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Supreme Court of India


DATE OF JUDGMENT: 29/09/1999

BENCH:G.B.Pattanaik, N.Santosh Hedge, M.Srinivasan


      These   two  appeals  arise   out  of  Judgment  dated
21/24.6.1996  of  the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad  in
Criminal  Appeal  Nos.  236 and 105 of 1989 and  are  being
disposed  of  by this common Judgment. The  two  appellants
were  tried  for having committed an offence  under  Section
302/34 IPC  on  the allegation that on 28.6.84 at  4  A.M.,
while  deceased  Dhanuben was sleeping on her bed,  the  two
accused  persons namely her husband and mother-in-law poured
kerosene  and  set  fire  with match box.   Along  with  the
deceased, her son Ajay was also there and both, the deceased
and  Ajay  were burnt. They were taken to the hospital  for
treatment.   In the hospital, Police recorded the  statement
of  Dhanuben  which  was treated as F.I.R.  and  then  after
registering  the  case,  investigation  started.   In  the
hospital,  both  Dhanuben and her son Ajay died and as such
the accused persons stood charged for offence under Sections
498A  and  302/34 of the IPC.  Apart from the  statement  by
deceased  Dhanuben to PW 14, which was treated as F.I.R.,  a
Magistrate  also recorded her statement which was treated as
a  dying  declaration.  On   scrutiny of  the  prosecution
evidence,  the learned Sessions Judge did not rely upon  the
dying  declaration made by the deceased Dhanuben and in  the
absence  of  any  other  evidence  to  connect the  accused
appellants  with the murder of the deceased, acquitted them
of  the  charge  under Section  302/34  IPC. The  learned
Sessions  Judge  however  came to the  conclusion  that  the
offence  under Section  498A has  been  established  beyond
reasonable  doubt and as such convicted them under the said
Section  and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for two
years and imposed a penalty of Rs.250/-, in default, further
imprisonment for two months.  The State of Gujarat preferred
an  appeal  against the acquittal of the accused persons  of
the  charge under Section 302/34 IPC and the accused persons
preferred  appeal  against  their conviction  under  Section
498A.  The High Court by the impugned Judgment set aside the
order  of acquittal, relying upon the two dying declarations
Exh.   45  and Exh.  41 and convicted the appellants of  the
charge under  Section 302/34 IPC and States appeal was
allowed.  The appeal filed by the accused persons, assailing
their  conviction under Section 498A however stood dismissed
and  the  conviction  under Section 498A  and  the  sentence
passed thereunder  was maintained.  It may be stated that
while  admitting  the appeal of the accused persons  against
their  conviction under Section 498A, the High Court had suo
motu  issued  notice as to why the sentence imposed for  the
offence   punishable  under  Section   498A  should  not  be
enhanced.   But while disposing of the criminal appeals, the
High  Court did not think it proper to enhance the  sentence
and accordingly notice of enhancement stood discharged.

      On  the  basis of the post-mortem report conducted  on
the  dead  bodies  of  Dhanuben and her  son  Ajay  and  the
evidence  of doctor PW9, who conducted the autopsy over  the
dead  bodies,  the conclusion is irresistible that both  the
persons  died  on account of burn injuries but the  defence
however  raised  a contention that the two persons  died  on
account  of  suicide  and  the house was  set  fire  by  the
deceased  herself.   The  prosecution witnesses  to whom
deceased  had  made oral dying declaration, implicating  the
accused  persons,  did not support the  prosecution  during
trial  and, therefore, with the permission of the Court  the
Public Prosecutor  cross-  examined them.  The  High  Court
accordingly,  placed  no reliance on their  testimony.  The
High  Court  however  examined the  two  dying declarations
namely Exh.45,  recorded by the Sub-Inspector PW14 and  the
dying  declaration  Exh.41, recorded by the Magistrate PW12
and   came  to the  conclusion   that both   these   dying
declarations   are  truthful  and   voluntarily  made and,
therefore,  can  safely form the basis of conviction of  the
accused   persons  under  Section   302/34  IPC.   With  the
aforesaid  conclusion  the order of acquittal passed by  the
learned  Sessions  Judge of the charge under Section  302/34
was  set aside and the accused appellants were convicted  of
the said charge and were sentenced to imprisonment for life.
The  High Court also relying upon the dying declaration  and
other  materials,  further came to the conclusion  that  the
prosecution  case,  so far as the charge under Section 498A
IPC  is  concerned, has been proved beyond reasonable  doubt
and,  therefore,  upheld the conviction and sentence  passed
thereunder by the learned Sessions Judge.

