Mumbai, May 28: The Bombay High Court has set aside a lower court's order imposing life sentence on a man for murdering his wife by pouring kerosene on her and setting her ablaze.
Instead, the High Court awarded 10 years' rigorous imprisonment to Tanaji Khude, who was found guilty of committing the criminal offence of 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder'.
"In our view, the case would fall under Section 304 Part I of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder with intention to kill) because we are of the opinion that the appellant did not just have the knowledge that his act is likely to cause death, but he intended to cause the death of his wife Suvarna," noted judges P D Kode and V K Tahilaramani.
The Court was hearing an appeal filed by Khude, a resident of Nerle village in Valva taluka of Sangli district, against an order of Islampur Sessions court which, on July 28, 2008, found him guilty of murder (section 302 IPC).
Defence lawyer Arfan Sait argued that the case would fall under section 304 part II IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder with intention and knowledge that the criminal act would result in death).
However, the court noted, "We are not prepared to accede to the submission of Mr Sait that the case would fall under Section 304 Part II of IPC. In our view, the case would fall under Section 304 Part I of IPC because we are of the opinion that the appellant did not just have the knowledge that his act is likely to cause death, but in fact the appellant intended to cause the death of his wife."
"We say so on the basis of the nature of the injuries sustained by Suvarna. Conviction under Section 302 IPC is set aside. Instead, the appellant is convicted under Section 304 Part I. In our view, custodial sentence of 10 years' RI and fine of Rs 1000 or in default simple imprisonment for one month would meet the ends of justice," the bench ruled.
Tanaji and Suvarna were married and residing in Sangli district. Tanaji was addicted to drinking liquor. Whenever he was intoxicated, he used to abuse people.
On October 28, 2007, the appellant was heavily intoxicated and in that state he was abusing people in the lane outside his house. Suvarna asked him why he was abusing people. On hearing this, the appellant got angry and he poured kerosene on Suvarna and set her on fire. Suvarna was taken to hospital where she gave a dying declaration to a police sub-inspector implicating her husband in the crime, saying he had set her on fire.
She sustained 98 per cent burns and died in the hospital a day later. The prosecution also relied upon the dying declaration given by Suvarna to doctor Patil of the burns department who treated her for injuries.
The High Court upheld Tanaji's conviction which was based on the dying declarations given by the victim.
The Court also ordered that its order reducing the sentence of Tanaji may be communicated to the prison authorities and the appellant in jail.