The admissibility and evidentiary value of Dying Declaration in criminal trial. – Unraveling the last wards of the Departed

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A dying declaration is a legal concept that refers to a statement made by a person who is on the verge of death, regarding the cause and circumstances leading to their impending demise. It holds significant evidentiary value in legal proceedings, particularly in criminal cases, where the declarant’s statement may be admitted as evidence even if it would normally be considered hearsay.

The rationale behind admitting dying declarations as evidence lies in the belief that individuals facing imminent death have little motive to lie or fabricate information. Due to the urgency and gravity of their situation, it is assumed that they would be more inclined to provide a truthful and accurate account of the events leading to their demise. Consequently, their statements are given considerable weight and are considered reliable evidence in court.

Dying declarations are subject to certain requirements for admissibility. These requirements may vary based on jurisdiction, but some common principles include:

  • The declarant must be aware of their impending death: The statement must be made by an individual who has a clear understanding that they are facing death and that their statement is a final account of what occurred.
  • The statement must pertain to the cause or circumstances of the impending death: Dying declarations typically focus on matters directly related to the fatal incident, such as the identity of the perpetrator or the details of the crime.
  • The statement must be voluntarily given: The declaration should be made without any influence or coercion from others, ensuring that it truly reflects the declarant’s own knowledge and perspective.
  • The statement must be reliable: Courts will evaluate the reliability of the dying declaration, considering factors such as the declarant’s mental state, capacity to perceive and recall events accurately, and absence of any ulterior motive.

Dying declarations are exceptions to the general rule against hearsay evidence. Hearsay refers to an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, and it is generally considered unreliable. However, dying declarations are considered to have inherent reliability due to the unique circumstances in which they are made.

Courts carefully scrutinize dying declarations to ensure their trustworthiness and adherence to the necessary requirements. If found admissible, these statements can significantly impact the outcome of a trial, potentially influencing the conviction or acquittal of the accused

Essentials of dying declaration:

The below mentioned are quintessential are to be met:

  • The declarant has to be aware or conscious that death is impending.
    • The declarant shall only make a statement in respect of his/her belief for the reason or circumstances of his/her death.
    • The statement shall only be recorded by the individual whose circumstances of death are concerned.
    • The statement made by the declarant should be honest and credible.

It is also pertinent to note that in the case of Mallella Shyamsunder v. State of Andhra Pradesh the apex court made two additions to the essentials of a dying declaration which are as follows:

  1. The declarant shouldn’t make the statement on tutoring or prompting.
  2. The court has full authority to check the authenticity of the statement made by the declarant for checking whether it was tutored or was there any motive of revenge. 1

Admissibility of dying declaration:

In India, the admissibility of a dying declaration in a criminal trial is governed by Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. A dying declaration refers to a statement made by a person who is on the verge of death, relating to the cause of their death or the circumstances leading to their death.

According to Section 32, a dying declaration is admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings if it fulfills certain conditions:

  • Statement by a person who is dead: The declaration must be made by a person who is dead at the time of the trial.
  • Statement relating to the cause of death or circumstances leading to death: The declaration should pertain to the cause of the declarant’s death or the circumstances leading to the death.
  • Statement made under the expectation of death: The declaration must have been made by the person under the belief that their death was imminent.
  • Statement made in a condition of sound mind: The person making the declaration should be of sound mind and capable of understanding the questions put to them and giving rational answers.
  • Statement not subject to influence or coaching: The declaration should be free from any external influence or coaching.

If these conditions are satisfied, a dying declaration is considered to be a relevant and admissible piece of evidence in Indian courts, even without the need for the declarant to appear as a witness. However, it is important to note that the court will evaluate the dying declaration based on its credibility and overall circumstances, as it is an exception to the general rule that hearsay evidence is not admissible.

Statements, written or verbal, of relevant facts:

The foremost component of Section 32(1) states that a dying declaration can be recorded in writing as well as in oral form pertaining to the relevant facts. “Verbal” refers to the words. However, it is not mandatory that such words have to be spoken, signs and gestures of another individual like nodding or shaking the head also account under this expression. In the case where the deceased declarant was interrogated by several people shortly prior to her death about the cause of her injuries inflicted on her. She didn’t have the capability to speak but she made signs and gestures. Such evidence was held to be admissible as the signs and gestures made by her accounted for the answers to the questions of her own circumstances of death and came under the expression of “verbal statements”.2

Cause Of death:

A dying declaration will be admissible before the court only when the statements recorded by the declarant are the cause or reasons for his own death. The interpretation of “death” expands to both homicidal as well as suicidal death. It is also important to note that relevancy shall also be regarded to statements made by an individual pertaining to the reason of his/her when the reason for death comes into question irrespective of whether that individual was not under the expectation of death at the time of recording such statements. In addition, general connotations of the fear or suspicion of the person or otherwise which do not directly correlate with the cause of death are inadmissible in the court of law. However, the kind of information given by the deceased declarant pertaining to the circumstance of his death is admissible under evidence law.

