The Bombay High Court has commuted the life sentence of a man who poured kerosene on his wife, burnt her and later extinguished the fire with water, as he had not “anticipated that the act done by him would have such a proportion that his wife might die”.
A bench of Justice VK Tahilramani and Justice MS Karnik was hearing an appeal filed by Hanumant Chavan, who was convicted by the sessions court in April 2011 under Section 302 of the IPC and sentenced to suffer life imprisonment.
According to the prosecution, Chavan was addicted to liquor and suspected his wife’s fidelity.
On the night of November 24, 2008, he came home intoxicated and started assaulting his wife, Vandana. He poured kerosene on her and set her on fire.
Chavan then extinguished the fire with water and took Vandana to the hospital.
In the three dying declarations of Vandana, she had stated that her husband set her on fire. Based on these declarations, Chavan was convicted of murder by the sessions court.
Chavan’s lawyer Ameeta Kuttikrishnan submitted that her client had no intention to cause the death of his wife, which is seen from the fact that after Vandana caught fire, the appellant extinguished the fire and took her to the hospital. She cited Vandana’s confirmation of the same in her dying declaration.
Relying on the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of Kalu Ram vs State of Rajasthan, the bench set aside Chavan’s conviction under Section 302 and instead convicted him under Section 304-I of IPC, commuting the earlier sentence from life to 10 years.
The court observed: “From the evidence discussed above, it is seen that after his wife caught fire, the appellant extinguished the fire and took his wife to the hospital. This conduct cannot be seen divorced from the totality of the circumstances. Very probabl,y the appellant would not have anticipated that the act done by him would have escalated to such a proportion that Vandana might die. If he had ever intended her to die, the appellant would not have immediately thrown water on her and extinguished the fire and thereafter, rushed her to the hospital in an effort to save her.
In view of the evidence on record, we are inclined to think that all that the appellant thought of was to inflict burns and not to kill her, but, unfortunately, the situation slipped out of control and it went to a fatal extent.”
Read the Judgment here.