NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that credibility of a dying declaration comes under “suspicion” if it is not in the “actual words” of the victim and has been dictated by somebody else.
“Sanctity is attached to a dying declaration because it comes from the mouth of a dying person.
“If dying declaration is recorded not directly from the actual words of the maker but as dictated by somebody else, in our opinion, this by itself creates a lot of suspicion about credibility of such statement and the prosecution has to clear the same to the satisfaction of the court,” a bench of Justices R M Lodha and Shiva Kirti Singh said.
The bench set aside the verdict of Karnataka high court in a 2002 murder case.
The high court had earlier reversed the lower court verdict acquitting three accused in the case.
Upholding the lower court verdict, the apex court considered “over-writing about the time” and insertion of two names by “different ink” in the dying declaration in the present case and said the accused were rightly given the benefit of doubt.
The accused are “entitled to the benefit of doubt” specially in appeals against acquittals as the finding have been arrived at by the trial judge who had the benefit of assessing the witnesses and their testimonies, it said.
Citing various judgements, it said the appellate courts, while deciding appeals against, must bear in mind certain issues including “there is presumption of innocence in favour of an accused person and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in his favour by the trial court.
In such cases, accused is entitled to the benefit of reasonable doubt, it said.
Though superior courts have power to set aside the acquittal verdicts, but they are “generally loath in disturbing the finding of fact recorded by the trial court,” it said.
The apex court said, “It is so because the trial court had an advantage of seeing the demeanour of the witnesses. If the trial court takes a reasonable view of the facts of the case, interference by the appellate court with the judgment of acquittal is not justified.
“Unless, the conclusions reached by the trial court are palpably wrong or based on erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice, the reluctance on the part of the appellate court in interfering with such conclusions is fully justified…”.
It also said, “merely because the appellate court on re-appreciation and re-evaluation of the evidence is inclined to take a different view, interference with the judgment of acquittal is not justified if the view taken by the trial court is a possible view.”
An FIR was registered on August 17, 2002 at Mandya in Karnataka on the statement of victim Pradeep. He later died and his statement was treated as dying declaration.—PTI