"It is unsafe to base the conviction of the accused solely on a dying declaration," the Bombay high court recently held, while acquitting four persons of a murder charge.
The court on December 7 set aside the life sentence awarded to the four by a Nashik session judge, for allegedly murdering a woman by setting her on fire.
The division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice AM Thipsay observed that the conviction of Maruti Ginjal, his wife Nirmala, his mother Malanbai and neighbour Sankhubai Shinde, was neither proper, nor legal.
According to the prosecution, on October 5, 2002, Maruti had allegedly attempted to rape one Sangita Deore. When Deore cried for help, Nirmala and Malanbai came to the spot and accused her of having an illicit affair with Maruti. Deore was then allegedly dragged into her house and set ablaze. Hearing her cries for help, her sister-in-law, Lilabai, and neighbours rushed to the spot. Deore told Lilabai what happened. The accused and Deore were taken to the police station and Deore was admitted to a hospital, where she died.
As there were no eyewitnesses, the prosecution relied on Deore's dying declaration to Lilabai, the investigating officer, and the magistrate, based on which the four accused were convicted for murder. The said there were differences in the dying declarations Deore gave to the IP and the magistrate, as the former was more detailed.
The division bench expressed doubt over how she managed to give so many details to the IO.