30 a.m., he recorded second dying declaration of Jyotsna. He has stated that all questions which were asked to Jyotsna were answered by her. However, question No.7 9
was replied by her mother-in-law - accused No.2. The said dying declaration is at Exhibit-120. The entire prosecution case, therefore, hinges on two dying declarations which were produced by them at Exhibit-32 and Exhibit-66. The defence, however, has relied on two dying declarations at Exhibits-119 and 120 which were produced on record by them by examining the Special Executive Magistrate and which dying declarations were suppressed by the prosecution. In this context, therefore, each of the dying declarations which was recorded will have to be examined to find out whether reliance could be placed either on the dying declarations produced by the prosecution or dying declarations which were suppressed by the prosecution but were produced by the defence and these dying declarations will have to be examined in sequence in which they were recorded.
9. Before we take into consideration the evidence which is brought on record by the prosecution and defence in respect of dying declarations of the deceased which are brought on record, it is necessary to briefly examine the law on the 10
point of dying declarations. Section 32 sub-clause (1) of the Evidence Act makes an exception to the general rule that hearsay evidence is not admissible. The doctrine of dying declaration is enshrined in the legal maxim memo moriturus praesumitur mentire, which means, "a man will not meet his Maker with a lie in his mouth". The doctrine of dying declaration is enshrined in section 32 of the Evidence Act, 1872, as an exception to the general rule contained in Section 60 of the said Act which provided that oral evidence, in all cases, must be direct which means that the evidence should be given by a witness who says that he either saw it, heard it or perceived it as the case may be. The dying declaration is, in fact, a statement of a person who cannot be called as witness and, therefore, cannot be cross- examined.
10. It will have to be briefly seen what is the legal position regarding the circumstances under which reliance can be placed on dying declaration and to what extent reliance can be placed on it or whether it can be a sole basis for recording conviction and in the event of there being multiple dying 11
declarations and there are inconsistencies between them whether all dying declarations should be discarded or reliance can be placed on one of the dying declarations to the exclusion of other.
11. Initially, the Apex Court in Ram Nath Madhoprasad and others v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1 has observed that it was not possible to convict the accused merely on the evidence of dying declaration without any corroboration and there was a difference of opinion with regard to the value of dying declaration as a piece of evidence. This conflict on this aspect was set at rest by the Apex Court in Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay2. In that case, the Apex Court summarized the legal position as under:-
"1) That it cannot be laid down as an absolute rule of law that a dying declaration cannot form the sole basis of conviction unless it is corroborated; 2) that each case must be determined on its own facts keeping in view the circumstances in which the dying declaration was made;
1 AIR 1953 S.C. 420
2 1958 SC 22
3) that it cannot be laid down as a general proposition that a dying declaration is a weaker kind of evidence than other pieces of evidence; 4) that a dying declaration stands on the same footing as another piece of evidence and has to be judged in the light of surrounding circumstances and with reference to the principles governing the weighing of evidence;
5) that a dying declaration which has been recorded by a competent magistrate in the proper manner, that is to say, in the form of questions and answers, and, as far as practicable, in the words of the maker of the declaration, stands on a much higher footing than a dying declaration which depends upon oral testimony which may suffer from all the infirmities of human memory and human character; and
6) that in order to test the reliability of a dying declaration, the Court has to keep in view, the circumstances like the opportunity of the dying man for 13
observation, for example, whether there was sufficient light if the crime was committed at night; whether the
capacity of the man to remember the
facts stated had not been impaired at the time he was making the statement, by circumstances beyond his control; that the statement has been consistent throughout if he had several opportunities of making a dying declaration apart from the official record of it; and that the statement had been made at the earliest opportunity and was not the result of tutoring by interested parties."
The Apex Court, in the said case, further observed that : "Hence, in order to pass the test of reliability, a dying declaration has to be subjected to a very close scrutiny, keeping in view the fact that the statement has been made in the absence of the accused who had no opportunity of testing the veracity of the statement by cross-examination. But, once, the Court has come to the conclusion that the dying declaration was the truthful version as to the circumstances of the death and the 14
assailants of the victim, there is no question of further corroboration.