      Mr.   Keshwani, the learned counsel appearing for  the
appellants   argued  with  vehemence   that  the  two  dying
declarations  cannot  be relied upon inasmuch as the  doctor
was  not present while the dying declaration was recorded by
the  Magistrate and further, there is no endorsement by  the
doctor,  indicating the mental condition of the deceased  to
the  effect  that  she was in a fit condition  to  make  the
statement.   The learned counsel also further urged that the
doctor himself  has  not been examined in this  case  which
makes  the  position  worse.   Mr.   Keshwani  also  made  a
submission  that  the  deceased was surrounded by  her  own
relations  before the dying declaration was recorded by  the
Magistrate  and  as  such had sufficient opportunity  to  be
tutored  and consequently the dying declaration recorded  by
the  Magistrate  becomes  vitiated.    Mr.   Keshwani also
submitted  that  the incident having taken place at  4 A.M.
and  the  dying  declaration  having been  recorded  by  the
Magistrate at 9 A.M., five hours after the occurrence, there
has  been  gross  delay which makes  the  dying  declaration
doubtful  and  as such should not have been  accepted.  Mr.
Keshwani  lastly  submitted that the learned Sessions  Judge
having recorded an order of acquittal, the same should  not
have  been  interfered with  by   the High  Court  without
justifiable reasons and on this score also the conviction of
the appellants under Section 302/34 IPC cannot be sustained.

      The  learned  counsel  appearing for  the  respondent
State,  on  the  other  hand submitted  that  the   dying
declaration  which has been relied upon by the High Court in
the  facts  and circumstances, has been rightly held  to  be
truthful  and voluntary one and, therefore, in law, can form
the  sole  basis  of conviction.  She  also  contended that
though endorsement of the doctor and presence of the doctor
is  ordinarily looked for but merely on that score the dying
declaration  recorded by the Magistrate cannot be held to be
an  untruthful one.  Besides, the learned counsel  submitted
that  the  doctor  did make an entry in  the  Police  yadi,
indicating  that the deceased was in a fit condition to make
any  statement and it is he, who took the Magistrate to  the
deceased  and non-endorsement by the doctor on the statement
recorded  by  the Magistrate cannot be held to be fatal  nor
can  any  doubt  arise on that score.  The  learned  counsel
further  contended that the power of the High Court  against
an  order  of acquittal is the same as against an  order  of
conviction and while setting aside an order of acquittal, it
is  necessary  for  the  Appellate  Court  to  look  at  the
reasoning  given by the trial Judge and be satisfied whether
those  reasoning are just and proper or not.  The  reasoning
given by the learned Sessions Judge to discard the two dying
declarations  having  been  found by the High  Court  to  be
wholly unreasonable and, therefore, the High Court was fully
entitled  to  interfere with the conclusion of the  learned
Sessions  Judge  and no infirmity can be found out  on that

      Coming  to the affirmation of conviction under Section
498A,  while  Mr.   Keshwani, appearing  for the  accused
appellants  submitted  that  on this  scanty  evidence,  the
Courts could not have convicted the accused persons of  the
said  charges, the  learned   counsel for  the  respondent
submitted  that  both the Courts have analysed the  evidence
fully  and  having found that the charge under Section 498A
IPC  has  been proved beyond reasonable doubt, question  of
interfering with the said conviction does not arise.

