1. Can a statement made by a person who is dead as respects the circumstances resulting in the death of another and his own be a relevant fact in proceedings in which the cause of death of that another comes into question ?
2. Khanna, Tatya alias Nana and Kashya were neighbours, Khanna and Kashya staying in Group No. 7 and Nana in the adjoining Group No. 6 of Tagore Nagar, Vikhroli, Bombay. Tagore Nagar is a group of chawls located westwards of a 24 feet wide Ramakant Deshmukh Road under the jurisdiction of Vikhroli Police Station. A 18' tar road bisects the Nagar with chawl Nos. 65 and 57 on its south and chawl Nos. 66 and 58 towards north. A flour mill on the road caters to the need of the residents. Near the open space to the north is situated the cemetery.
3. On 30th July 1978 at about 1 p.m. P.W. 3 Gautam who works in Vikhroli Cemetery, was proceeding towards the cemetery - place of his work as usual. He found the trio Khanna, Nana and Kashya talking in agitated moods near the flour mill. Suddenly, Kashya pulled a knife from his trousers pocket and stabbed Khanna on the chest. As Tatya tried to intervene, Kashya also hit him with the knife. Seeing this turn of event Gautam caught fright and proceeded straight to his place of work.
4. P.W. 2 Police Constable Ganpat attached to Vikhroli Police Station heard a commotion near the cluster of houses in Group No. 7, Tagore Nagar. Ganpat found a man staggering towards the police station bleeding profusely and slumping on the Katcha road near the milestone on the Express Highway. Ganpat proceeded to his help. Ganpat and his colleague picked up the man, who told them that Kashya had stabbed him and his companion. They put him in a jeep and proceeded towards the place where people had collected. At the corner of Chawl No. 57 they discovered another person who was lying on the road. The police party approached him. The victim told the party that Kashya Jadhav had stabbed him and his companion. The constables picked him also and took both of them to Sion Hospital. The doctor in attendance pronounced Khanna dead and Tatya was admitted to the Emergency Ward.
5. On the basis of the dying declarations made by Tatya and the story as told by Ganpat, Gautam and one Raju, the learned Sessions Judge, for Greater Bombay found Kashya guilty of having committed offence of murder and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for life. Hence this appeal.
6. The evidence unfolded by the prosecution consists of two oral declarations made by Tatya and two written dying declarations by the same person. The first oral declaration was before P.W. 6 Narasamma Raju who lives in Chawl in Group No. 7 along with her family. She was cooking in her hut in the afternoon of 30th July 1978 and heard some commotion outside the room upon which she came out. A man was lying at some distance with his clothes soaked with blood. He was muttering that Kashya Jadhav had hit him. She also found that another person was running towards the Smashan and that both these persons were picked up by the police who came in a jeep.
7. P.W. 11 Nita the wife of Tatyaram alias Nana was working as a domestic in the house of a medical doctor at Sion, on the day of the incident. At about 3.00 p.m. her employer got a message that Nita's husband Nana was stabbed. The doctor gave her a lift to the Sion Hospital. Tatya told his wife that Kashya had hit him and Khanna.
8. In addition to these two oral declarations, the prosecution relied on Exh. 14 which is a statement of Tatya recorded in Sion Hospital in which Tatya has explained that Kashya had picked up a quarrel with his wife and Tatya reprimanded him on that account. Tatya further states that Khanna and Kashya were formerly close friends but fell out on the issue of a wrist-watch and a gold chain. On 30-7-1978 he and Khanna were casually talking about a morcha which the residents of Tagore Nagar intended to take out when Kashya approached at the intersection of the road, took out a knife and stabbed Khanna twice on his chest. When Tatya tried to intervene, Kashya stabbed him also and ran away. This was followed by another dying declaration recorded on 1st August 1978, Exh. 27, by P.W. 10 Shah, Special Executive Magistrate, which is in a question and answer form. The mechanics of the attack by Kashya have been described in this declaration in a like manner, but in addition Tatya alias Nana described how he ran between the two chawls and fell down in front of the door of P.W. 6 Raju.
