A Brief Analysis Of The Evidentiary Value Of Res Gestae As Contained In Section 6 of The Evidence Act

Without mincing words and getting right to the heart of the matter , I would like to begin by saying that I personally consider Section 6 of the Evidence Act as one among the most important Sections of the Evidence Act and what we keep hearing and reading every now and then about res gestae is also contained in Section 6 ! Needless to say , we all know broadly what is contained in Section 6 but still I would like to repeat it . It says that , “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 .”
Let me give here one simple example which is also mentioned in the illustration ( a ) of this Section itself and which will further clear the picture about what exactly is the purpose of Section 6 . It says that , “A is accused of the murder of B by beating him . Whatever was said or done by A or B or the by-standers at the beating , or so shortly before or after it as to form part of the transaction , is a relevant fact .” Why stop here only ? Let me give one more example mentioned in the illustration ( d ) which will further give a broad idea about the application of Section 6 . It says that , “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 .”
While craving my readers indulgence , let me point out here that the Latin word ‘res’ means ‘thing’ and gestae means ‘over’ or ‘done’ . I must also point out here that the word ‘res gestae’ is a Latin expression which means ‘things done’ or ‘fact surrounding a transaction’ or ‘essential circumstances surrounding the subject is complete’ . Stated briefly , res gestae implies surrounding or accompanying circumstances which are inseparable from the facts in issue and are imperative to explain the nature and purpose of the main act which is committed . It also needs to be mentioned here that they include acts or declarations accompanying or explaining the transaction or fact in issue .
Let me point out here that the test for applying the rule of res gestae as mentioned in the case law titled Javed Alam v State of Chhattisgarh (2009) 6 SCC 450 is as follows : “The statement should be spontaneous and it should be intimately connected with the fact in issue ; and it should form part of the same transaction sans any possibility of concoction or no opportunity for deliberately fabricating the statement . In short , the statement which is a past event , but it is the event itself speaking through a person , thus excluding the possibility of any design behind it .” It was also held in this case that the Section 6 of the Evidence Act is an exception to the rule of evidence that hearsay evidence is not admissible . Let me point out here that in Bhairon Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh , AIR 2009 SC 2603 (2608) (Para 16) , the Supreme Court has pointed out that the rule embodied in Section 6 is usually known as the rule of res gestae . What it means 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 . To form a particular statement as part of the same transaction utterances must be simultaneous with the incident or substantial contemporaneous that is made either during or immediately before or after the occurrence .
As pointed above , Section 6 of the Evidence Act is an exception to the rule of evidence that hearsay evidence is inadmissible . Let me cite here one more instance which is narrated in Bishma v State of WB , AIR 2006 SC 302 that , “X and Y came to the place of occurrence immediately after the incident and found dead body of ‘P’ and ‘Q’ injured ‘R’ in an unconscious state . They also found the mother of ‘P’ and ‘Q’ are weeping as also ‘A’ and ‘B’ present there . X and Y heard about the entire incident from ‘A’ and ‘B’ and also about the role of the accused persons in the offence complained of . Evidence of X and Y are admissible .”
Let me mention here that in R v Foster , (1834) 6 C & C 325 ; 172 ER 1261 , the deceased had been killed in an accident by a speeding truck . The witness to this accident had only seen the speeding truck but not the incident . The deceased stated to the witness what had happened with him in the accident . The Court held  the statement of the witness to be admissible in evidence as res gestae . But in another landmark case R v Bedingfield (1695) 6 Skin 402 , a woman with a throat cut came out of the room suddenly and said to the witness “Aunt see what Bedingfield has done to me” . C.J. Cockburn held it to be not admissible as res gestae because the statement was made after the incident was over . In yet another case R v Christie , (1914) AC 545 , Per Lord Atkinson , a statement made by a young boy to his mother shortly after indecent assault on him by the offender was held not to be res gestae as it being so separate by the time and circumstance could not be said to be part of the same transaction .
