Doctrine of Res Gestae
S. 6 of the Indian Evidence Act states;
“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 of at different times and places”
The principal of law embodied in S.6 is usually known as the doctrine of res gestae. Facts which may be proved, as part of res gestae, must be facts other than those in issue but must be connected with it. Though hearsay evidence is not admissible, but when it is res gestae it can be admissible in a court of law and may be reliable evidence. The rationale behind this is the spontaneity and immediacy of such statement that there is hardly anytime for concoction. So, such statement must be contemporaneous with the acts which constitute the offence or at least immediately thereafter.
Res gestae includes facts which form part of same transaction. So, it is pertinent to examine what is a transaction, when does it start and when does it ends. If any fact fails to link itself with the main transaction, it fails to be a res gestae and hence inadmissible. Res gestae include elements that fall outside the modern hearsay definition altogether, such as circumstantial evidence of state of mind, so-called “verbal acts,” verbal parts of acts, and certain non-verbal conduct. Because excited utterances are connected closely in time to the event and the excitement flows from the event, excited utterances were deemed part of the action (the “things done”) and hence, admissible despite the hearsay rule. Res gestae also hired the hearsay exceptions for present-sense impressions, excited utterances, direct evidence of state of mind, and statements made to physicians.
A transaction, as the term used in this sec. is defined by a single name, as a crime, a contract, a wrong or any other subject of enquiry which may be in issue. It include both immediate cause and effect of an act or event, and also its collection of relevant circumstances, the other necessary antecedents of it occurrence, connected with it, at a reasonable distance of the time, pace and cause and effect. A good working test of deciding what transaction is; is proximity of time, unity or proximity of place, continuity of actions, and community of purpose. But the main test must be continuity of action and community of purpose. The condition for admissibility of a statement made by a person who was at the scene of occurrence is the proximity of time, the proximity of the police station and the continuity of action. The expression suggests not necessarily proximity of time so much as continuity of action and purpose.
A transaction may constitute a single incident occupying a few moments or it may be spread over a variety of acts, declaration etc. All these constitute incidents, which though not strictly constituting a fact in issue, accompany and tend to explain or qualify the fact in issue. All these fact are relevant only when they are connected by proximity of time, unity or proximity of place, continuity of action and community of purpose or design.
Evidence which is connected with the principal subject matters of the charges as parts of one and the same transaction is relevant. Two distinct offences may be so inseparable connected that the proof of one necessarily involves proving the other, and in such a case on a prosecution for one, evidence proving it cannot be excluded because it also proves the other. Evidence as to other offences by the accused would be relevant and admissible if there is a nexus between the offence charged and the other offences or the two acts form part of the same transaction so as to fall within S.6. An entirely separate and disconnected offence is not admissible merely because it occurred at or about the same time as the res gestae of the offence on Trial.
Facts which are the occasion, cause or effect, immediate or otherwise, of relevant facts, or facts in issue, or which constitute the state of things under which they happened, or which afforded an opportunity for their occurrence or transaction, are relevant.
This section admits a very large class of facts connected with facts in issue or relevant facts, though not forming part of the transaction. Facts forming part of the same transaction are admissible under the preceding section. Evidence relating to collateral facts is admissible when such facts will, if established reasonable presumption as to the matter in dispute and when such evidence is reasonably conclusive. The section provides for the admission of several classes of facts which are connected with the transaction under inquiry in particular modes,
(1) As being the occasion or cause of a fact;
(2) As being its effect;
(3) As giving opportunity for its occurrence; and
(4) As constituting the state of things under which it happened.
A fact in issue cannot be proved by showing that facts similar to it, but not part of the same transaction, have occurred at the other times. Thus, when the question is, whether a person has committed a crime, the fact that he had committed a similar crime before, is irrelevant.
Alleged Fact: property recovered form accused by the deceased, murder of the deceased. The court said that unless it could be conclusively established that the property was with the deceased at the time of the offence, the question of property would not be good enough nexus with the murder.
Test For Admission of Evidence Under Res-Gestae
The primary question which the judge must ask oneself is-can the possibility of concoction or distortion is disregarded?
To answer that question the judge must first consider the circumstances in which the particular statement was made, in order to satisfy him that the event was as unusual or starting or fanatic as to dominate the thoughts of the victim, so that his utterance was an instinctive reaction to that event, thus giving no real opportunity for reasoned reflection.
In order for the statement to be sufficiently ‘spontaneous’ it must be so closely associated with the event which has excited the statement, that it can be fairly stated that the mind of the declaring was still dominated by the event. Thus the judge must be satisfied that the event, which provided the trigger mechanism for the statement, was still operative.
As to the possibility of report on the facts narrated in the statement if only the ordinary fallibility of human recollection is relied on, this goes to weight to be attached to and not the admissibility of the statement and is therefore a matter of jury.