9. Mr. Mooman, learned Counsel for the appellant, has attacked the finding of guilt mainly on the ground that the dying declarations appeared to be fabricated by the police in collusion with the Special Executive Magistrate. Mr. Mooman points out that there is a certain amount of overwriting in putting the time of recording of the statement. In Exhibit 27 the overwriting, according to Mr. Mooman, is at four places in the statement, and the timing has been changed so as to be in conflict with the timing of 11.35 appearing in Exhibit 14 recorded in the Sion Hospital. We have examined the original Exhibit 27 and the impugned over-writing, but do not find any systematic attempt of changing the timing as alleged by the learned Counsel. The dying declaration starts with the recitals that it was made at noon and the deponent Tatya, after signing in English, has put the date as 1-8-1978 below which he super scribes the time as 12-50 p.m. The Special Executive Magistrate Mr. Shah has given a certificate that he recorded the dying declaration made by Tatya and explained it to him in Marathi. Dr. Anjani ` has endorsed a certificate on the dying declaration that Tatya was fully conscious to give a statement and has put down the time as 1.00 p.m.
10. Mr. Mooman further argues that the dying declaration is too prolix and artificial to come out of the mouth of a person who is almost on his death-bed. It appears that Tatya alias Nana died on 16-3-1978 even though he was stabbed as early as on 30th July 1978. That is to say, even though the injury was a serious one, Tatya gave a brave fight for a pretty long time and consequently can be credited with enough energy to make a detailed dying declaration.
11. Mr. Mooman thirdly argues that Tatya's death could have been caused by the negligence of the medical staff at Sion Hospital and for that purpose relies on a statement by Dr. Pathak that one injury was not sutured. Dr. Pathak who treated Tatya found that the injury was necessarily fatal and if not operated upon, the patient would not have survived at all, and there is nothing to indicate that the death was accelerated in any manner by the negligent handling of the case. The non-suturing of one wound to which the learned Counsel refers is not borne out from the deposition of Dr. Kusum who performed the post-mortem. According to Dr. Kusum there was collapse of the left lung which was covered with greenish foul smelling pus, and all sutures were intact, except one, and thereby does not hint that the one was not sutured at all. All that Dr. Kusum deposes is that during the port-mortem she found all but one suture intact.
12. That brings us to the most important point thrown up by this case viz., whether the declaration of Tatya as respects the death of Khanna is admissible as a relevant act. Under S. 32(1) of the Evidence Act, statement made by a person as to the cause of his death or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death are relevant. The dying declaration of Tatya covers not only the manner in which Kashya stabbed him, but also an antecedent fact about Kashya stabbing Khanna and Tatya rushing towards his rescue and getting stabbed. As regards that part of the dying declaration which relates to the death of the deponent, it would come squarely within the expression 'as to the cause of his death', appearing in sub-section (1) of S. 32 of the Evidence Act. The question arises : would the portion of the dying declaration concerning the attack on Khanna be admissible under that sub-section ?
13. We are faced with conflicting decisions in this regard. The Allahabad High Court, in Kunwarpal Singh v. Emperor : AIR1948All170 , relied on the wording of S. 32(1) of the Evidence Act and observed :-
'S. 32(1). Evidence Act, makes the statement of a person who is dead a relevant fact when the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in cases in which the cause of that person's death comes into question. It follows that the statement of one dead person is not a relevant fact with respect to the question about the death of another person.'
14. A similar question arose before the Travancore-Cochin High Gourt, in Lukka Ulahannen v. Travancore-Cochin State AIR 1955 Trav 104 : . The Court relied on a very early Madras case,- In re P. Subbu Thevan 2 Weir 750 (B), as well as the case of Rangoon High Court in 'Nga Hla Din v. Emperor AIR 1936 Ran 187 : 1936 Cri LJ 621, and held that :
'The view that the statement of one dead person is not a relevant fact with respect to the question about the death of another person or with respect to the causing of hurt to a third is too narrow to be accepted. To exclude from the evidence statements made by a deceased person as to incidents which occurred during the course of the transaction which resulted in his death statements other than those relating to the cause of his death, would be to import a limitation to the words used in the section which their natural meaning does not warrant. When a limitation like that is intended, the Legislature specially provides for it.'