If, on the other hand, the Court, after examining the dying declaration in all its aspects, and testing its veracity, has come to the conclusion that it is not reliable by itself, and that it suffers from an infirmity, then without corroboration it cannot form the basis of a conviction. Thus, the necessity for corroboration arises not from any inherent weakness of a dying declaration as a piece of evidence, as held in some of the reported cases, but from the fact that the Court, in a given case, has come to the conclusion that particular dying declaration was not free from the infirmities, referred to above or from such other infirmities as may be disclosed in evidence in that case."
12. Thereafter, in several judgments of the Apex Court the question of evaluation of dying declaration as a piece of evidence has been considered. The Apex Court in its recent judgment in Bijoy Das vs. State of West Bengal 1 has taken into consideration its judgments in Narain Singh v. State of 1 (2008) 4 SCC 511
Haryana 1, Babulal v. State of M.P.2, Ravi v. State of T.N.3, Muthu Kutty v. State4 and in Paniben v. State of Gujarat 5 wherein principles governing dying declaration has been summed up as under:-
"(i ) There is neither rule of law nor of prudence that dying declaration cannot be acted upon without corroboration. (See Munnu Raja v. State of M.P. (1976 (3) SCC 104).
(ii) If the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and voluntary it can base conviction on it, without corroboration. (See State of U.P. v. Ram Sagar Yadav [(1985) 1 SCC 552] and Ramawati Devi v. State of Bihar (1983 (1) SCC 211).
(iii) The court has to scrutinise the dying declaration carefully and must ensure that the declaration is not the result of tutoring, prompting or imagination. The deceased had an opportunity to observe and identify the assailants and was in a fit state to make the declaration. (See K. Ramachandra Reddy v. 1 (2004) 13 SCC 264
2 (2003) 12 SCC 490
3 (2004) 10 SCC 776
4 (2005) 9 SCC 113
5 (1992) 2 SCC 474
Public Prosecutor (1976 (3) SCC 618). (iv) Where dying declaration is suspicious, it should not be acted upon without corroborative evidence. (See Rasheed Beg v. State of M.P. (1974 (4) SCC 264).
(v) Where the deceased was unconscious and could never make any dying declaration the evidence with regard to it is to be rejected. (See Kake Singh v. State of M.P.(1981 Supp. SCC 25).
(vi) A dying declaration which suffers from infirmity cannot form the basis of conviction. (See Ram Manorath v. State of U.P. (1981 (2) SCC 654)
(vii) Merely because a dying declaration does not contain the details as to the occurrence, it is not to be rejected. (See State of Maharashtra v. Krishnamurti Laxmipati Naidu (1980 Supp. SCC 455)
(viii) Equally, merely because it is a brief statement, it is not to be discarded. On the contrary, the shortness of the statement itself guarantees truth. (See Surajdeo Ojha v. State 17
of Bihar (1980 Supp. SCC 769).
