A dying declaration is a statement, verbal or written, made by a person since deceased, relating to the cause of his or her death or any of the transaction resulting in death. S.32 (1)* Of the Indian Evidence Act describes statements made by persons who cannot be called as witnesses to prove the same.
The reason this kind of evidence has been admitted as put by Lord Baron Eyre “ they are declarations made in extremity, when the party is at the point of death, and when every hope of the world is gone, when every motive to falsehood is silenced, and 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 the law as creating an obligation equal to that which is imposed by a positive oath in the court of justice.” **
* S.32 Cases in which statement of relevant fact by person who is dead or cannot be found, etc. is relevant—statements, written or verbal of relevant facts made by a person who is dead, or who cannot be found, or who has become incapable of giving evidence or whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay or expense which, under the circumstances of the case appears to the Court unreasonable, are themselves relevant facts in the following cases:--
(1) When it relates to cause of Death—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 persons death comes into the question. Such statements are relevant whether the person who made them was or not, at the time when they were made, under expectation of death and whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of his death comes into the question.
** R v. Woodstock, (1789) 1 Leach. 504 (Eyre, C.B.)
DYING DECLARATION MADE IN A STATE OF SHOCK
1. A violent collision or impact; heavy blow.
2. Pathology: A generally temporary state of massive physiological reaction to bodily trauma, usually characterized by marked loss of blood pressure and the depression of vital processes.
As Modi’s medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology(ii) describes “Shock” as a result of considerable loss of blood or obstruction to respiration or circulation, lack of oxygen develops, which also causes endothelial damage and increased capillary permeability resulting in changes in fluid balance. Shock usually appears immediately after receiving the injuries, but it may supervene after some time, if the individual at the time of receiving injuries was in a state of great excitement and mental preoccupation. Shock may be produced from exhaustion resulting from several injuries combined though each one of them separately may be very slight.
After receiving mortal injuries involving a vital organ, a very guarded reply is required to be given by a medical witness to state whether a person is capable of speaking, walking or performing any other volitional act which would involve a bodily or mental power for some time after receiving the fatal injury. Injuries cause variable reactions in individuals, also some cases have been recorded where some acts requiring some exertion have been recorded, where the victims have survived some hours after receiving some grave injuries, which ordinarily would be rapidly fatal.
In the case of K.E v. Kallakhan(iii) , a male was stabbed in the stomach with a knife and was able to walk two furlongs to a police station to make a police report and he was also able to make a dying declaration in a complete mental state before dying.
The statement made by the deceased must be straight forward, rational, consistent and absolutely coherent and it should also have a ring of truth to it. A dying declaration is admissible if it is made in full possession of senses. If the certificate given by the doctor mentions that the patient became semi conscious, this however is not a conclusive proof that the deceased became confused or there was any wandering or want of clearness in the mind. Wounds may cause depressions of the vital functions as a result of shock due to trauma with visible injury. Primary or neurogenic shock may cause short of breath and solar plexus (reaction caused by a blow on the pit of the stomach), which in turn may lead to a semi conscious stage, which is an indication of weakness and not mental impairment.(iv)
More so if the certificate given by the doctor mentions that the patient became semi-unconscious towards the end of the dying declaration that clearly shows that the deceased was fully conscious when he started making the dying declaration before the doctor.
(i) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language - New College Edition
(ii) N.J.Modi, Modi’s textbook of Medical Jurisprdence and Toxicology, 244, (M.Tripathi (P) Ltd., Mumbai, 1977)
(iii) (All.), High Court Criminal Appeal No. 757 of 1923
(iv) Refer to note (ii) on p.245