The Bombay high court has modified a lower court judgement, which had sentenced a man to life term in jail for killing his wife, by altering his conviction from the offence of murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder with eight years' rigurous imprisonment.
Balu Shingade, a Nashik resident, was accused of setting his wife Nababai on fire as he suspected her fidelity.
However, he immediately threw a quilt to douse the fire in order to save her. He also took her to hospital which showed that he did not have the intention to kill her.
"This conduct cannot be seen divorced from the totality of the circumstances. Very probably, the appellant would not have anticipated that the act done by him would have accelerated to such proportion that his Nababai might die," justice VK Tahilramani and justice Sadhana Jadhav noted on March 5 while hearing Shingade's appeal against conviction.
"If the appellant had ever intended Nababai to die, he would not have immediately thrown quilt on her in an effort to save her life," the judges noted.
"It is also to be borne in mind that Nababai had sustained only 46% burn injuries and she died more than four days after the incident. In view of the evidence on record, we are of the opinion that the intention of the appellant was to inflict burns and not to kill Nababai but unfortunately, the situation slipped out of his control and it went to the fatal incident," the bench observed.
The conduct of the appellant immediately after the incident shows that he had no intention to cause death of his wife Nababai, hence, the case would fall under Section 304-II of IPC (wherein accused has no intention to kill but has knowledge that his act might result in death).
The high court bench also set aside Shingade's conviction under section 307 IPC for attempt to murder his wife because he was already convicted under 302 IPC (murder).
"In view of the fact that the appellant has been convicted under Section 302 of IPC for causing the death of Nababai, the conviction under Section 307 of IPC for attempting to murder Nababai, in our opinion, is erroneous," the judges said.
"The appellant cannot be convicted for attempt to commit murder as well as murder of Nababai. Once Nababai expired due to burn injuries, the offence under Section 307 of IPC would be converted to Section 302 of IPC and the accused can be charged and convicted only for the offence under Section 302 of IPC and he cannot be convicted separately under Section 307 of IPC," the judges noted.
Thus, the conviction of the appellant under Section 307 of IPC has to be set aside, the bench ruled.
The court upheld the conviction and sentence of the appellant under Section 498-A (cruelty) of IPC because of ill-treatment meted out to wife who had stated this in her dying declarations to a police constable and special executive magistrate. The punishment of three years on this count was maintained by the high court.
However, punishment of eight years' rigorous imprisonment under section 304 part II IPC and three-year sentence under 498 IPC would run concurrently. The accused has been behind bars since 2006 when he was convicted by a sessions court in Niphad, Nashik district. He would have to spend total eight years in jail.
Shingade got married to Nababai in 2001 and was staying in Niphad taluka of Nashik district. In 2003, he started suspecting her character and used to quarrel with her on this count. He also used to abuse and assault her.
On two-three occasions in the past, he had poured kerosene on her and assaulted her. Nababai had informed about this to her parents.
On August 28, 2005, Shingade came home and abused her. He then doused her in kerosene and set afire. Later, he tried to extinguish the flames. Nababai was taken to a hospital where she succumbed to her injuries four days later.