A Bombay High Court Bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Rajesh S Patil has set aside a man's conviction for the murder of his wife. The Bench found that her dying declaration was the only piece of evidence that could corroborate the prosecution's story. However, the Court observed that the dying declaration was a concocted document.

In that context, it was said that "since there are over writings also and the aforesaid unexplained facts leads us to conclude that Exhibit-31, dying declaration is a concocted document or a prepared document and it ought to have been discarded outright by the learned Additional Sessions Judge."

Counsel Joydeep Chatterji appeared for the Appellant, and Counsel SJ Salgare appeared for the State.

In this case, the Appellant was the deceased's husband, and he was convicted under Section 302 of the IPC but was acquitted of the charge of cruelty under Section 498-A, along with his relatives. As per the case of the prosecution, the Appellant and his relatives used to raise suspicion over the deceased's character and also abuse her. One day, the Appellant set her on fire by way of kerosene. She was taken to the hospital and gave a dying declaration while undergoing treatment.

The High Court noted that "in order to adjudicate as to whether the dying declaration is true, voluntary and inspiring confidence, we will have to scan the evidence."

The Court proceeded to say that the burden was on the prosecution to prove that the burn injuries sustained by the deceased were homicidal and not suicidal, to bring the case under Section 299 of the IPC.

The Court observed that there was no support for the prosecution's theory that there was some motive for the Appellant to commit the crime. In that context, it was further said that "Under such circumstance, the dying declaration is the only piece of evidence now left to support the prosecution story."

The Court found that although a dying declaration can be the sole basis of conviction, the dying declaration in the case was unreliable as there was unexplained overwriting in the documents and a catena of unexplained facts on behalf of the prosecution.

Consequently, the Court concluded that the "dying declaration is a concocted document or a prepared document and it ought to have been discarded outright by the learned Additional Sessions Judge. The conviction based on the erroneous findings cannot be allowed to be sustained and therefore, the Appeal deserves to be allowed by holding that the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt."

Therefore, the appeal was allowed by the Court. The conviction awarded to the Appellant was set aside, and it was ordered that he be set at liberty if not required in any other case.

Cause Title: Sandip Prakash Rathod v. The State of Maharashtra

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