21 Nov 2023 5:40 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court recently directed the District Legal Services Authority, Jalgaon to locate and rehabilitate two children of a woman murdered by her husband, observing that courts have a legal duty to compensate victims of the loss they have suffered.A division bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay Waghwase sitting at Aurangabad while upholding murder conviction of...
The Bombay High Court recently directed the District Legal Services Authority, Jalgaon to locate and rehabilitate two children of a woman murdered by her husband, observing that courts have a legal duty to compensate victims of the loss they have suffered.
A division bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay Waghwase sitting at Aurangabad while upholding murder conviction of the children’s father, observed –
“Courts of Law are not only obliged to exercise their power to award compensation but has also legal duty to compensate a victim for the loss and injury inflicted as a result of act and omission on part of other party… District Legal Services Authority, Jalgaon is hereby directed to undertake exercise of getting ascertained the current whereabouts of children of deceased, their educational and financial status and then on due enquiry and satisfaction, take appropriate steps for meaningful rehabilitation of children of appellant and deceased.”
The appellant was charged for offences under Section 302 and 504 of the IPC. The prosecution relied on two dying declarations recorded at the Dhule Civil Hospital by a Revenue Officer and a Lady Police Constable respectively. In the declarations, the deceased (appellant's wife) stated that her husband was addicted to alcohol and kept demanding money from her. On October 7, 2015, the appellant, in an inebriated state, poured kerosene on his wife and set her on fire, as per the dying declaration.
She was admitted to the hospital with 96 percent burns and succumbed to her injuries. The appellant was tried and convicted by the Additional Sessions Judge, Amalner. Hence the present appeal.
Advocate SS Jadhav for the appellant challenged the reliability of the dying declarations on the grounds that the victim did not have capacity to give a statement, possible doctor endorsement without a proper examination, and the lack of independent witnesses apart from the son of the deceased and the accused who was a child witness. Jadhav further emphasized the potential for the child witness to be tutored, highlighting inconsistencies in the dying declarations and the absence of crucial examination of family members who allegedly shifted the victim to the hospital.
Assistant Public Prosecutor VS Choudhari emphasized that the dying declarations were promptly recorded and were consistent regarding the role of the. He asserted that the evidence, including the child's account, remained unshaken under cross-examination.
The court reiterated that a dying declaration, if recorded by a competent authority in the proper manner, stands on a higher footing than oral testimony. The court also considered factors like the opportunity of the dying person for observation and the consistency of the statement.
The court found the two dying declarations consistent in detailing the abusive behaviour of the appellant, demands for money, and the eventual act of setting the victim on fire. The scribes who noted the dying declarations withstood cross-examination, and the court expressed confidence in their reliability.
Regarding the child witness, the court noted that while child witnesses are amenable to tutoring, if their evidence is found to be reliable, it can form the basis of conviction. The court noted that the child witness's testimony was corroborated by other evidence, and there was no reason to doubt its veracity.
The court dismissed the appeal, finding no reason to interfere with the findings of the trial court regarding the offense under Section 302 of the IPC.
Directive for Victim Rehabilitation
Advocate Harshita Manglani appointed to represent the two children of the deceased and the appellant submitted that they are virtually rendered orphan and have no means for survival and better education. She said that their grandparents took them in, but their grandfather has also passed away.
The court noted that the children lost both parents, as their mother is dead, and father is in jail. The court invoked Section 357-A of the CrPC and directed the District Legal Services Authority, Jalgaon, to conduct an inquiry into the current status and needs of the children. DLSA was instructed to take appropriate steps for the rehabilitation of the children, considering available means under the law.
Case no. – Criminal Appeal No. 295 of 2017
Case Title – ABC v. State of Maharashtra
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