Now it is pertinent to discuss here few case laws pertaining to facts forming part of the same transaction . In Vinod v State of UP , 1994 CrLJ 2360 (All) , where the accused , who strangulated the victim after committing rape on her , was apprehended while trying to run away , begged forgiveness from the people and pleaded it to be his first mistake . These facts were held by the Court to be relevant as forming the parts of the same transaction and as also constituting the subsequent conduct of the accused . In Malkiat Singh v State of Punjab , (1991) 4 SCC 341 , it was held by the Supreme Court that an injured witness is a part of the transaction . It was also held that the fact of his injury , his running away and falling unconscious at the door of a house are relevant under Section 6 .
Different jurists and legal scholars have given their own interpretation to what res gestae actually means and it would be highly pertinent if I mention some of them here also . According to Woodroffe res gestae means those circumstances which are the automatic and undersigned incidents of particular litigated act and which are admissible when illustrative of such act . Wigmore elucidates on res gestae which he personally feels should be left to oblivion by saying that , “The phrase has frequently served both to let in utterances which in strictness were not admissible and to exclude utterances which might well have been admitted . And frequently also its indefiniteness has served as a basis for rulings where it was easier for the judge to invoke this imposing catchword than to think through the real question involved . The phrase is antiquated . By modern judges it is being gradually discarded . It is superfluous , and serves only to obscure the logic of the rules . It should be left to oblivion .”
The eminent authors Cross and Wilkins in their book ‘Outlines of Evidence’ very pointedly dwells on the four components of res gestae in the following words :
1.     “Statements connected , with , and made substantially contemporaneously with , the occurrence of the facts to which they relate are often said to be received as part of the res gestae ;
2.     Statements proved as conduct sometimes said to form part of res gestae ;
3.     Facts forming part of the transaction under investigation are also said to form part of the res gestae .
4.     The doctrine of res gestae is inclusionary , allowing for the reception of evidence by way of exception to number of exclusionary rules .” Speaking shortly , “the leading notion of the doctrine seems to have been that of withdrawing from the operation of the hearsay rule declarations of fact which are very near in time to what they tended to prove , fill out , or illustrate – being at the time not narrative , but importing what was then present or but just gone by , and so was open , either immediately or in the indications of it , to the observation of the witness who testifies to the declaration , and who can be cross-examined as to these indications ; this nearness of time is made specific by the term ‘contemporaneous’ and ‘a part of the res gestae’ , and it is enough that the declaration be substantially contemporaneous ; it need not be literally so .”
According to Halsbury’s Laws of England 4th Reissue ed vol 11 (2) para 1105 page 922 : “A statement made by way of reaction to the events in issue may be admitted as being part of the res gestae if the following conditions are satisfied :
1.     the circumstances are such that the possibility of concoction or distortion can be disregarded ; this will be the case where the event which has given rise to the statement is so unusual or startling or dramatic as to dominate the thoughts of the victim ( where it is he who makes the statement ) , so that his utterance was an instinctive reaction to the event , thus giving no time for reasoned reflection ;
2.     the statement must have been made in circumstances of approximate , but not exact , contemporaneity ;
3.     in order for the statement to be sufficiently ‘spontaneous’ it must be so closely linked with the event which has excited the statement that it can fairly be stated that the mind of the declarant was still dominated by the event ;
4.     there must be no special features , apart from the time factor , suggesting concoction or distortion of the statement , such as malice on the part of the speaker .”
In Kameshwar Prasad v Rex , 1951 ALJ 149 , it was observed that , “The res gestae may be defined as those circumstances which are the automatic and undersigned incidents of a particular litigated fact and which are admissible when illustrative of such facts… They are facts talking for themselves and not what people say when talking about the facts .” Peter Murphy speaks his mind on res gestae in his book ‘A Practical Approach To Evidence’ , 10 ( 4th Edn. , 1992 ) wherein he says that , “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 . Such ancillary facts are described as forming part of the res gestae of the fact in issue , and may be proved .”
What Peter Murphy has stated has also been illustrated in a landmark case law titled Ratten v The Queen , (1971) 3 W.L.R. 930 . The details of the case are as follows
: A man was prosecuted for having committed the murder of his wife . The man gave the defence that the shot went off accidently . There was evidence to the effect that the deceased telephoned to say : “Get me the police please” . Before the operator could manage to connect her to the police , she , who spoke in distress , gave her address and the call suddenly ended . Thereafter the police arrived at her house and found the dead body of a woman . Her calls and the words which she spoke were held to be relevant as a part of the transaction which brought about her death . It could be easily surmised from the manner in which the woman giving her call in distress spoke that the shooting in question was intentional and not accidental as was the defence of the man who was being prosecuted for the murder of his wife . For no victim of an accident could have thought of getting the police before the happening . This exactly is the utility of the doctrine of res gestae and there can be no better example than this to illustrate it . It enables the court to take into account all the essential details of a transaction .