The Travancore-Cochin High Court dissented from the Allahabad case of 'Kunwarpal Singh v. Emperor : AIR1948All170 , and described the observations therein :
'It follows that the statement of one dead person is not a relevant' fact with respect to the question of the death of another person.'
as 'ipse dixit' which they found it difficult to accept. The Travancore-Cochin High Court drew sustenance for its view from the plain meaning of the word 'transaction' and compared the language of that Section with that of S. 27 of the Evidence Act. We would respectfully differ from the view taken by the Allahabad High Court in Kunwarpal Singh's case 1948 Cri LJ 140.
15. The Privy Council in Pakala Narayana Swami v. The King-Emperor (1939) 1 M LJ 756 : 1939 Cri LJ 364, has expanded the ambit of the words 'circumstances of the transaction', thus :-
'The circumstances must be circumstances of transaction, and general expressions indicating fear or suspicion whether of a particular individual or otherwise, and not directly related to the occasion of death, will not be admissible. Statements by the deceased that he was proceeding to the spot where he was in fact killed, or as to his reasons for so proceeding, that he was going to meet a particular person, or that he had been invited by such a person to meet him, would each of them be circumstance of the transaction, and would be so whether the person was unknown or was not the person accused. Such a statement might indeed be exculpatory of the person accused. The phrase 'circumstances of the transaction' is not as broad as 'circumstantial evidence' which included evidence of all relevant facts, but it is narrower than 'res gestae'. The circumstances must have some proximate relation to the actual occurrence. The circumstances, again, should be of the transaction which resulted in the death of the declarant. It is not necessary that there should be a known transaction other than that the death of the declarant has ultimately been caused, for the condition of the admissibility of the evidence is that 'the cause of the declarant's death' comes into question'.
16. Though 'Res gestae' means 'the transaction', this label has never been very popular either with judges or jurists. At one end of - the spectrum is Lord Blackburn's scepticiam, 'If you wish to tender inadmissible evidence, say it is part of the res gestae' (Quoted by Cross p. 37, n. 2) while another Law Lord calls the phrase as one 'adopted to provide a respectable legal cloak for a variety of cases to which no formula of precision can be applied', Homes v. Newman (1931) 2 Ch 112, at page 120, per Lord Temlin. Jurists have gone hammer and tongs at this phrase. Stone writing in Law Quarterly Review (1939) 55 LQR 66 calls it, 'The lurking place of a motley crowd of conceptions in mutual conflict and reciprocating chaos'. (Pollock-Holmes Letters, 23 April 1931 1942 2 PP. 284.
17. Morgan writing in (1922) 31 Y LJ 229 says :
'The marvellous capacity of a Latin phrase to serve as a substitute for reasoning, and the confusion of thought inevitably accompanying the use of inaccurate terminology are nowhere better illustrated than in the decisions dealing with the admissibility of evidence as 'res gestae'. It is probable that this troublesome expression owes its existence and persistence in our law of evidence to an inclination of Judges and lawyers to avoid the toilsome exertion of exact analysis and precise thinking.'
18. The phrase drifted from its old moorings when it attracted the attention of Lord Wilberforce in Ratten v. R. (1972) AC 378 : (1971) 3 All ER 801 :
'The expression res gestae, like many Latin phrases, is often used to cover situations insufficiently analysed in clear English terms. In the context of the law of evidence it may be used in at least three different ways :
1. When a situation of fact (e.g. a killings) is being considered, the question may arise when does the situation begin and when does it end. It may be arbitrary and artificial to confine the evidence to the firing of the gun or the insertion of the knife without knowing, in a broader sense, what was happening. Thus in O'Leary v. R. 1946 73 CLR 566 evidence was admitted assaults, prior to a killing, committed by the accused during what was said to be a continuous orgy. As Dixon, J. said (1946) 3 CLR 566 :
'Without evidence of what, during that time, was done by those men who took any significant part in the matter and specially evidence of the behaviour of the prisoner, the transaction of which the alleged murder formed an integral part could not be truly understood and, isolated from it, could only be presented as an unreal and not very intelligible event.'
