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Res Gestae - A Judicial Analysis

The most complicated area of criminal jurisprudence is the tool of proving, what type of evidence is presented for proving in court of law. Here is one of the principles of law of evidence is Res Gestae. The doctrine of Res Gestae is based on the assumption that every relevant part of the chain of event is consider before the final disposal by the judiciary as under criminal justice system so that no evidence can be discarded on the ground of irrelevant considerations even if some technicality is also differs from case to case.

The reason behind is for the adoption of the doctrine of res gestate under the criminal law as the necessity of proving some relevant facts. It is not possible for the proving of whole incident without the helping of some missing facts. It may be proved by some other piece of evidence examined and titled as doctrine of Res Gestae. Res Gestae is a Latin phrase which means that forming part of the same transaction. It means that relevant portion of the event which is connected with directly or indirectly with the main transaction of the event.

The meaning of doctrine of Res Gestae is unclear and it is not definitive. It is so confused term as we cannot say that what is exactly consider as the doctrine of Res Gestae. It is not stated clearly because it is discretion left to the courts to consider the relevant evidence based on the whole facts of the cases.

History of Res Gestae

The rule of Res Gestae first appeared in the year 1693 in Thompson v. Trevanion,[1]where it was held that declarations accompanying an act are receivable in explanation thereof. In the year 1736, in Ambrose v. Clendon[2]declarations were again held to be admissible if concomitant with facts.Then the use of the doctrine of Res Gestae was in a brief discussion over a point of evidence in Home Tooke’s trial[3]for high treason.

Nevertheless, the development of this doctrine did not begin until after Aveson v. Lord Kinnaird,[4]in 1805, when the phrase in question had begun to be freely used in connection with it; and only since the middle of the 1800s has it been possible to say that this Exception was firmly established. In the infamous decision of Cockburn C.J. in R v. Bedingfield[5],the principle of Res Gestae and exception to the hearsay rule was discussed. Lord Justice Cockburn held that the statement was not admissible, since it was something stated by her after it was all over. He said that it was not part of the transaction, that it was said after the transaction was all over, the transaction being the cutting of the throat. Although this decision has been effectively overruled, it accurately illustrates the erstwhile principle used to define the Res Gestae exception, which often resulted in unjust consequences.

Actually the decision of Bedingfield case was too strict. However, this decision was overruled in the case of Ratten v.R[6]where under common law, the doctrine of Res Gestae was defined in liberal and wider terms. Another case Ratten v Queen[7], Lord Wilber force said: “Evidence would have been admissible as part of the Res Gestae because not only was there a close association in place and time between the statement and the shooting, but also the way in which the statement came to be made, in a call for the police and the tone of voice used showed intrinsically that the statement was being forced from the wife by an overwhelming pressure of contemporary events”.

Res Gestae:-
Res Gestae means things done or liberally speaking, the facts of the transaction, explanatory of an act or showing a motive for acting[8]; a matters incidental to a main fact and explanatory of it; including acts and words which are so closely connected with a main fact as will constitute a part of it, and without a knowledge of which the main fact might not be properly understood, even speaking for themselves though the instinctive words and acts of participants not the words and acts of participants when narrating the events, the circumstances, facts and declaration which grow out of the main fact, and contemporaneous with it and serve to illustrate its character or these circumstance which are the atomic and undersigned incidents of a particular litigated act and are admissible when illustrative of such act”[9]

In Babulal v. W.I.T Ltd[10] it was observed that the statement of law in section 6 of the evidence act is usually known as Res Gestae. Res Gestae has been described as a term of protean significance and that there have been many definitions of the term Res Gestae. The incapable of any precise definition and it has been applied to so many different and unrelated situations that it has been said that the difficulty of formulating a description of Res Gestae which will serve all circumstances seems insurmountable.[11]It would be little short of miraculous if one single doctrine of Res Gestae would suffice for every situation.

There must be a main or principal fact or transaction; and only such declarations are admissible which grow out of the principal transaction and serve to illustrate its character, and are contemporary with, and derive some degree of credit from it. The main transaction is not necessarily confined to a particular point of time, but may extend over a long or shorter period, according to the nature and character of the transaction.

