Doctrine of Res Gestae, Concept and Scope
10 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2015
Date Written: April 17, 2015
Res Gestae is a Latin word which means "things done." This is the rule of law of evidence and is an exception to hearsay rule of evidence that hearsay evidence is not admissible. It is a spontaneous declaration made by a person immediately after an event and before the mind has an opportunity to conjure a false story. It represents an exception to the hearsay rule. Res gestae is a concept which as a matter of principle is employed in the English system of administration of criminal justice under the name of "res gestae". In our system of administration of justice, Article 19 of Qanun-e-Shahadat,1984 corresponding to section 6 of the Evidence Act of 1872, is an enacted provision of law under which statement made immediately after the occurrence under the influence of occurrence in order to characterize it and connecting therewith would be admissible under this article as "res gestae" evidence.
In Babulalvs W.I.T Ltd. it was observed that the statement of law in section 6 of the Evidence Act is usually known as Res Gestae. The literal meaning of the word "res" is "everything that may form an object of rights and includes an object, subject matter or status." In America an attempted definition of res gestae is that it consists of the 'circumstances, facts and declarations' which grow out of the main fact, are contemporaneous with it, and serve to illustrate its character.
The principle has been explained by LORD NORMAND in Teper v. Reginam, 1952, 2 All ER 447, 449: 1952 AC 480:
"Nevertheless the rule (Hearsay) admits of certain carefully safe-guarded and limited exceptions, one of which is that the words may be proved when they form part of the res gestae... It appears to rest ultimately on two propositions -- that human utterance is both a fact and a means of communication, and that human action may be so interwoven with words that the significance of the action cannot be understood without the correlative words and the dissociation of the words from the action would impede the discovery of truth." One of the leading decisions in relation to the res gestae exception is that of the Privy Council in Ratten v. The Queen, which dealt with the admissibility of the statement of a telephone operator who received a call from the deceased minutes before she was allegedly murdered by her husband. The Council characterised the statement as original evidence of 'verbal facts', as opposed to hearsay evidence, as the object of admitting the statement was not to establish the truth of the statement made, but merely to establish the fact that it was made. The following observation was made:
"Words spoken are facts just as much as any other action by a human being. If the speaking of the words is a relevant fact, a witness may give evidence that they were spoken. A question of hearsay only arises when the words spoken are relied on "testimonially," i.e., as establishing some fact narrated by the words." The test for applying the rule of res gestae is that the statement should be spontaneous and should form part of the same transaction ruling out any possibility of concoction. Despite its intuitive appeal, Wigmore's notion that a person would not have time to think up a lie before making an excited utterance in response to a startling event is not borne out by psychological research. The time required to craft a lie is slight -- sometimes only a matter of seconds. It was asserted that the difference in reaction time between deceptive and sincere responses is negligible. The excited utterance exception, which tolerates more than a thirty-minute gap between the event and the utterance, allows more than sufficient time for planning a false report. Psychological studies support this observation and indicate that the difference between the time of cognition and the time when the declarant may begin to fabricate is so small that it is often impossible to measure without instruments. The res gestae doctrine has often been criticised. According to PROFESSOR STONE, "no evidential problem is so shrouded in doubt and confusion." It was the opinion of PROFESSOR WIGMORE that the rule is not only useless but also harmful.
Keywords: Res Gestae, Concept, Scope
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation