Tackling Crime without Proper Evidence – The Doctrine of Res Gestae

Res Gestae have been defined in a number of ways by different advocates according to:

Advocate Shipra Arora Dhiman : 

“The term, ’res gestae’ may be defined as those circumstances which are the automatic & undersigned incidents of a particular litigator’s act & which are admissible when illustrative of such act. These incidents may be separable from the act by a lapse of time more or less appreciable. A transaction may last for weeks. The incidents may consist of saying & doing of any one absorbed in the event, whether participant or bystander: they may compromise things left undone as well as things done.”

Tackling Crime without Proper Evidence - The Doctrine of Res Gestae lawescort

 

Woodroffe

‘Res gestae’ has been derived from the latin word, which means “things done”. English & American writers have described the facts which form a part of transaction, that is called ‘res gestae.’ ‘Res gestae’ is equivalent to the ‘facts’ enshrined in section 6 of the .

Section 6 in The Indian Act, 1872

Relevancy of facts forming part of same transaction.—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. Illustrations
(a) A is accused of the murder of B by beating him. Whatever was said or done by A or B or the bystanders at the beating, or so shortly before or after it as to form part of the transaction, is a relevant fact.
(b) A is accused of waging war against the Government of India by taking part in an armed insurrection in which property is destroyed, troops are attacked, and goals are broken open. The occurrence of these facts is relevant, as forming part of the general transaction, though A may not have been present at all of them.
(c) A sues B for a libel contained in a letter forming part of a correspondence. Letters between the parties relating to the subject out of which the libel arose, and forming part of the correspondence in which it is contained, are relevant facts, though they do not contain the libel itself.
(d) The question is, whether certain goods ordered from B were delivered to A. The goods were delivered to several intermediate persons successively. Each delivery is a relevant fact.

Test For Res Gestae

For instance , A being tried for the murder of B by smashing him with a hockey stick. Here, assumed transaction is the heinous of murder. Three core events of this transaction to be duly noted are:
  • A smashed B with a hockey stick,
  • A caused B’s death, and
  • A had an intention of causing B’s death.
All of the above mentioned events are in issue and form parts of the same transaction, and evidence can always be given of such facts in issue under Section 5. But the phrases spoken by A at or about the time of smashing, or words uttered by B or by the bystanders, at or about the time of beating, will not be in issue as far as this case is to be considered under section 5. But when the same case is considered under section 6, all these events of utterance form parts of the same transaction of murder, which is the subject of enquiry, and therefore are relevant under this section.
The question arising is : “what is the procedure or way of artful thinking for finding out the fact that forms part of the same transaction as the fact in issue?”

Various tests are as follows:

  1. Test 1 : If there is 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. Test 2 : Facts connected by proximity of time and place would come under section 6. 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. Test 3 : 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.

Admissibility Depends on Continuity of The Transaction

The declarations or acts are admissible if :
  1. They form part of the transaction in controversy, i.e, they must be substantially contemporaneous with the fact in issue must tend to illustrate and explain it.
  2. Part of the transaction depends on continuity of action as also proximity of time and community of purpose.

Expansion of this Doctrine

Courts have slowly broadened the scope of this section to cases like domestic violence, child witness etc.
Domestic violence and assault cases necessarily involve a startling event; they often include the issue of excited utterances. In these cases only victims can identify the alleged culprit. So such testimony of the victims must be admitted. 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. They may respond after a day or two but such statement spoken can still be admitted under res gestae. 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 children is often the subject of excited utterance debate. Usually whenever 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.