Res Gestae may be broadly defined as matter incidental to the main fact and explanatory of it, including acts and words which are so closely connected therewith as to constitute a part of the transaction and without a knowledge of which the main fact, are contemporaneous with it and serve to illustrate its character.[12]

The term Res Gestae has been used in two senses – in the restricted sense it means words happening out of which the right or liability in question arises. In restricted meaning Res Gestae imports the conception of action by some person producing the effects for which the liability is sought to be enforced in action. Res Gestae is an expression mainly of utility in the criminal law concerning the contemporaneity of statements to incidents but in so far as contemporaneous statements are relevant and accompany and explain matters in issue, they will be admissible.

Res Gestae Under Indian Evidence Act:

Every such act, omission or statement as throws some light upon the nature of the transaction or reveals its true quality or character should be held as a part of the transaction and the evidence of it should be received[13]To state a fact or event in isolation without reference to its antecedents in time, place or surrounding circumstances may render the fact, difficult or even impossible to comprehend. Other facts or circumstances may be so closely connected with the fact in issue as to be, in reality part and parcel of the same transaction. The term Res Gestae has not been used in the Evidence Act. But section 6[14]is analyzed under the head of Res Gestae In determining the relevance of facts, Section 6 deals with facts connected with the fact in issue so as to form ‘part of the same transaction’, regardless of whether the occurred at the same time and place. The relevance of the fact flows from the determination of whether it is part of the same transaction; this reflects, not surprisingly, the early interpretation of the Res Gestae exception. It must also be noted that the Act clarifies that the term ‘fact’ shall include statements.

The aspect of section 6 are:-
1.The act may not have occurred in the same place.[15]
2.The time gap should be very little or contemporaneous so that there is no time to fabricate or make up a story.[16]
3.Act of witness during the same time and same place where the offence was committed.[17]
4.Gestures made by the victim when dying.[18]
5.When FIR becomes Res Gestae[19]

Transaction may have defined as the sequence of the events or all part of the incident which is systematically examined a whole and for the proper understanding not separated from as a single act. In other words, we can say that the all the relevant parts of the events which is connected with happening or the different parts of the whole incident as without examined all parts no events are complete in itself. This is general meaning of the term transaction. The transaction it starts from initial to end point of the event.

The question is arising here that what amounts to transactions or exactly what we can say that as the relevant and admissible as transaction? Another question is that what is the time period when the transaction as beginning or the end point of the transaction. The transaction which includes single or more than single acts constitute the whole incident. So it is defines as according to the facts and circumstances of the case Roughly a transaction may be described as any physical act or series of connected physical act, together with the words accompanying such act or acts.

Principle of Admissibility of Declarations:

·The statement must explain, elucidate or characterize the incident in some manner.
·The statement must be spontaneous or contemporaneous, but not mere narrative of a completed past event.
·The statement must be a statement of fact but not a statement of opinion.
·The statement must have been made either by a participant in the transaction or by a person who has himself witnessed the transaction.
·The statement made by the bystander[21]would be relevant only if it is shown that he was present at the time of the happening of the event and witnessed the same.

Test For Res Gestae:

1.The first test says that if there a relation of cause and effect or vice versa, i.e. a causal relation between the fact in issue and the fact which is intended to be given as evidence, then that fact can be said to form part of the same transaction as the fact in issue. This test, however, is of not much worth as every event is the collaborative effect of innumerable effects. Now, supposing that all these causes and effects are to be treated as relevant and evidence is permitted to be given of all these facts, then the very purpose of restricting the evidence in a court of law to relevant facts is lost. The precious time of the court will be rendered in vain in listening to evidence of remote causes and distant effects.

2.The second test suggests that facts connected by proximity of time and place would come under the section. No doubt facts happening at about the same time and place can be treated as closely connected and therefore relevant under the section. But this is not enough, because the section itself contemplates the possibility of facts happening at different times and places, being connected with the fact in issue, so as to form part of the same transaction.

3.A third test suggests that there should be a continuity of purpose and action running through the fact in issue and the fact of which evidence is sought to be given. This, it is submitted, is considered equally unworthy as it merely substitutes one vague phrase for another.