      In  view of the rival submissions made at the Bar, two
questions  really arise for our consideration. (1)  Whether
the  two  dying  declarations  can be held to  be  true  and
voluntary  and can be relied upon or can be  excluded from
consideration  for  the  infirmities   pointed out  by  Mr.
Keshwani,  appearing  for the appellants.  (2) Whether  the
High Court exceeded its jurisdiction in interfering with the
order of acquittal, recorded by the learned Sessions Judge.
      Coming  to the first question, the answer to the same
would  depend upon the correctness of the submission of  Mr.
Keshwani,  that in the absence of doctor while recording the
dying  declaration, the said declaration loses its value and
cannot be accepted.  Mr.  Keshwani in this connection relies
upon  the decision of this Court in the case of Maniram  vs.
State  of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1994 SC 840.  In the aforesaid
case,  no doubt this Court has held that when the  declarant
was  in  the hospital itself, it was the duty of the  person
who  recorded the dying declaration to do so in the presence
of  the doctor and after duly being certified by the  doctor
that  the declarant was conscious and in senses and was in a
fit condition to make the declaration. In the said case the
Court  also  thought  it  unsafe  to  rely  upon  the  dying
declaration on account of aforesaid infirmity and interfered
with  the  Judgment  of the High Court.  But  the  aforesaid
requirements  are  mere a rule of prudence and the  ultimate
test  is  whether the dying declaration can be held to be  a
truthful  one  and voluntarily given.  It is no  doubt true
that before recording the declaration, the concerned officer
must  find that the declarant was in a fit condition to make
the  statement in question.  In Ravi Chander and Ors.  vs.
State  of Punjab, 1998 (9) SCC 303, this Court has held that
for not examining the doctor, the dying declaration recorded
by the Executive Magistrate and the dying declaration orally
made  need not be doubted.  The Court further observed that
the Executive Magistrate is a disinterested witness and is a
responsible officer and there is no circumstance or material
on  record to suspect that the Executive Magistrate had  any
animus against  the  accused or in any  way  interested  in
fabricating  the  dying  declaration   and,  therefore,  the
question of genuineness of the dying declaration recorded by
the  Executive Magistrate to be doubted does not arise.   In
the  case of Harjit Kaur vs.  State of Punjab 1994(4)  SCALE
447, this Court has examined the same question and held:

      ..As  regards the condition of Parminder Kaur, the
witness  has  stated that he had first ascertained from  the
doctor whether  she  was  in  a fit  condition  to  make  a
statement  and obtained  an  endorsement  to  that  effect.
Merely because  that endorsement was made not on the  Dying
Declaration  itself  but on the application, that would  not
render the Dying Declaration suspicious in any manner.