To sum up, it can be laid that the test to be applied in deciding whether a hearsay statement made by a bystander or victim indicating the identity of the attacker is admissible can be put succinctly;
1. Was the identification relevant?
2. Was it spontaneous?
3. Was there an opportunity for concoction?
4. Was there any real possibility of error?
If the exited utterance is relevant, the statement will be admissible if the answer to the second question is also yes, and the answer to the other question is no,38 otherwise the statement is inadmissible. A statement may be spontaneous even though made in response to questioning.
Where Does The Judiciary Stand?
The test of admissibility on one hand relies on the exact contemporarily approach laid down in Bedingfield’s case in contrast to the flexible and accommodating approach laid down in Foster’s case . It was precisely with a view to settle this ambiguity that the Privy Council in Ratten’s case entirely dispensed with the test of contemporaneity and adopted the test of “spontaneity and involvement”. Lord Wilberforce in Ratten’s case contended that the test should not be the uncertain one whether the making of the statement was in some sense part of the transaction. This may often be difficult to establish and therefore he emphasised on spontaneity as the basis of the test. He asserted that “hearsay evidence may be admitted if the statement providing it is made in such conditions (always being those of approximate but not exact contemporaneity) of involvement or pressure as to exclude the possibility of concoction or distortion to the advantage of the maker or the disadvantage of the accused.”
Where a witness in describing the offence asserted that B said: those ruffians who a year ago took away Subhashini have again come. It was held that the time of the occurrence in respect of the occurrence it is res gestae under S.6. But statement however made at the time of an occurrence relating to a previous occurrencewhich took a year is not res gestae.
Thus the principal of admissibility of declarations accompanying acts can be summarized as;
1. The declaration (oral and written) must relate to the act which is in issue or relevant thereto; they are not admissible merely because they accompany an act. Moreover the declaration must relate to and explain the fact they accompany, and not independent facts previous or subsequent thereto unless such facts are part of a transaction which is continuous.
2. The declaration must be substantially contemporaneous with the fact and not merely the narrative of a past.
3. The declaration and the act may be by the same person, or they may be by different person, e.g. the declarations of the victim, assailant and bystanders. In conspiracy, riot the declarations of all concerned in the common object are admissible.
4. Though admissible to explain or corroborate, or to understand the significance of the act, declaration are not evidence of the truth of the matters stated.
A spontaneous exclamation is admissible because “under certain external circumstances of physical shock a state of nervous excitement may be produced which stills the reflective faculties and removes their control, so that the utterance which occurs is a spontaneous and sincere response to the actual sensations and perceptions already produced by the external shock.” The traditionally cited principle behind this exception is that an individual who makes a statement immediately after a stressful event lacks sufficient time or capacity to fabricate a lie about what happened. Thus, this class of statements contains sufficient indicia of reliability so as to be admitted despite its hearsay character.
In Vasa Chandrasekhar Rao vs Ponna Satyanarayana the accused had killed his wife and daughter. The deposition by the father of the deceased that the father of the accused made a telephone call to him and said that his son had killed the deceased was found to be not admissible. The question before the court was that was that can the deposition of the accused father be admitted under S. 6 as a hearsay exception being part of Res Gestae? In the absence of finding as to whether the information given by accused father to father of the deceased that accused had killed his wife and daughter, was either at the time of the commission of the crime or immediately thereafter so as to form part of the same transaction declined to accept the evidence as relevant under section 6.
In Gentela Vijayavardhan Rao And Anr vs State of Andhra Pradesh the appreciable interval between the act of carnage and magistrate’s recording the statement recorded by the magistrate was found inadmissible under res gestae.
In Bishna vs State of West Bengal , where 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 Prannkrishna 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.
In all the cases mentioned above the test applied to make the evidence admissible was to consider that was the statement was made at the spur of the moment without an opportunity to concoct and fabricate anything. Where the judges are satisfied that the reaction was the most immediate result of the circumstances being relevant to the facts in issue, they have allowed such evidence to be admitted.
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 it is only victims who 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 becausethey 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 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.
In 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.
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 extends. That is why Indian courts have always considered the test of “continuity of the transaction”. Any statement which was made after a long time gap and which was not a reaction to the event is not admissible under sec.6 of the Evidence act. But courts have permitted certain statement which was spoken after a long time gap from the occurrence of the transaction, because there was sufficient proof that the victim was still under the stress of excitement and so whatever was said was as a reaction to the event.
The strength of sec. 6 lies in its vagueness. The word transaction used in this section is not distinct. It varies from case to case. 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.
i. R vs Ring A 1929 B 296
ii. Ganesh vs R, A 1931 P 52
iii. Amritala vs R 42 C 957
iv. Peoples vs Lane, 100 California 379
v. Sec. 7 of Evidence Act
vi. Annasuyamma vs. State of Karnataka, 2002 INDLAW KAR 99
vii. [xvii]  14 Cox CC 341
viii.  6 C. & P. 325
ix. Rattenv. Reginam, 1971 INDLAW PC 6
x. Khijiruddinvs R, 53 C 373
xi. 2000 (2) ALD Cri 126
xii. 996 SCR (5) SUPP 273
xiii. AIR 2006 SC 302
xiv. 2003 CriLJ 560