(ix) Normally the court in order to satisfy whether deceased was in a fit mental condition to make the dying declaration look up to the medical opinion. But where the eyewitness said that the deceased was in a fit and conscious state to make the dying declaration, the medical opinion cannot prevail. (See Nanhau Ram v. State of M.P. (1988 Supp. SCC 152) (x) Where the prosecution version differs from the version as given in the dying declaration, the said declaration cannot be acted upon. (See State of U.P. v. Madan Mohan (1989 (3) SCC 390 )
(xi) Where there are more than one statement in the nature of dying declaration, one first in point of time must be preferred. Of course, if the plurality of dying declaration could be held to be trustworthy and reliable, it has to be accepted. (See Mohanlal Gangaram Gehani v. State of Maharashtra (1982 (1) SCC 700)" In its judgment in Puran Chand vs. State of Haryana 1, the 1 (2010) 6 SCC 566
Apex Court in para 18 and 19 has observed as under:- "18. The law is now well settled that a dying declaration which has been found to be voluntary and truthful and which is free from any doubts can be the sole basis for convicting the accused. This Court in Sham Shankar Kankaria v. State of Maharashtra [(2006) 13 SCC 165] has taken stock of the following cases where the principles governing dying declaration have been laid down:-
(i) Paniben v. State of Gujarat [(1992) 2 SCC 474] (ii) Munnu Raja v. State of M.P. [(1976) 3 SCC 104] (iii) State of U.P. v. Ram Sagar Yadav [(1985) 1 SCC 552 (iv) Ramawati Devi v. State of Bihar [(1983) 1 SCC 211 (v) K. Ramachandra Reddy v. Public Prosecutor [(1976) 3 SCC 618)
(vi) Rasheed Beg v. State of M.P. [(1974) 4 SCC 264 (vii) Kake Singh v. State of M.P. [1981 Supp SCC 25] (viii) Ram Manorath v. State of U.P. [(1981 2 SCC 654] (ix) State of Maharashtra v. Krishnamurti Laxmipati Naidu [1980 Supp SCC 455].
(x) Surajdeo Ojha v. State of Bihar [1980 Supp SCC 769]
(xi) Nanhau Ram v. State of M.P. [1988 Supp SCC 152]
(xii) State of U.P. v. Madan Mohan(1989)3 SCC 390 (xiii) Mohanlal Gangaram Gehani vs. State of 19
Maharashtra [(1982) 1 SCC 700]"
"19. In para 12 of the abovesaid judgment in Kankaria case [(2006) 13 SCC 165], this Court has held that dying declaration is the only piece of untested evidence and must like any other evidence, satisfy the court that what is stated therein is the unalloyed truth and that it is absolutely safe to act upon it. This Court has further reiterated that if after careful scrutiny the court is satisfied that it is true and free from any effort to induce the deceased to make a false statement and if it is coherent and consistent, there shall be no legal impediment to make it a basis of conviction, even if there is no corroboration. In that behalf, this Court has referred the reported cases of Gangotri Singh v. State of U.P. [1993 Supp (1) SCC 327]; Goverdhan Raoji Ghyare v. State of Maharashtra [1993 Supp (4) SCC 316], Meesala Ramakrishan v. State of A.P. [(1994) 4 SCC 182] and State of Rajasthan v. Kishore (1996) 8 SCC 217]. We are in respectful agreement with the law laid down and would hasten to add that in the present case the dying declaration of Santosh passes all the tests referred to by us above."
Similarly, in its very recent judgment in Lakhan vs. State of Madhya Pradesh 1, the Apex Court in paras 12, 13 and 15 has observed as under:-
"12. A dying declaration recorded by a competent Magistrate would stand on a much higher footing than the declaration recoded by officer of lower rank, for the reason that the competent Magistrate has no axe to grind against the person named in the dying declaration of the victim, however, circumstances showing anything to the contrary should not be there in the facts of the case (Vide Ravi Chander v. State of Punjab [(1998) 9 SCC 303], Harjit Kaur v. State of Pubjab [(1999) 6 SCC 545], Koli Chunilal Savji vs. State of Gujarat [(1999) 9 SCC 562] and Vikas v. State of Maharashtra [(2008) 2 SCC 516]"
"13. In Balak Ram v. State of U.P. [(1975) 3 SCC 219], the question arose as to whether the dying declaration recorded by a higher officer can be discarded in case of multiple dying declarations. The Court held as under : (SCC p. 235, para 54).