Expansion of The Doctrine:

The court have often applied this doctrine in murder cases, which contain the requisite underlying shocking event. But courts, have broadened the scope of this doctrine by applying it in cases like domestic violence, child witness, rape etc.

In case of domestic violence or assault cases, which involves a startling event includes the issue of excited utterances. In India, women may not react just after the crime of rape or sexual violence because they are under the influence of such gruesome event that they do not respond immediately. It is possible that they respond after a day or two but such statement spoken can still be admitted under res getae. If it can be proved that victim was still under the stress of shock then such statement can be admitted. Usually cases of rape take place in isolation. So there is no eye witness to such event. Rape and domestic violence cases are different than any other crime. The testimony of such victims may be taken into consideration, because only they can identify the alleged culprit.

Usually when ever there is a time gap, the transaction is said to end and any statement which do not form part of the transaction is inadmissible. However in cases of children this rule is relaxed. The rationale for expanding the exception for children emphasizes how children cope with stress because their statements are often made well after events occur at the first safe opportunity to speak.In Uttam Singh vs State of Madhya Pradesh,[22] the child witness was sleeping with the deceased father at the relevant time of incident and was awakened by the sound of the fatal blow of the axe on the neck of the deceased. Seeing it, the child shouted to his mother for help by naming the accused as assailant. On hearing the sounds the mother and sisters of the child and other witnesses gathered at the spot. This evidence was held to be admissible as a part of the same transaction as such shout was the natural and probable as per the facts of the case. In this case if child witness failed to react on the spot but spoke later, it could still be admissible under sec. 6.

Judicial Observations
Indian Judiciary has interpreted Res Gestae as only those statements made contemporaneously with the event or immediately after it, but not ‘at such interval of time’ as to allow fabrication.

1.State of Andhra Pradesh v. Panna Satyanarayan[23]the accused murdered his wife and
daughter. The statement by the father of deceased wife that father of accused told him on telephone that his son has killed the deceased. Absence of a finding as to whether the information given by accused’s father to the deceased’s father that the accused had killed the deceased was either of the time of commission of the crime or immediately thereafter so as to form the part of same transaction. The statement cannot be considered as relevant under section

2. Bishna alias Bhiswadeb Mahato & Others v. State of West Bengal[24]
the two witnesses came to place of occurrence immediate after incident had taken place. They found dead body of deceased and other injured victim in unconscious state and also found mother of deceased weeping as also injured witness present there. They heard about entire incident from injured witness and other witness including role played by each of accused and others. The evidence of these two witnesses corroborate the evidence of the prosecution witnesses as also the allegations made in the F.I.R.Their evidence is admissible under section 6.

3. Jagser v. State of Haryana[25]In the present case, corroboration to the dying declaration
comes from the statement of Mangat Ram, brother, Ruldu, father of the deceased, who provided eye witness account, supporting the prosecution story on material aspects. Although they do not state that the accused had set Yashin Khan on fire in their presence, since according to them both the accused had taken Yashin Khan and his wife Pinki to a room of the house, so as to resolve the dispute but they said that after some time Yashin Khan while on fire came running out of the house. Applying the principle of res gestae, it comes out that both accused are clearly connected with the crime. The medical evidence duly corroborates the ocular evidence.

4. Sri Samar Das vs The State of Tripura[26]The following important issues arise for consideration in the present appeal:
(a) As to whether a minor witness is competent to testify in the Court in terms of Section 118of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (hereinafter referred to as the Evidence Act) and whether her deposition can be considered for examining the guilt of the accused;
(b) As to whether her testimony necessarily requires corroboration; and
(c) As to whether testimony of the parents of the victim can be considered, applying the doctrine of Res Gestae, in view of Section 6of the Evidence Act.

We find the testimonies of the parents, even if hearsay in nature, being in close proximity to the time of crime and relating to the act which is in issue, substantially contemporaneous to the acts in issue to be proven as a fact, can be referred to and relied upon for establishing the prosecution case.

