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Authentic dying declaration can be sole basis for conviction without any corroboration: SC

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New Delhi: An authentic dying declaration that inspires the confidence of the court can be relied upon and be the sole basis for the conviction of an accused without any corroboration, the Supreme Court has said.
The top court made this observation on May 15 while upholding the conviction of an ex-army personnel for murdering his wife, a police constable, in Maharashtra’s Beed district 22 years ago.
It said that the court has to scrutinise the dying declaration carefully and ensure it is consistent, credible and devoid of tutoring.
“Once a dying declaration is found to be authentic and inspiring the court’s confidence, then the same can be relied upon and can be the sole basis for conviction without any corroboration.
“However, before accepting such a dying declaration, the court must be satisfied that it was rendered voluntarily, is consistent and credible, and is devoid of any tutoring. Once such a conclusion is reached, a great deal of sanctity is attached to a dying declaration and as said earlier, it can form the sole basis for conviction,” a bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan said.
In this case, the prosecution claimed that the victim was subjected to cruelty by her husband, brother-in-law and other in-laws.
On the fateful day, the woman was beaten up by her husband and brother-in-law who tied her hands with a ‘gamcha’ (thin and coarse cotton towel) and her feet with a towel and gagged her face.
The brother-in-law then got a matchbox and a bottle of kerosene, which the husband poured on her, and then lit the matchstick. The woman got completely burnt in the incident.
Her neighbours took her to the hospital, where her dying declaration was recorded based on which the Ambajogai police station in Beed district registered a case under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 498A (subjecting women to cruelty), 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 504 (intentional insult) read with section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The trial court in 2008 had convicted the husband for committing an offence punishable under section 302 (murder) read with section 34 of the IPC 1860 and sentenced him to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs 25,000. This verdict was upheld by the Bombay High Court.
The husband then moved the Supreme Court, which suspended his sentence and granted him bail in 2016 noting that he had already undergone about nine years of sentence.
Accepting the dying declaration of the deceased woman as a valid piece of evidence, the top court said that having sieved through the evidence carefully, it has no hesitation that the appellant is guilty of committing the offence and that the guilt has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt.
The appellant is directed to surrender before the trial court within two weeks to carry out his sentence, it said.

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