Some Landmark Cases on Res Gestae:

  1. Case 1 : Babulal v. W.I.T Ltd
    Res Gestae has been referred to in the following explanation in a dual sense. In the restricted sense, it confers relation to every event that takes place, through which the right or liability in question arises. In the wider sense, it includes that complete collection of facts, which are tending or contributing proof of the transaction questioned in the case, to be reproduced before the tribunal where the purpose of achieving direct foundational evidence through witness or perception has failed. Taylor defines this expression as including everything that may be fairly considered as an incident of the event under consideration. Thus, res gestae are those circumstances which are the instinctive(automatic) and undersigned incidents of a particular act.
  2. Case 2
    In this case the accused was charged for murdering. The deceased had gone to the accused residence to take back the gold and money which he had given to him for teaching him which golden treasures from underneath the ground where to be taken out as the purpose was not solved. The accused poisoned him. The body was identified by deceased’s wife near the village tank. The case for murder was based on circumstantial evidence as there was no direct evidence. The most important incriminating evidence on which the prosecution relied was given by one Prosecution Witness 6. He stated that when he was taking his hired cart from his village to Partabur, on returning he was passing through the village of the accused. There a cart standing at the door of the accused on the road was blocking his way and he asked a person standing by that cart to shift it a little. That person asked P.W. 6 to take his cart sideway as “a dead body was loaded on the cart” which was the one identified by the deceased’s wife .Thus, it was argued whether this statement by the bystander could be taken as relevant to the fact in issue and that if it could form part of the same transaction, i.e. the murder of the deceased. The court found it to be inadmissible. It held that illustration ‘a’ of the Section 6 indicated that the spontaneous statement of a bystander who “sees the commission of murder” is admissible for it to form part of the same transaction which is murder. Thus, there was no indication that the person who made the statement had actually witnessed the murder or that no substantial time had elapsed between the occurrence of transaction and the statement.
    For this statement to be admissible, it needs to be proven as to come under one of the conditions that need to be fulfilled for the previously mentioned test to succeed. The conditions are as follows:
    1. The statement must be a statement of fact and not of opinion
    2. The statement must have been made by a participant or witness of the transaction
    3. The statement made by the bystander is admissible, is he was present at the scene of offence
    4. The statement must explain, elucidate or characterise the incident in the same manner
  1. The essence of the doctrine is that a fact which, though not in issue, is so connected with the fact in issue “as to form part of the same transaction” becomes relevant by itself. This rule is, roughly speaking an exception to the general rule that hearsay evidence is not admissible. The rationale in making certain statement on fact admissible under Section.6 of the Evidence Act is on account of the spontaneity and immediately of such statement or fact in relation to the fact in issue. But, it is necessary that such fact or statement must be part of the same transaction. In other words, such statement must have been made contemporaneous with the acts which constitute the offence or atleast immediately thereafter. But if there was an interval, however slight it may be, which was sufficient enough for fabrication then the statement is not part of res gestae.
  2. Case 3 : Basanti v. State of H.P (1987) 3 SCC 227
    The person who was suspected of the murder explained, the absence of the deceased, shortly after the murder by saying that, he had left the village, held that statement is a relevant fact, being part of the transaction.
  3. Case 4 : Bishna v. State of West Bengal
    The two witnesses reached the place of occurrence immediately after the incident had taken place and found the dead body of Prankrishna and injured Nepal in an unconscious state. One of them found the mother of Prankrishna and Nepal weeping and heard about the entire incident from an eye-witness and the role played by each of the appellants, their testimony was held to be admissible under section 6 of the Evidence Act.
  4. Case 5 : Uttam Singh vs State of Madhya Pradesh
    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.

CONCLUSION

Usually evidence is brought under res gestae when it cannot be brought under any other section of Indian evidence act. The intention of law makers was to avoid injustice, where cases are dismissed due to lack of evidence. If any statement is not admissible under sec. 6 it can be admissible under sec.157 as corroborative evidence.
Court has always minded that this doctrine should never be expanded to an unlimited extend. That is why Indian courts have always considered the test of “continuity of the transaction”.
The strength of sec. 6 lies in its vagueness. Each case varies from the other based on the admissibility of facts. Each case in criminal law is judged according to its own merit. The question whether such vagueness is reliable while delivering justice is quite a debatable one.
So, it is clear by above mentioned statement that, Section-6 of Indian Evidence Act admits those facts, which comes under the expression of ‘res gestae’, provided that such act must have some connection with a fact in issue as to form part to the same transaction.
CREDITS:
Written by- Pallavi Nayyar
                    Amity Law School, Noida

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