1 (2010) 8 SCC 514
"54. ... The circumstances surrounding the dying declaration, though uninspiring, are not strong enough to justify the view that officers as high in the hierarchy as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, the Civil Surgeon and the District Magistrate hatched a conspiracy to bring a false document into existence. The civil services (sic servants) have no platform to controvert allegations, howsoever grave and unfounded. It is, therefore, necessary that charges calculated to impair their career and character ought not to be accepted except on the clearest proof. We are not prepared to hold that the dying declaration is a fabrication." "15. In case, there are inconsistent dying declarations, the Court must rely upon any other evidence, if available, as it is not safe to act only on inconsistent dying declarations and convict the accused. (Vide Lella Srinivasa Rao v. State of A.P. [(2004) 9 SCC 713]" The Division Bench of this Court in Kalyan Balasaheb Barungale vs. The State of Maharasthra 1 has observed that if there are multiple dying declarations and all of them have glaring inconsistencies in material particulars, it is unsafe to 1 1998 ALL MR (Cri) 523
convict the accused by picking out one of the confessions and making it a sole basis of conviction. Similarly, the Apex Court in Smt. Kamla v. State of Punjab 1 has also observed that where there are additional dying declarations made by the deceased and there are glaring inconsistencies, conviction could not be based on one of the dying declarations implicating the accused.
13. In view of the law which is laid down by the Apex Court, it will have to be seen whether reliance can be placed on two dying declarations on which reliance is placed by the prosecution or the dying declarations on which the reliance is placed by the defence.
14. The first dying declaration of the deceased Jyotsna which is at Exhibit -119 was recorded on 18/02/2001 by the Special Executive Magistrate at 8.15 a.m. Her second dying declaration at Exhibit-120 was recorded on 18/02/2001 by the Special Executive Magistrate at 11.30 a.m. Her third dying declaration at Exhibit-32 was recorded on 18/02/2001 1 1993 CRI. L.J. 68
by the PSI Kingi in the presence of parents of Jyotsna at 3.00 P.M. and thereafter her fourth dying declaration at Exhibit-66 was recorded on 18/02/2001 at 5.00 p.m. It has to be noted here that the Investigating Officer - PSI Bhosale (P.W.12) has tried to suppress the first two dying declarations and, in our view, therefore adverse inference will have to be drawn against the prosecution for suppressing these two documents. The Investigating Officer (P.W. 12) does not make any reference to the requisition letter at Exhibit-67 and fains ignorance about it. However, the requisition letter clearly shows that D.W. 1 - Dilip Pandhare was asked to record the dying declaration. Before recording dying declaration, PSI Kingi had obtained report from the Medical Officer at Exhibit-64 which states that the patient is in fit mental condition to give dying declaration. In the first dying declaration, deceased Jyotsna had stated that her saree accidently fell on the stove and she thereafter received burn injuries. This statement was recorded at 8.15 a.m at the earlier point of time. The second dying declaration is recorded at 11.30 a.m. Before this dying declaration is recorded, PSI Kingi had obtained a report from the Medical 24
Officer which is at Exhibit-65 which states that patient is conscious and is in fit mental condition to give the statement and, thereafter, the said statement was recorded. In the second dying declaration at Exhibit-120, Jyotsna has stated that while she was trying to pour kerosene in the stove, kerosene spilled from the can and was on the floor of the kitchen and when she was trying to put on the stove with matchstick, kerosene which was on the floor caught fire and she received burn injuries. So far as these two dying declarations recorded by Special Executive Magistrate are concerned, there was no reason for the prosecution to have suppressed these two dying declarations. It is the duty of the prosecution to produce all the material which is on record in order to find out the truth. If any attempt is made to suppress the material which is not favourable to the prosecution, a serious doubt is created about other evidence which is brought on record. We are, therefore, of the view that adverse inference will have to be drawn against the prosecution for suppressing these two documents. Apart from drawing adverse inference, D.W. 1 - Dilip Pandhare, who essentially was a prosecution witness but was examined 25
