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Doctor not must for dying statement

New Delhi, Oct. 14: The Supreme Court has ruled that a dying declaration in a criminal case cannot be rejected on the sole ground that there was no doctor to certify mental fitness of the person making the declaration.

A division bench of Justices N. Santosh Hegde and B.P. Singh said in a recent judgment that if the person recording the declaration was satisfied about the mental condition of the declarant, then such declaration “will not be invalid solely on the ground that the same is not certified by the doctor as to the condition of the declarant to make the dying declaration”.

“Dying declaration which does not contain a certificate of the doctor cannot be rejected on that sole ground as long as the person recording the dying declaration was aware of the fact as of the condition of the declarant to make such dying declaration,” the bench said, pointing to a Constitution bench judgment on the subject.

The apex court gave this ruling while upholding the conviction of Rambai, a resident of Chhattisgarh, who had been accused of burning her sister-in-law, Vidyabai. The sessions judge in Raipur had convicted Rambai in 1998 and, subsequently, Chhattisgarh High Court had dismissed her appeal petition against the conviction.

The defence contended that Vidyabai could not have made the dying declaration as she had already suffered 85 per cent burns at the time of making the declaration.

It tried to make out a case that she died in a sudden explosion of a kerosene stove.

However, the bench, after perusing the records, said: “We are satisfied that the deceased at the time she made the dying declaration was in a fit condition of mind to make such a statement.”

The apex court rejected the defence argument and upheld the verdict of the courts.

“Having carefully examined the judgments of the courts below and the material on record, we are satisfied that the courts below have correctly come to the conclusion as to the guilt of Rambai,” the bench said.

“Having found no discrepancy in the statement of the deceased, we are inclined to accept the same as held by the courts below,” the court added.

The Supreme Court rejected the defence argument that the deceased sustained the burns from a stove explosion accident while cooking lunch.

“We notice the courts below have considered this argument and, taking the preponderance of evidence and also the factum that the husband of the deceased had resiled from his statement made before the investigating officer, have held that it is not safe to rely upon the defence witness (the husband of the deceased). In such a situation we are unable to take a contra view from the one taken by the courts below,” the bench said.

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