      In  view of the aforesaid decisions of this Court,  we
are  unable  to accept the submission of Mr.  Keshwani that
the  two  dying  declarations cannot be relied upon  as  the
doctor has not been examined and the doctor has not made any
endorsement  on  the dying declaration.  With regard to  the
condition  of the deceased, the Magistrate who recorded  the
dying  declaration has been examined as a witness.  She  has
categorically  stated  in her evidence that as soon  as  she
reached  the  hospital in the Surgical Ward of Dr.   Shukla,
she told the doctor on duty that she is required to take the
statement  of Dhanuben and she showed the doctor the  Police
yadi. The doctor then introduced her to Dhanuben and when
she  asked  the doctor about the condition of Dhanuben,  the
said  doctor  categorically  stated that Dhanuben was  in  a
conscious  condition.  It further appears from her  evidence
that  though  there  has been no endorsement  on  the  dying
declaration  recorded  by the Magistrate with regard to  the
condition  of the patient but there has been an  endorsement
on   Police  yadi,  indicating  that  Dhanuben  was   fully
conscious.   In  view  of  the aforesaid  evidence  of  the
Magistrate  and in view of the endorsement of doctor on  the
Police yadi and no reason having been ascribed as to why the
Magistrate  would  try to help the prosecution, we  see  no
justification  in  the comments of Mr.  Keshwani  that  the
dying  declaration should not be relied upon in the  absence
of  the  endorsement  of  the doctor thereon.   In this
particular  case, the police also took the statement of  the
deceased  which  was treated as F.I.R., and the same can  be
treated  as  dying declaration.  The two dying declarations
made  by the deceased at two different point of time to  two
different  persons,  corroborate each other and there is  no
inconsistency  in those two declarations made. In this view
of  the  matter,  we  have  no hesitation  to  come  to  the
conclusion that the two dying declarations made are truthful
and voluntary ones and can be relied upon by the prosecution
in  bringing home the charge against the accused persons and
the  prosecution case must be held to have been  established
beyond  reasonable  doubt.   Consequently,   we   have   no
hesitation   in  rejecting  the   first  submission  of  Mr.
Keshwani.   In this connection, it may be appropriate for us
to  notice an ancillary argument of Mr.  Keshwani that there
has  been an inordinate delay on the part of the  Magistrate
to  record  the dying declaration and, therefore,  the same
should not  be accepted.  As we find from the records,  the
incident  took place at 4 A.M. and the Magistrate  recorded
the  dying declaration at 9 A.M., in our opinion, it  cannot
be said that there has been an inordinate delay in recording
the statement of the deceased. Mr.  Keshwani had also urged
that when the Magistrate recorded the dying declaration, the
deceased   had been  surrounded  by  her   relations and,
therefore,  it can  be assumed that the  deceased  had  the
opportunity of being tutored.  But we fail to understand how
this  argument is advanced inasmuch as there is no iota  of
evidence that by the time the Executive Magistrate went, the
deceased  was surrounded by any of her relations.  No  doubt
the  Magistrate herself has said that three or four  persons
were  there  near the deceased whom she asked to go out  but
that  they  were the relations of the deceased, there is  no
material  on  record.  We, therefore, have no hesitation  to
reject the said submission of Mr.  Keshwani.

      Coming  now  to the second question, the law  is well
settled  that  the power of the High Court while sitting  in
appeal against  an order of acquittal is the same,  as  the
power while sitting in appeal against the conviction and the
High   Court, therefore  would  be   fully   entitled   to
re-appreciate  the materials on record and in coming to  its
own  conclusion.   The only compulsion on the part  of  the
Appellate  Court is to bear in mind the reasons advanced  by
the learned Sessions Judge, while acquitting the accused and
indicate  as to why those reasons cannot be accepted. This
being the parameter for exercise of power while entertaining
an  appeal against the order of acquittal and in view of our
conclusion  and finding that the two dying declarations were
truthful ones and voluntarily made, we see no infirmity with
the  impugned judgment of the High Court in setting aside an
order  of  acquittal.  On going through the Judgment of  the
Sessions  Judge,  we  find that the learned  Sessions  Judge
erroneously excluded the two dying declarations from purview
of consideration and therefore, the High Court was justified
in interfering with the order of acquittal.  If the order of
acquittal  is  based upon the grounds not  sustainable,  the
Appellate  Court would be justified in interfering with  the
said  order  of  acquittal.   Consequently, we are  of  the
opinion  that in the facts and circumstances of the  present
case, the High Court was fully justified in interfering with
the order of acquittal recorded by the Sessions Judge and as
such  the  conviction of the appellant under Section  302/34
IPC  is unassailable.  Coming to the question of  conviction
under  Section 498A  IPC, as has been stated  earlier,  the
learned  Sessions Judge also convicted the appellant of  the
said  charge  and  the High Court  on  re-appreciation,  has
affirmed  the conviction and sentence passed thereunder  and
nothing  has  been brought to our notice to take a  contrary
view. In the net result, therefore, these appeals fail and
are dismissed.


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