by the defence to bring on record these two dying declarations, in his evidence, surprisingly states that when the first dying declaration was recorded, Jyotsna was not in mental condition to speak and that she had only stated her name at the time of recording her statement and the remaining contents were stated by accused No.2, mother -in- law of Jyotsna. It is difficult to accept this statement. If the witness was aware that Jyotsna was not in a condition to speak, it was his duty not to record her statement and he ought to have informed PSI Kingi about this fact. Moreover, he has the audacity to state in his evidence that all the replies were given by her mother-in-law - accused No.2. If that was the position, he ought not to have recorded the replies. D.W. 1 - Dilip Pandhare was the Special Executive Magistrate, Thane and, as such, apart from under moral obligation to truthfully record the statement of the deceased, he was also under statutory and legal obligation to ensure that the correct reply is recorded when the deceased was properly conscious and mentally fit to give the statement. D.W. 1 further states that when the second dying declaration was recorded by him at 11.30 a.m, there 26
were 14 columns in that declaration. This time he states that apart from question No.7, she had given reply to other questions and only question No.7 was answered by her mother-in-law. The question No.7 is the most crucial question as to how the incident had taken place and, in answer column, D.W. 1 - Dilip Pandhare has recorded that accidently kerosene spilled on the floor and when she was trying to put on the stove, the matchstick fell on the floor and she received burn injuries. Now, this witness does not state the reason why he took down the reply given by the mother-in-law of the deceased Jyotsna. D.W.1 could have very well told mother-in-law to get out of the room and could have asked the question to the deceased and taken down her reply. It is obvious that in order to salvage the damage caused by production of these two dying declarations which were recorded by him as Special Executive Magistrate, he was compelled to make that statement in his substantive evidence of examination-in-chief and, therefore, the Court permitted the defence to cross-examine this witness and in the cross-examination he has admitted that at the time of recording of dying declaration, it is necessary to ask the 27
relatives of the patient to go away from that room. He has admitted that he had given warning to the relatives of Jyotsna to go away from that room and after recording dying declaration, he had handed over the dying declaration to the police. He also admitted that he did not make any complaint to the police that while recording dying declaration, the answer to column No.7 was given by mother-in-law of the deceased Jyotsna. He also admitted that he did not make any endorsement on both the dying declarations at Exhibit-119 and Exhibit-120 that the contents of column No.7 were stated by accused No. 2, the mother-in-law of deceased Jyotsna. He also admitted that after recording the dying declaration at Exhibit-120, he handed it over to the Police and no complaint was made by him. It is obvious, that D.W. 1, after producing the said two dying declarations, made an attempt to support the prosecution case and, therefore, a serious doubt is created about truthfulness of the prosecution case when a serious attempt is made to suppress the important documents from being brought on record. The fact remains that the contention of D.W.1 that crucial answer to the question regarding how the incident of 28
burning took place was given by the mother-in-law of the deceased cannot be accepted and no person particularly the Special Executive Magistrate would record that reply as reply of the deceased while performing a statutory function. Therefore, it does appear that in the first two dying declarations the version given by Jyotsna is that the burn injuries were received by her accidently and not on account of kerosene being poured on her by the accused and by setting her on fire.
15. Now, we have to consider the second set of dying declarations recorded thereafter. Exhibit-32 was recorded by Investigating Officer. At the end of this dying declaration, it is mentioned that this statement was recorded in the presence of the father of the deceased Shri Vishwas Kisan Patil and mother of the deceased Smt. Nirmala Vishwas Patil . P.W. 10, who is PSI Kingi, has admitted that he did not put time when the said statement was recorded. However, according to him, this statement was recorded about 3.00 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. Surprisingly, though Exhibit-32 was a statement recorded by PSI, that was not treated as FIR 29
and, therefore, the second statement of Jyotsna was recorded vide Exhibit-66 and Exhibit-66 was treated as FIR. The second dying declaration at Exhibit-66 is identical to the statement at Exhibit-32. The only difference being that the last portion which is mentioned above her thumb impression viz that it is recorded in the presence of father and mother is not found in Exhibit-66. In both these dying declarations at Exhibit-32 and Exhibit-66, it is mentioned that accused Nos. 1 and 2 were responsible for the said incident and that thereafter her neighbours and her mother in law and husband took her to the hospital. In these two statements she has stated that she is in a fit condition to give those statements and her earlier statements should be discarded since at that time she was in a frightened state of mind. On both these statements, no endorsement has been made by the Medical Officer that she is in a fit condition to give those statements. The time also, when the said statements were recorded, is not mentioned. He has, however, obtained a separate letter of requisition addressed to Medical Officer and he has made an endorsement that the patient is in a condition to give statement and the time which is mentioned 30
