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Coverage of this article

  • Key Takeaways
  • Introduction
  • Elements Of Res Gestae
  • Scope Within The Indian Evidence Act, Of 1872
  • The Doctrine’s Ambit Globally
  • The Positive Aspects
  • Possible Limitations
  • Conclusion

Key Takeaways

  • Res gestae is a legal principle that permits the admission of unprompted remarks about an occasion or transaction. These statements, which were made right away after the incident, offer trustworthy and reliable evidence because they are less likely to be made up or misrepresented.
  • The elements of res gestae include spontaneity, temporal proximity, relevance, integration, and trustworthiness. 
  • Although not explicitly mentioned, the concept of res gestae is often considered within the framework of Section 6 to determine the admissibility of facts. 
  • The Res Gestae principles in the US [Federal Rules of Evidence] and UK [sections 114(1) and 115(3)] allow statements made under the stress or excitement of a startling event as an exception to hearsay. In Australia, the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW) has presented challenges, but Section 65 allows for the admission of statements in criminal proceedings under certain conditions.
  • The doctrine can offer valuable insight, but it may also have limitations due to hearsay concerns, bias, and excessive reliance on spontaneity. 

Introduction

Res gestae is a Latin term that translates to "things done" or "acts accomplished". It is a legal doctrine used in common law systems to describe statements made by individuals that are admissible as evidence because they are considered spontaneous and closely related to the event at hand. These statements can include exclamations or other verbal or non-verbal expressions that are closely tied to the event being discussed. 

It explains a spontaneous statement made by someone soon after an event before the human mind has a chance to make up a false story. A statement made under Res Gestae is one that is made on the spot, that is, during or immediately after the commission of the crime. 

These are a few examples of situations that could be considered res gestae. These include a bystander's immediate exclamation after witnessing an incident, a statement made by one of the drivers immediately after a collision, and a store clerk's statement made during or immediately after a robbery. These statements can be used to corroborate the events and identify the perpetrators. 

In a traffic accident case, a statement made by one of the drivers immediately after the collision, such as "I didn't see the red light," could be considered res gestae and relevant to determining liability.

Elements of Res Gestae

The elements of res gestae, also known as the requirements for admissibility under the res gestae principle, can vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction and legal system. However, the general elements commonly associated with res gestae are -

  • Spontaneity: The statement or conduct must be spontaneous, made without significant reflection or premeditation. 
  • Temporal proximity: The statement or conduct must be closely related in time to the event or transaction in question. 
  • Relevance: The statement or conduct must be relevant to the fact or the overall transaction.
  • Trustworthiness: The statement or conduct should be considered trustworthy and reliable, free from fabrication, manipulation, or ulterior motives.

Scope within the Indian Evidence Act, of 1872

Section 6 of the Evidence Act addresses the relevance of facts related to the same transaction. It declares that facts are relevant whether they happened at the same time and place or at a different time and place if they are so connected to a fact in question or relevant fact that they are a part of the same transaction. 

Res gestae is not specifically mentioned in the Indian Evidence Act, but it is frequently taken into account within the larger context of Section 6. 

In India, courts have taken the idea of res gestae into consideration and accepted statements or actions as evidence if they were spontaneous, related to the event in question, and part of the same case. For example-

1) State of Maharashtra vs Damu 2000 [SCC (Cri) 1630]

The defendant, in this case, was accused of murder. The prosecution attempted to use a witness's immediate post-incident statement as part of the res gestae. As per the Supreme Court, the res gestae principle permits the admission of spontaneous statements by witnesses that are directly related to the transaction as substantive evidence. The court emphasized that res gestae statements must be made right away after the event, without any chance for fabrication or fraud, would be admissible.

2) In Babulal v. W.I.T. Ltd. (AIR 1957 Cal 70), it was noted that Res Gestae refers to the statement of law in section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act. This rule states that facts are relevant whether they happened at the same time and place or at different times and places as long as they are connected to a fact in issue and constitute part of the same transaction. A crime, a contract, a wrong, or any other possible subject of inquiry that may be at issue are all included in the definition of "transaction" as used in Section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act.

The Res Gestae rule also includes inferences about a person's mental state, verbal components of actions, and specific nonverbal behavior.

The Doctrine’s Ambit Globally

1) Statements made under the stress or excitement of a startling event are considered reliable and admissible as an exception to hearsay in the United States under the Federal Rules of Evidence and various state laws. In the past, courts have used this phrase to allow hearsay that would not otherwise be admissible. The phrase is now rarely used. The Federal Rules of Evidence, Rules 803(1) (present sense impression), 803(2) (excited utterance) for instance, now specifically include and restrict what was formerly used as res gestae.

2) The res gestae idea is used in the United Kingdom in accordance with the common law doctrine known as "spontaneous statements." 

Hearsay is a person's assertion of fact or opinion that is not contained in oral testimony when it is offered as proof of any matter stated therein. The judge must decide whether the court will permit a witness to state facts with a reasonable degree of fullness and in the context of the 'Res Gestae' (things done) rule, which allows an event to be placed in context. 

3) The res gestae principle has been embraced by Australian courts as well.

In O'Leary v. The King (1946) 73 CLR 566, the court decided that the Res Gestae principle permitted the admission of evidence regarding Mr. O'Leary's prior assaults. It argued that the evidence of the assaults should be viewed as a single transaction because they were a connected series of incidents that also included the murder.

 After the introduction of the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW), Res Gestae's application has been problematic. When the people making the statement are not available, Section 65 allows for the admission of the statements in criminal proceedings.

The Positive Aspects

In legal proceedings, the res gestae theory has a number of benefits. The following are some advantages of res gestae:

1. Context and Completeness: It enables the court to take into account additional information that may be necessary to fully comprehend the situation and reach a just and well-informed decision.

2. Improves Evidence Presentation: The court is able to judge the credibility and dependability of witnesses based on their immediate reactions by allowing the admission of spontaneous statements and behavior, which helps paint a more vivid picture of the events.

3. Fairness and Justice: Res Gestae aims to avoid distortions and present a more accurate depiction of the events, leading to a more just and informed outcome by allowing the admission of evidence closely related to the transaction in question.

Possible Limitations

Here are some typical concerns related to the use of res gestae:

  • Lack of Clarity: The principle may be interpreted and applied differently by different jurisdictions and courts, leading to inconsistencies and uncertainty.
  • Subjectivity and Reliability: Deciding which statements or actions constitute res gestae can be arbitrary and dependent on the judge's assessment. Such evidence is frequently based on the subjective perceptions and memories of the parties involved, raising doubts about its authenticity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the res gestae principle can offer significant insights into the comprehension of a transaction or event by aiming to admit spontaneous and closely related evidence. However, using it might have a few adverse outcomes. There are many factors that need to be carefully taken into account, including the lack of precision, subjectivity, hearsay issues, potential for prejudice, and a heavy reliance on spontaneity. Courts will need to adopt a nuanced approach that carefully considers the unique circumstances of each case.


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