The dying declaration where an individual makes a complaint regarding his apprehension of impending death by the person whose conduct is the root for such apprehension and is accused with the death of the declarant, such complaint shall be admissible in the court. In the case where the deceased wife made a complaint to the Police against her husband that she apprehends her own death by her husband, such statement was held to be admissible in court.3

Circumstances of the transaction:

The word “circumstances” has been given a restricted interpretation. It is more limited than “circumstantial evidence” and res gestae. “Circumstances of the transaction” under Section 32(1) means that circumstances should have some proximity between the event of death and it must only include events that resulted into the death of the declarant making such a statement. The admissibility of a dying declaration is only possible if the reason or occasion of the declarant’s death comes into question before the court. There is no compulsion as to making the statement post the transaction or event has been completed or the declarant making such statement shall be near death or “circumstances” only include the acts or omissions only done at the location or place where the death occurred.

Multiple dying declarations:

Supreme Court Of India in concern to multiple dying declarations, it can be considered upon without corroboration if there is no breakdown of fact in all the dying declaration. If all the dying declarations are similar to each other and state correctly the cause of death, and there is no contradiction between the statement it can be admissible But if the dying declaration is different from each other and there is a contradiction between them, then court will cross-examine the facts of the case or can examine the statements of other witnesses to determine the truth and sanctity of statement regarding the case.

The statement of the deceased should match the facts and circumstances of the case. It is very important to understand the character of multiple dying declarations. Points to be considered in multiple dying declarations:

  1. There should be regularity in all the dying declaration.
  2. If all the dying declaration does not match or say overlap, then the court will examine the facts of the case with the dying declaration Or examine the witnesses.

In Kushal Rao v state of Bombay that case Court set the importance rules for dying declaration and what is the right process or manner to record it. In this case, if the dying statement made by the deceased. That it should be recorded in the form of question answer form, shall be endorsed/supported by the doctor that the deceased was in good mental state, can be recorded by the person who is legally entitled to record, if there are multiple dying declarations than it should be consistent, so that the court can rely on it.

The Supreme Court has held that multiple dying declarations can be reliable when it made without corroboration if consistency is maintained throughout the statement. Otherwise, the courts would have to cross-examine the statements of other witnesses to determine the truth in a criminal trial.

Reliability and Credibility:

The reliability of a dying declaration depends on several factors, including the mental and physical condition of the declarant at the time of making the statement. Courts in India have held that the declarant must be in a fit state of mind to make a statement, free from any influence or coercion. Judicial scrutiny is applied to ensure that the dying declaration is not a result of tutoring, hallucination, or an outcome of an impaired mental state.

Corroborative Evidence:

Although dying declarations are considered strong evidence, the courts in India have often emphasized the need for corroboration. This means that the statement should be supported by additional evidence wherever possible. The requirement for corroboration is particularly significant when the declaration is the sole basis for convicting an accused, as it helps establish the veracity of the statement and rule out any possibility of fabrication or mistaken identity.

Evidentiary value of Dying Declaration based on suspicion:

Where the prosecution case purely based on dying declaration which is plagued by so many suspicious circumstances creating a doubt as to its genuineness, such evidence of dying declaration would hardly be sufficient to maintain the conviction.

When the dying declaration recorded by Magistrate was neither signed by the deceased not contained date and time of its recording. In the absence of any explanation for being given by the prosecution that the deceased was not in a position to sign it, the dying declaration was held to be inadmissible. 4


Dying declaration is of paramount evidentiary value and can be a sole factor for conviction of the accused in cases of heinous crimes like murder, dowry death and rape. Hence, while it should undoubtedly be recorded carefully with all the procedure that the court has mentioned the following are suggestions to improve the reliability and veracity of dying declarations.

Dying declaration stands to be an exception to the rule of the hearsay form of evidence in the courts. Although hearsay evidence is discarded from the court due to its inconclusiveness and lack of accuracy the dying declaration is admissible in the court without any rule as to the strict corroboration. The basic premise for this exception and its admissibility is that a person would not lie and enter the afterlife. Through understanding the concept and condition precedents, facets pertaining to law on dying declaration in India list out specific events or facts which are the reasons or circumstances of the death of the individual making such declaration. The court through various judgments has taken into account various measures for maintaining honesty and trustworthiness while recording dying declarations.


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