by the Medical Officer after his signature is 3.35 p.m. It has to be noted that the endorsement has not been made by the Medical Officer on the statement at Exhibit-32 or Exhibit-66 but is made on separate requisition letter. The Medical Officer does not state that he has examined the patient but he merely mentions that she is in a condition to give statement . The basic requirement is that it has to be established by the prosecution that not only the patient should be in a position to speak but it has to be also proved that she was in a conscious state of mind and was mentally fit to make proper statement. Apart from other lacunae, this is a very important lacuna which creates doubt about genuineness of the said statement. In the first statement which is at Exhibit-32, it is mentioned that it is given in the presence of father and mother of the deceased Jyotsna and, therefore, there was every possibility of the patient being tutored. Secondly, if this statement was recorded, it was not necessary for PSI Kingi to record one more statement which is at Exhibit-66 and which is identical to one at Exhibit-32. Possibly, P.W. 10 - PSI Kingi may have realized that since there is reference to the statement being recorded in the 31
presence of father and mother which would reduce the probative value of the dying declaration, attempt is made to show that, thereafter, again statement at Exhibit-66 was recorded. Thirdly, it was very well open for P.W. 10 - PSI Kingi to treat Exhibit-32 as FIR and instead of that he has treated Exhibit-66 as FIR. It has come on record that the very same PSI Kingi had sent requisition to D.W.1 - Dilip Pandhare to record dying declaration of the deceased Jyotsna. A telephone call also was received in the morning at 8.15 by the Police in which reference was made of the said incident. It is difficult to understand why either first statement recorded by D.W. 1 Dilip Pandhare at Exhibit-119 is not treated as FIR or even the information received by the Police on telephone. It is, therefore, difficult to rely on Exhibit-32 or Exhibit-66 and, therefore, reliance cannot be placed on any of these dying declarations.
16. Apart from several discrepancies in the dying declarations, prosecution has failed to establish the presence of the accused in the house at that point of time. Prosecution has not examined the neighbours who had 32
heard shouts of the deceased nor any witness has stated that the accused was present in the house at that time. On the other hand, the evidence which is produced by the prosecution itself indicates that the accused was informed about the incident when he was at the Police Station and, thereafter, he was allowed to go home. Trial Court, therefore, in our view, has erred in relying on two dying declarations on which reliance was placed by the prosecution and clearly erred in convicting the accused on the basis of the said dying declarations. The conviction of the appellants, therefore, for the offence punishable under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code will have to be set aside. The appellants, therefore, will have to be acquitted for commission of the said offence.
17. However, since the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant has clearly conceded that there is sufficient evidence on record to show commission of offence under section 498-A, conviction of the appellants for the said offence is confirmed.
18. In the result, the following order is passed:- ORDER
The appeal is partly allowed.
I. The appellants/accused are acquitted of the offence punishable
under Section 302 read with Section
34 of I.P. Code.
II. The appellants/accused are acquitted of the offence punishable
under Section 316 read with Section
34 of the I.P. Code; and are also
acquitted of the offence punishable
under Section 323 read with Section
34 of the I.P. Code.
III. However, the conviction of the appellants / accused for the offence punishable under Section 498-A read with Section 34 of I.P. Code is confirmed. So far as accused No.1
is concerned, he is sentenced to
suffer rigorous imprisonment for a
period of two years and so far as
accused No.2 is concerned, her sentence is reduced to a period
which she had already undergone.
However, both the accused shall pay
a fine of Rs 50,000/- each and in
default of payment of said fine
amount, both of them shall undergo
further rigorous imprisonment for a
period of six months each. The amount of fine shall be deposited in the trial Court. PW 1 who is father
of the deceased is permitted to
withdraw the said amount.
Criminal appeal is disposed of in the aforesaid terms. (A.M.THIPSAY, J.) (V.M. KANADE, J.) 35