Lord Wilberforce then proceeds to narrate the other two different ways in which the phrase is used which are not relevant to our present purpose.
19. Though ordinarily dying declarations are not admissible upon charges of homicide other than that of the declarant, an exception was made in the English case of R. V. Baker (1837) 2 M & Reb 53. There, X and Y died from eating a cake into which A was accused of putting poison. On A's trial of X's murder, the dying declaration of Y which was made after death of X that she, i.e. Y, had made the cake in the presence of the accused and had put nothing bad into it were held admissible upon the ground that the two deaths by the same poisoning were all one transaction. This judgment has been treated somewhat as a derelict on the waters of English law only in so far as its extension to cases other than homicide (See Phipson on Evidence, Thirteenth Ed. para 24-70). But as Section 32 of Evidence Act does not confine itself to cases of homicide only but covers all types including civil cases, Baker's principle would hold good.
20. The expression 'the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death' occurring in S. 32(1) of the Evidence Act owes its origin probably to the language of Sergeant East. In Pleas of the Crown, 1353.
'Besides the usual evidence of guilt in general cases of felony, there is one kind of evidence more peculiar to the case of homicide, which is the declaration of the deceased, after the mortal blow, as to the fact itself, and the party by whom it is committed. Evidence of this sort is admissible in this case on the fullest necessity; for it often happens that there is no third person present to be an eyewitness to the fact; and the usual witness on occasion of other felonies, namely, the party injured himself, is gotten rid of.' As Sergeant East referred to 'declaration of the deceased, after the mortal blow', it gave an impression that the exception of the hearsay rule can be availed of not in any death which may be the subject of the charge but the deceased declaring must be the person whose death is the subject of the charge. Even in America this restriction was followed and in a case decided in 1875, State v. Beham 15 Kan 418. In a trial for murder of A, declarations were rejected of B though A and B were shot at the same time by the same man with the difference that B had survived A by a few hours and hence was available to make a dying declaration. Wigmore, in a celebrated thesis on evidence, Art. 1433, calls it, 'The irrational and pitiful absurdity of this feat of legal cerebration', and cites cases in American jurisdiction where the evidence of one of the victims is excluded in a trial for the murder of the other victim. Wigmore cites a case in which while B and his wife were playing cards, somebody shot B and then Mrs. B; both died; Mrs. B when dying described the assailant; her testimony was excluded because het death was not the subject of the present charge. Wigmore asks : 'Can one's imagination devise a more senseless rule of exclusion, if he had not found it in our law ?'
21. Statute revision bodies have taken note of the uncertainly in this field of adjective law. The U.K. Criminal Law Revision Committee in its (1972) 11th Report - (Paragraph 261) says :-
'The test we propose is similar to that laid down in Rattan v. R. (1972) AC 378: (1971) 3 All ER 801 though somewhat narrower. It is that the statement should be admissible if 'It directly concerns an event in issue in (the) proceedings which took place in the presence, sight or hearing of (the maker) and it was made by him as an immediate reaction to that event'. Before Ratten v. R. the English decision left it uncertain whether a statement admissible under the res gestae rule was admissible as evidence of the facts stated or only as explaining the events referred to; but the balance of authority seems to have been that it is admissible for the former purpose, and this is in accordance with the analysis in Ratten. In any event it seems to us clearly right that the statement should be admissible for this purpose.'
22. The Law Commission of India, in its sixty-ninth Report on the Indian Evidence Act, 1872', May 1977, realised (Paragraph 12.58) that 'the language of the section is even now capable of a wider construction' but 'in order to resolve the controversy, it is desirable to make the necessary clarification on the above point'. Accordingly, they recommended that an Explanation II may be added to Section 32(1) on the following lines :-
'The circumstances of the transaction which resulted in the death may include facts relating to the death of another person.'
