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Killing abusive partner may no longer be murder

Under reforms of laws on murder, women who kill abusive partners could escape conviction for murder if they can prove they lived in “fear of serious violence”, reports Vijay Dutt.

world Updated: Jul 29, 2008 23:46 IST
Vijay Dutt

The imprisonment of the Indian-origin housewife Kiranjit Ahluwalia who was jailed for life for killing her violent and abusive husband in 1989 by setting his feet on fire after suffering utter degradation from him would not have taken place, if the law now on anvil had been in force then.

Under reforms of laws on murder, women who kill abusive partners could escape conviction for murder if they can prove they lived in “fear of serious violence”.

The overhaul of the homicide laws was announced on Tuesday by the Home Office. A further defence against murder charges which allows people to argue that they were driven to kill by “words and conduct” that left them “seriously wronged” will also be made available to defendants.

But the defence on the plea of being provoked — like husband killing wife he finds in bed with another man — would be scrapped. Such defence is incorporated in the Indian Penal Cod has over the years helped a lot of jealous husbands escape the noose.

Jagmohan Mundra, who made the movie Provoked on the true story of Kiranjit, with Aishwarya Rai’ playing the lead role, while talking to HT said “I think the law of diminished liability is very good. It is victory of what Kiranjit had set out to achieve.” He pointed out that men could get away the murder charge on the plea of “the heat of the moment. But women cannot react immediately. But in cases where they react after sustained violence they are charged with murder. The injustice has been corrected.”

Even a male rape victim who kills his attacker after being taunted over what happened could avoid a murder conviction under reforms now. Similarly, a mother who returns home to find a man raping her daughter and kills the assailant could also be sentenced for manslaughter rather than murder.