Evidence Law

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LLB II 2003




‘Res Gestae’, it has been said, is a phrase adopted to provide a respectable legal cloak for a variety of cases to which no formula of precision can be applied’. The words themselves simply mean a transaction. Under the inclusionary common law doctrine of Res Gestae, a fact or opinion which is so closely associated in time, place and circumstances with some act or event which is in issue that it can be said to form a part of the same transaction as the act or event in issue, is itself admissible in evidence. The justification given for the reception of such evidence is the light that it sheds upon the act or event in issue: in its absence, the transaction in question may not be fully or truly understood and may even appear to be meaningless, inexplicable and unintelligible. The importance of the doctrine, for present purposes, is its provision for the admissibility of statements relating to the performance, occurrence or existence of some act, event or state of affairs which is in issue. Such statements may be received by way of exception to the hearsay rule.

Res Gestae forms part of hearsay.

R V. BEDINGFIELD [1879] Vol. 14 Cox C.C. 341

A girl was living with her boyfriend until the relationship turned sour. The boyfriend allegedly cut her throat. She managed to run out even with a cut throat and managed to say ‘see what Harry (Bedingfield) has done to me’. In court the question arose as to whether this statement could be admitted in evidence. Lord Justice Cockburn was emphatic that it could not be admitted. He said that it was not part of the transaction, that it was said after the transaction was all over. (The transaction being the cutting of the throat) The Judge held that it was not admissible as part of the Res Gestae since it was something stated by her after it was all over.” The girl said after it was all over.

Under S. 33 of Law of Evidence Act, this would have been admitted. 33. Statements, written or oral, of admissible facts made by a person who is dead, or who cannot be found, or who has become incapable of giving evidence or whose attendance cannot be procured, or whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay or expense which in the circumstances of the case appears to the court unreasonable, are themselves admissible in the following cases—

a) When the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in cases in which the cause of that person’s death comes into question and such statements are admissible whether the person who made them was or was not, at the time when they were made, under expectation of death, and whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of his death comes in question;

R V. Premji Kurji [1940] E.A.C.A 58

In this case the accused was charged with murder, the deceased had been killed with a dagger and there was evidence that the accused had been found standing over the deceased body with a dagger dripping with blood. The prosecution adduced evidence that a few minutes before, the accused had been seen assaulting the deceased’s brother with a dagger and he had uttered words to the effect that ‘I have finished with you; I am now going to deal with your brother’. The question was whether this statement was admissible as forming part of the transaction. Is that part of the same transaction as the murder? Were the words uttered parts of the same transaction? It was held that they were part of the same transaction because when two acts of an accused person are so interwoven as to form part of the same transaction, it is not proper to shut out evidence of one of the acts even though it may involve introducing evidence of the commission of...
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