Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dying declaration not enough for conviction: HC

A dying declaration is not enough to convict a man who is in the dock for setting ablaze his wife, the Bombay high Court has ruled. A division bench of Justice D B Bhosale and Justice M L Tahilyani acquitted Pune resident Ashok Kamble giving him the “benefit of doubt “ and saying that his wife’s four dying declarations did not inspire confidence.
The traditional legal maxim is Nemo Moriturus Praesumitur Mentire i.e. a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth. The high court however referred to Supreme Court judgments and said that dying declarations could not be taken at face value.
“The contents of the dying declaration, verbal as well as written, do not inspire confidence, and possibility of false implication by the deceased being vindictive cannot be ruled out,” said the judges. “Whether to accept the dying declaration as truthful evidence and to convict the accused on the basis thereof is a matter of appreciation of evidence. The Court, where prosecution is relying solely on the dying declaration, has to be on guard that the statement of the deceased was not as aresult of tutoring, prompting, vindictive or a product of imagination, apart from the satisfaction of the Court that the deceased was in a fit state of mind and that he had clear opportunity to observe and identify the accused.”
The incident goes back to February 22, 2003, when Kamble was arrested for setting his wife Shobha ablaze. According to the prosecution the couple used to quarrel frequently. Four days before the incident there was another fight after Kamble brought home a woman he claimed to be his cousin. On the day of the incident the police said that Kamble poured kerosene over his sleeping wife and set her ablaze.
The trial court relied on the four dying declarations given by Shobha — to her neighbour, daughter, police officer and a judicial magistrate — and held Kamble guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Advocate Arfan Sait, who was Kamble’s counsel, argued that though proper procedure was followed while recording the dying declarations, they could not be held as truthful.

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