23. Sam Weller, in Charles Dickens : Pickwick Papers, says that he is in the service of Mr. Pickwick 'and a very good service it is'. The Prosecutor asks 'Little to do, and plenty to get, I suppose ?' to which Sam replies 'Oh, quite enough to get, sir, as the soldier said when they ordered him three hundred lashes'. The judge interposed 'You must not tell us what the soldier, or any other man, said, sir, it is not evidence'. There may be a fallacy in what the judge said to Sam Weller, because, the evidence was not hearsay but primary or original. Sam Weller was describing his service by drawing comparisons or analogy. At any rate it was not part of the same transaction. Can the Special Executive Magistrate who recorded the dying declaration of Tatya tell him like the Judge in Pickwick Papers - 'You must not tell me what Kashya did to Khanna; it is not evidence ?'
24. The religious or metaphysical basis on which dying declaration is admitted as evidence propounded by Eyre, C.B. is that 'when a party is at the point of death, the mind is induced by the most powerful considerations to speak the truth; a situation so solemn, and so awful, is considered by the law as creating an obligation equal to that which is imposed by a positive oath administered in a Court of Justice'. In a former British Colony still retaining the anglo-saxon system of jurisprudence - the dying declaration exception was not applied to the statement of an indigenous Papuan, whose community believed that the future life would be spent pleasantly on a nearby island R. v. Modobi : (1962)IILLJ621SC . But, do we make an enquiry into the declarant's religious beliefs Do we ascertain from the declarant whether he understands the meaning of oath as is done in the case of a child witness ?
25. The wide interpretation of the word finds support in Black's Law Dictionary' which defines the word 'Circumstances' as 'Attendant or accompanying facts, events or conditions'.
26. The upshot of the above suggests that the question whether the statement of one dying person can be a relevant fact with respect to the death of another will depend upon -
(a) Whether it was made in the continuum of a narration describing the final occurrence concerning the declarant; and
(b) Whether it is directly concerned with an event which took place' in the presence, sight or hearing of the declarant; and
(c) Whether that event has some proximate relation to the actual final occurrence; and
(d) Whether the declaration would become unintelligible or distorted if the narration of that event is blotted out from the declaration.
27. The relevant part of the dying declaration of Tatya read :
'On Sunday, the 30th July, 1978, at about 1.00 p.m. myself and Shri Khanna were standing near the flour mill, in Tagore Nagar, Group No. 7. One Kashya Jadhav came there and called us. He asked whether we were searching him for assaulting. Immediately thereafter, he took out one open knife and stabbed Khanna on his chest twice. When I tried to save Khanna, Kashya stabbed me on my chest.
28. A reading of the declaration shows that it would become unintelligible and present a distorted picture if the narration regarding stabbing of Khanna is excluded therefrom. Why did Kashya stab Tatya It is because Tatya ran to the rescue of Khanna who was being stabbed by Kashya. By excluding the narration regarding Khanna, the declaration may give an impression that Kashya came to the spot and straightway lunged towards Tatya and stabbed him - which is not what the declarant states. Right from the moment Kashya arrived at the crossing of the roads where Nana and Khanna were standing till the stabbing of Nana formed an unbroken chain of events constituting one transaction. Hence, the narration of Nana regarding the manner in which Kashya stabbed Khanna would also fall within the meaning of the phrase 'any of the circumstances of the transaction' contained in sub-section (1) of S. 32 of the Evidence Act. An errant bus-driver ploughing his bus into a crowd of waiting commuters; a rogue pachyderm running amok from captivity trampling the onlookers; a racist spraying bullets on the foci of his hatred - will not the last of the survivors of the rampage be able to describe how others met their deaths before the avalanche hit him
29. Consequently, we find that all the four statements made by Tatya - two oral and two reduced to writing - would be admissible in toto and the learned Sessions Judge was right in finding the accused guilty as he did of the murders of Khanna and Nana. The Appeal therefore fails and is dismissed.
30. Appeal dismissed.