The Supreme Court reduced the sentence of a man who killed his wife from life imprisonment to eight years saying the death was due to negligence and not murder.
A division bench of the Supreme Court partly allowed the appeal filed by Pundalik, a resident of Akola, challenging the order of the Bombay High Court that upheld his life sentence for killing his wife Rukhmabai.
On June 2, 2002, Pundalik and Rukhmabai visited Yaolkhed and returned in an inebriated state. Pundalik allegedly questioned Rukhmabai as to why she had consumed liquor, which led to a verbal duel between the two. Pundalik got angry and allegedly assaulted her with the handle of an axe.
The incident reportedly took place in front of their two daughters who then informed their maternal grandparents. Rukhmabai succumbed to the injuries on the same day at 5 pm.
Pundalik went to the police station and reported that his wife had died due to excessive consumption of alcohol. The neighbours filed a complaint alleging he had killed his wife.
According to the prosecution, Pundalik often beat his wife after consuming alcohol. The prosecution examined 13 witnesses including the two daughters. One of the daughters did not support the prosecution's case.
Based on circumstantial evidence, the sessions court convicted Pundalik under section 302 (murder) and sentenced him to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 500.
Pundalik challenged his conviction in the high court but his plea was rejected in October 2008. He then approached the Supreme Court. His counsel argued the prosecution lacked evidence to prove that Pundalik killed his wife.
The Supreme Court said: "Taking into account all these factors and in view of the totality of facts and circumstances of the case, in our opinion, the appellant has committed an offence punishable under Section 304 Part I (causing death by negligence) of the IPC and not the offence punishable under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC."
The SC further observed: "In our view, custodial sentence of rigorous imprisonment for a period of eight years would meet the end of justice."