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Comparative Analysis Of Dying Declaration Under Indian Evidence Act , 1872 & Federal Rules Of Evidence Under United States Of America Law

The concept of dying declaration holds immense importance in the Indian legal system. It is the statement given by a person who is on the verge of death, shortly before their demise. The Indian Evidence Act, formulated in 1872, recognizes dying declarations as a valuable piece of evidence in criminal cases. This essay aims to explore the various aspects of dying declaration under the Indian Evidence Act, focusing on its formal nature, its importance, and the limitations surrounding its admissibility.

Formal Nature of Dying Declaration:
A dying declaration is a type of oral evidence given by a person who reasonably believes that their death is impending. The Indian Evidence Act considers it to be a relevant fact as it can provide crucial insights into the circumstances and events leading to the person's injury or death. Although a dying declaration is a statement made orally, certain formalities need to be observed for its admissibility.

Under Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, a dying declaration is admissible as evidence if it meets the following conditions: (a) it must be made by the person who is deceased, (b) it must relate to the cause of death, or the circumstances leading to the death, (c) it must be made under a clear belief by the declarant that their death was imminent, (d) it must be made voluntarily and without any external influence, and (e) it must contain statements against the interest of the declarant's killer or assailant.

Importance of Dying Declaration:
Dying declarations play a significant role in the criminal justice system as they serve as an exception to the general rule against hearsay evidence. The Indian Evidence Act allows the admissibility of such statements primarily due to their probative value and their significance in revealing the truth when no other evidence is available.

The importance of dying declaration lies in its ability to provide direct evidence from the deceased, who often may be the only witness to the crime. This type of evidence helps the court in forming a clear understanding of the events, identifying the accused, and establishing criminal liability. It adds credibility to the prosecution's case, especially when supported by medical evidence or other circumstantial evidence.

Limitations Surrounding Admissibility:
While dying declarations are considered as strong evidence, the Indian Evidence Act recognizes the need for caution and imposes certain limitations on their admissibility. The law aims to ensure that dying declarations are given truthfully and voluntarily, without undue influence or manipulation.

One of the main limitations is the requirement of corroboration, as highlighted in Section 114 and 32 of the Indian Evidence Act. Although there is no legal mandate for corroboration, courts often seek some external evidence that strengthens the dying declaration and safeguards against fabrication. The nature and extent of corroboration depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Another limitation arises from the fact that dying declarations are oral evidence, susceptible to potential inaccuracies, misinterpretations, or even complete fabrication. The court must carefully analyze the declaration for inconsistencies, contradictions, or signs of external influence. Judges and juries play a crucial role in assessing the reliability and credibility of the declaration, considering the condition of the declarant and the surrounding circumstances.

Comparative Analysis:
In India, a dying declaration is considered an exception to the hearsay rule, allowing the court to admit statements made by a person who is on the verge of death as evidence. The rationale behind this exception is to safeguard the truthfulness and reliability of such declarations, as it is presumed that individuals in life-threatening situations have minimal incentives to fabricate facts. The Indian legal system recognizes oral, written, or gestures-based dying declarations as valid evidence, emphasizing the importance of the substance rather than the formalities surrounding the declaration.

Conversely, the United States follows a stringent approach when admitting dying declarations as evidence. The American legal system generally adheres to the face-to-face confrontation principle, which ensures the accused has the right to cross-examine witnesses against them. As a result, dying declarations in the United States are more closely scrutinized, often requiring a higher degree of formality. For instance, under the Federal Rules of Evidence, the dying declaration must pertain to the cause or circumstances leading to the person's impending death, and they must explicitly believe their death to be imminent. While oral declarations are allowed, the written form is often preferred due to its higher evidentiary weight.

Moreover, another significant difference arises in terms of corroboration requirements. In India, the Supreme Court has emphasized that a dying declaration does not require corroboration to be considered credible. This highlights the trust placed in the dying declaration itself, given the unique circumstances under which it is made. This departure from the requirement of corroboration allows the Indian courts to heavily rely on the dying declaration as the lone and decisive evidence in reaching a verdict ( Kushal Rao Vs State Of Bombay ) .

On the contrary, the United States employs a more cautious approach by requiring some degree of corroboration. Dying declarations in the U.S. are typically subjected to an evaluation of the reliability and trustworthiness of the statement. Courts assess factors such as the declarant's mental state, motive to lie, and any inconsistencies within the declaration. While the requirement for corroboration acts as a safeguard against wrongful convictions, it may also limit the evidentiary weight given to a dying declaration in certain cases.

In conclusion, the Indian dying declaration and its American counterpart differ considerably in terms of formality and procedures. India prioritizes the substance of the dying declaration, allowing for greater flexibility in the forms it may take and requiring no corroboration. Conversely, the United States adheres to stricter guidelines, emphasizing formality, and necessitating at least some degree of corroboration. These differences demonstrate that while both legal systems recognize the importance of dying declarations as credible evidence, they approach the matter with distinct perspectives, reflecting variations in their evidentiary standards and safeguards.

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