Supreme Court Released A Man Who Burnt Alive His Pregnant Wife While She Was Cooking

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The bench comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and PB Varale, of the Supreme Court recently revised the conviction of a husband who tragically caused the death of his pregnant wife by dousing her with kerosene oil.

The Court reclassified the crime from murder under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, a punishable offense outlined in Part-II of Section 304 IPC.

The bench clarified that in cases where the perpetrator’s actions are not premeditated but arise during a sudden altercation, they fall under culpable homicide not amounting to murder as defined in Part-II of Section 304 of the IPC.

The bench observed “From every available evidence, which was placed by the prosecution, it is a case where a sudden fight took place between the husband and wife. The deceased at that time was carrying a pregnancy of nine months and it was the act of pouring kerosene on the deceased that resulted in the fire and the subsequent burn injuries and the ultimate death of the deceased. In our considered opinion, this act at the hands of the appellant will be covered under the fourth exception given under Section 300 of the IPC, i.e., “Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender’s having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.”

Despite the accused’s awareness that the action could lead to death, the Court determined that it was executed without any malicious intent to cause harm to the victim.

The bench in its judgment held that “The act of the appellant is not premeditated but is a result of sudden fight and quarrel in the heat of passion. Therefore, we convert the findings of Section 302 to that of 304 Part-II, as we are of the opinion that though the appellant had knowledge that such an act can result in the death of the deceased, but there was no intention to kill the deceased. Therefore, this is an offence which would come under Part-II not under Part-I of Section 304 of the IPC”.

The Supreme Court has made reference to its previous ruling in the Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan case, which shares similarities in circumstances and legal issues.

In this instance, the accused coerced his wife, under the influence of alcohol, to surrender ornaments to acquire more liquor. When she declined, he drenched her in kerosene and ignited her with a match, though he also tried to douse the flames by using water.

In the Kalu Ram case, the Supreme Court revised the charge from Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code to Section 304 Part II, citing that the accused did not have the intention to inflict the injuries that led to his wife’s demise.

Acknowledging the appellant/accused’s arguments that the act committed constitutes culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the Supreme Court, after revising the lower court and High Court decisions, altered the conviction from Section 302 to Section 304 Part II of the IPC.

The bench while releasing the man said that, “To this extent, the findings given by the trial court and High Court will stand modified. We have also been informed that the appellant has already undergone incarceration for more than 10 years. Therefore, he shall be released forthwith from the jail, unless he is required in some other offence”.

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