In Gentela Vijayavardhan Rao v Andhra Pradesh AIR 1996 SC 2791 , the appellants were tried for setting a bus on fire in which 23 were killed and many others were injured . A Judicial Magistrate recorded the statements of the victims and they were sought to be proved as part of res gestae admissible as evidence under Section 6 of the Evidence Act . The Supreme Court refused to accept those statements as admissible under Section 6 as there was a time-gap between the incidents and the statements . It observed that , “The principle of law embodied in Section 6 of the Evidence Act is usually known as the rule of res gestae recognized in English law . 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 or fact admissible under Section 6 of the Evidence Act is on account of the spontaneity and immediacy of such statement or fact in relation to the fact in issue . But it is necessary that such fact or statement must be a part of the same transaction . In other words , such statement must have been made contemporaneous with the acts which constitute the offence or at least 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 .”
In Sawal Das v State of Bihar , AIR 1974 SC 778 , it was held by the Supreme Court that at the time of murder , the cry of deceased ‘save me’ and that of the children that their mother was being killed are relevant as res gestae . In Pratap Singh v State , 1971 CrLJ 172 , it was held by the Court that if the statement is answer to a query after lapse of some time , it cannot be treated as res gestae . In yet another case Ram Das v State , 1972 CrLJ 57 , when a minor married girl was abducted by accused immediately on her recovery at the railway platform she told her uncle that she had handed over her ornaments to Ram Das who had placed them in his jhola and had run away with the ornaments . The statement is relevant under Section 6 .
For my readers benefit , let me mention here that it is the basic requisite of Section 6 that the statement must have been made contemporaneously with the act which is in question or immediately after it and not after a passage of a certain time which will only serve in making it a narration of past events and its credibility will be under a shadow of cloud which certainly can never be relied upon . This I have already illustrated above by citing numerous case laws . Before concluding , let me mention few more relevant case laws in order to have a better understanding of this key topic . In Thompson v Trevannion , Skin 402 , Holt CJ said that in an action between husband and wife for wounding the wife what the wife said immediately upon the hurt received and before she had time to devise anything for her own advantage , should be allowed as part of res gestae . In RM Malkani v State of Maharashtra , (1973) 1 SCC 471 , it has been held by the Supreme Court that “a contemporaneous tape-record of a relevant conversation is a relevant fact . It is res gestae .” In another case Rattan Singh v HP , AIR 1997 SC 768 , where shortly before the incident in which a woman died of gun shot , she exclaimed that a man was standing near her with a gun in his hand , the statement was held to be sufficiently proximate in time to the happening as to be a part of the same transaction . Also , in Basanti v State of HP , (1987) 3 SCC 227 , where shortly after the murder took place , the person who was a key suspect in it explained away the absence of the deceased by saying that he had left the village , the Supreme Court held the statement to be a part of the same transaction .
Last but not the least , let me now wind up by quoting from the enlightening book ‘Law of Evidence’ by GS Pande on page 58 in which it is very rightly pointed out that , “From the foregoing discussion , it is clear that though it is not possible to lay down any hard and fast criteria for determining whether a particular fact is a part of the transaction in issue or a different transaction in itself the following points will help in coming to the right conclusion : –
1.     Proximity of time – A transaction may take short or long time according to its nature but the interval between the several acts , which are claimed to be part of the same transaction , should not be so great as to make them remotely connected .
2.     Unity of Place – Similarly , a transaction may be confined to a limited sphere or its parts may be scattered over a wide area , but in all cases it must form part of a single scheme .
3.     Community of purpose – Several acts , done at the same time or with intervals and at the same place or at different places , cannot be part of the same transaction if there is not common purpose between them .
4.     Continuity of action – This is most essential . Even if the above three conditions are satisfied the different acts or events cannot be part of the same transaction if there is no continuity between them and the chain is snapped .” Rightly said!
Sanjeev Sirohi

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