In view of the appreciation of dying declarations of the deceased Anita and the inferences drawn therefrom, we are not inclined to subscribe to the inferences drawn by the trial judge.
The Bombay High Court (at Aurangabad) has quashed criminal proceedings against accused husband in Ashok Sable v. State of Maharashtra, convicted for having burnt his wife.
The coram comprising Justice SS Shinde and Justice Sangitrao S. Patil acquitted the husband who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, a rigorous imprisonment of three months and a fine by the trial court for offences committed under sections 302 and 498-A of IPC.
In this case, the deceased (decd.) wife Anita Sable passed away after sustaining severe burn injuries on her body. Charges were framed against the husband and his parents, however, the parents were acquitted as there was no prima facie case that could be made against the parents.
The wife had stated in her dying declarations that after marriage, initially she was treated well by the husband’s family. But after the birth of their youngest son, the husband started doubting her chastity and would often beat her up. On one such occasion when the husband was beating her, she cried loudly because of which her husband poured kerosene oil on her, set her ablaze and then locked the door from outside and went away. It was the parents who, along with one neighbour, came inside and help put out the fire and upon arrival of the husband after some time, took the deceased wife Anita to a nearby rural hospital in Beed district (where the incident occurred).
The defence taken by the accused was that due to sudden flaring of the local earthen oven while pouring kerosene in it, the deceased sustained burns accidentally. The trial judge after scrutinising evidence, held the husband guilty of offences u/s 302 and 498-A IPC but acquitted the parents.
While examining the appeal, the court perused through the three different dying declarations made by deceased Anita viz. –
He denied the suggestion that Anita told him that she caught fire while igniting the local oven accidentally. He specifically denied that he had tutored the deceased Anita to give the dying declarations as she did.
After the incident, the wife was first taken to a village hospital where the medical official noted a history of accidental burns as Anita stated that she suffered burns due to the flames of the earthen pot, totally contradicting her claims in the subsequent declarations made to the ASI, Naib-Tehsildar Gore and her father.
After perusal, the court observed the variances in the dying declarations regarding how she sustained the burns, and who were the parties she had a grievance with (she only accused Ashok’s parents in subsequent declaration, didn’t mention them at the time of admission to rural hospital).
The court was of the view that the possibility of the deceased being tutored to give certain declarations could not be ruled out. The fact that she was on injections which acted as sedatives also indicated her state of mind, the bench said.
Thus, after drawing inferences from the varied dying declarations and evidence produced, the court acquitted the husband of all charges, saying:
“The evidence of the prosecution creates doubt about the homicidal death of Anita. The benefit of doubt deserves to be extended to the appellant. In view of the appreciation of dying declarations of the deceased Anita and the inferences drawn therefrom, we are not inclined to subscribe to the inferences drawn by the trial judge. The impugned judgment of conviction cannot be upheld. It is liable to be quashed and set aside.”
Vide the order, the court directed that the husband be accused of charges under sections 302 and 498-A IPC, released from jail and any fine, if deposited, be returned to him.
Read the Judgment here.