The law sees the last words of a dead person with great importance. It is respectful towards the last moments of a person who is about to leave the world on an eternal journey. This is why in order to make it admissible, a dying declaration has been made immune to the established rule in s.60 of the evidence act which makes hearsay evidence inadmissible.
S. 32 (1) of the Evidence Act 1872 provides the definition of ‘dying declaration’ which is a statement, written or verbal of a person who is dead, of the facts and circumstances that will be relevant in the following cases:
1. The statement conveys the cause of his death
2. The statement provides the circumstances and transaction that amounted to his death
3. In cases where the death of the statement maker comes in question
In other words, a dying declaration is a statement made by a dead person which conveys the cause of his death and the circumstances that led to it. (Ulka Ram v State of Rajasthan)
This principle is based on the maxim ‘Nemo Moriturus Praesumitur Mentire’ which literally means ‘A man who is about to die can never lie’.
Conditions of dying declaration:
1. The person making the statement must be dead. If he survives, such statement would have no value in the eye of law
2. The statement must convey the circumstances or transaction that amounted to his death.
4. The death of the statement maker must be the fact in issue
3. The person must be capable enough to make the statement.
The reason behind admissibility of dying declaration is that it is the best evidence, the occasion was solemn and the person was in danger to lose his life. According to Sarkar, he religious sanction behind it is that the mind of a man who is at the brink of impending death has the same feelings of a virtuous man under oath.
Can dying declaration be the sole basis of conviction?
Dying declaration like extra judicial confession is not a substantive evidence. A dying declaration is presumed to be not without relevant facts and it cannot be the sole basis of conviction.
In fine, dying declaration according to Lord Lush, L.J., is “A dying declaration is admitted in evidence because it is presumed that no person who is immediately going into the presence of his Maker, will do so with a lie on his lips. But the person making the declaration must entertain settled hopeless expectation of immediate death. If he thinks he will die tomorrow it will not do.”