Doctrine of Regestae: Evolution, Scope and Ambit

Introduction

The law of Evidence is a system of rules for ascertaining controverted questions of fact in Judicial proceedings or inquiries. The Indian law of evidence is enumerated in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Act although colonial, holds substantive value even in the present legal system. It would be absolutely impractical to discuss the law of Evidence without mentioning the Doctrine of Regestae, as it is one of the most important exceptions to the rule of hearsay. The doctrine does not fail to get a noteworthy mention in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. One may even call it a paradox the rule of hearsay that says the hearsay evidence may not be admissible in court.

Meaning of Resgestae

The Doctrine of Regestae is a Latin word that literally means ‘things done’. It accounts for a spontaneous declaration made by a person promptly after an event and before the human mind has an opportunity to conjure a false story. A statement made under Regestae is made at the spur of the moment, i.e. during the commission of the crime or right after the commission of the crime. This leaves very less room for doubts and ambiguities. The doctrine of Regestae is a declaration that is in close connection with the commission of the event that leaves nearly no room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

Originally the Roman’s used Regestae to mean acts are done or actus. It was described by the English and American writers as facts forming the same transaction. Regestae are the facts that form a part of the same transaction automatically or naturally. They are the acts that speak for themselves. Due to their association with the main transaction these facts become relevant in the nature of the fact in question. Circumstantial facts are admitted to be part of Regestae, i.e., it is part of the original evidence of what happened. Statements can also be accompany physical events such as gestures.  Things said or acts done in course of transaction amounts to Regestae.

Section 6 Indian Evidence Act

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Scope and Ambit of Section 6 of IEA

Facts that are so linked to a fact in question that they form part of the same transaction, although not in question, are relevant, whether they occurred at different times and places at the same time. The principle embodied in law , section 6 is usually referred to as the Regestae doctrine. The facts that can be proved as a part of Regestae must be facts other than those in question but must be linked to them. Although hearsay evidence is not admissible, it may be admissible in a court of law when it is Regestae and may be reliable proof. The reason behind this is the spontaneity and immediacy of such a statement that for concoction there is hardly any time. Such a statement must be therefore, be concurrent with the acts that constitute the offense or at least immediately there after.

Regestae contains facts that are part of the same transaction. It is therefore appropriate to examine what a transaction is, when it begins and when it ends. If any fact does not connect to the main transaction, it is not resgestae and therefore inadmissible.  Resgestae includes elements that completely fall outside the definition of modern hearsay, such as circumstantial evidence of a state of mind, so called verbal acts, verbal parts of acts, and certain non verbal behaviour. Because excited circumstances are closely connected with the event in time and the excitement flows from the event, excited utterances have been considered part of the action and therefore admissible despite the rule of hearsay. The hearsay exceptions were also hired by resgestae for present sense impressions, excited utterances, direct evidence of a state of mind and statements made to doctors.

Illustrations

  • An injured or injured persons cry
  • The witness’s cry to see a murder happen
  • The sound of a shot of a bullet
  • The person being attacked is crying for help
  • Gestures made by the person dying etc.

Test for Admission of Evidence under Resgestae

First the Judge must take into consideration the circumstances in which the particular statement was made to satisfy him that the event was as unusual or beginning or fanatical as it was to dominate the victims thoughts so that his statement was an instinctive reaction to that event thus giving no real opportunity for reasoned reflection.

The statement must be so closely associated with the event that arouses the statement that it can be fairly stated that the declaring mind was still dominated by the event in order to be sufficiently spontaneous. Therefore, the judge must be satisfied that the event providing the trigger mechanism for the statement was still in operation.

With regard to the possibility of reporting facts narrated in the statement if only the ordinary error of human recollection is relied on, this goes to the weight to be attached and not to the admissibility of the statement and is therefore a matter for the jury. The test to be used in deciding whether a statement made by a bystander or a victim indicating an attackers identity is admissible can be submitted as:-

  • Was that spontaneous?
  • Was the identification relevant?
  • Has there be on any real possibility of error?
  • Was there a concoction opportunity?

The admissibility test is based on the exact contemporary approach set out in the case of Bedinfield as opposed to the flexible and accommodating approach set out in the case of foster. It was precisely in order to resolve this ambiguity that the privy counsel gave up the test of contemporaneity in Rattan’s case and adopted the test of spontaneity and involvement.

In Rattan’s case Lord Wilberforce argued that the test should not be uncertain whether making the statement was part of the transaction in some sense. This can often be hard to establish, which is why he emphasized spontaneity as the basis of the test. He said that hearsay evidence may be admitted if the statement providing it is made under conditions of involvement or pressure that exclude the possibility of concoction or distortion to the advantage of the manufacturer or the disadvantage of the accused.

Conclusion

Slowly courts have expanded the scope of this section to cases like domestic violence, child witnesses etc. Domestic violence and cases of assault necessarily involve a surprising event, often involving the issue of excited utterances. In these cases, only victims can identify the alleged culprit. There for such testimony of victims must be admitted. Cases of rape usually occurs in isolation. There is therefore no eye witness to an event like this. Cases of rape and domestic violence differ from any other crime.

Reference

  1. Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  2. https://lawcorner.in/doctrine-of-res-gestae-under-indian-evidence-act-1872/#:~:text=The%20Doctrine%20of%20Res%20Gestae%20is%20a%20Latin%20word%20that,to%20conjure%20a%20false%20story.
  3. https://blog.ipleaders.in/doctrine-of-res-gestae/
  4. http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2501/Doctrine-of-Res-Gestae.html

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