Res Gestae An Exception To Hearsay:

Res Gestae is an exception to the principle that hearsay evidence is no evidence. Res Gestae being admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule can be stated as being a hearsay statement, relating to an extraordinary evidence or condition, that was made while the witness was still under the effect and stress of excitement caused by that event or condition. The reasoning provided behind such statement is that the witness while providing such exceptional hearsay statement lacks reflective capacity due to the event being so startling, and is only able to speak the truth. In Sukhar v State of U.P.[27]the question whether the witness could give evidence of what the victim told him was raised? It was held that Section 6 as an exception to general rule that hearsay is not admissible as evidence. But it has to be established that ‘’the statement was about contemporaneous with the fact in issue and there should not be any interval for fabrication, so that it forms part of the same transaction.” In this case the evidence of the witness is admissible. When the witness came to the place of occurrence where they found the dead body of the deceased and injured victim in unconscious state.

Even when the development of the term Res Gestae was in its infancy,there was sign that it was not altogether regarded with favor. It became popular because of its convenient obscurity. Wigmore has also been highly critical of the use of the phrase Res Gestae. He has written that it is "not only entirely useless, but even positively harmful."' The phrase is useless because "every rule of Evidence to which it has ever been applied exists as a part of some other well-established principle and can be explained in the terms of that principle. "The phrase is harmful because. "by its ambiguity it invites the confusion of one rule with another and thus creates uncertainty as to the limitations of both." Thus, Wigmore concluded that the " Res Gestae, "should never be mentioned.

Usually evidence is brought under Res Gestae when it cannot be brought under any section of the Indian Evidence Act. The intention of the law makers was to avoid injustice, where cases are dismissed due to lack of evidence. Courts have always been conscious that this docrtrine should never be expanded to an unlimited extent. Each case in criminal law should be judged according to its own merit. When it is proved that the evidence forms part of the same transaction it is admissible under sec. 6 but whether it is reliable or not depends on the discretion of the Judge. This doctrine is more complex and vague, this forms the loophole.

The ambiguity of this doctrine is highly criticized. Therefore we can see that what originally started meant only acts done (actus) to form Res Gestae, now covers all acts done or statements made during the happening of the crime, at the same time or same place of the crime or different times at different places, is said to be forming a part of the same transaction and thereby admissible by virtue of doctrine of Res Gestae. Dean Wigmore comments, “The phrase Res Gestae is, in the present state of the law, not only entirely useless, but even positively harmful… It ought therefore wholly to be repudiated, as a vicious element in our legal phraseology. It should never be mentioned.”

[1]1693 Skin 402
[2]Rep. Temp. Hardw. 267
[3]25 Howells State trials, 444 (1794)
[4](1805) 6 East 188
[5][1879]14 Cox C.C. 341
[6][1972] AC 378
[7](1887) 18 QBD 537
[8]P Ramanatha Aiyar (2000). The Law Lexicon, 2nd Edition, Nagpur: Wadhwa and Company, p. 1668
[9]VinodkumarBaderbhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, 1998 INDLAW GUJ 22
[10]1956 INDLAW CAL 105
[11]31 A CJS 978
[12]Monir. M (2001),Principles and Digest of the Law Evidence(p. 47). Allahabad : The University Book Agency
[13]Dr. Singh Avtar (2010).Principles of the Law of Evidence(p. 42). Allahabad : Central Law Publications
[14]“Facts which, though not in issue, are so connected with a fact in issue as to form part of the same transaction, are relevant, whether they occurred at the same time and place or at different times and places.”
[15]Supra note 7.
[16]SUKHAR V. STATE of UP (1999) 9 SCC 507
[17]SAWAL DAS V. STATE of BIHAR 1974 AIR 778
[18]QUEEN V. ABDULLAH. (1885) ILR 7 All 385
[20]Dr. Krishnamachari.V (2019),Law of Evidence(p.43). Hyderabad : Narander Gogia & Company.
[21]a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part
[22]2002 INDLAW MP 79
[23]AIR 2000 SC 2138
[24]AIR 2006 SC 302
[25]20 November 2018
[26]14 December, 2018
[27]2000 Cr.L.J. 29

Also Read:
Res Gestae Section 6 Indian Evidence Act,1872

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