The courts should see more than it is shown to it, this is the moral of the following story of a lady who got released from prison after 13 years of a trial court sentencing her to life imprisonment for the crime of killing her own daughter, following intervention by the Supreme Court.
SC eager to know why a mother would kill daughter
After about a decade of her conviction by the trial court, the matter was brought to the notice of Supreme Court. A bench comprising Justice AK Sikri and Justice AM Sapre, eager to know the reason for a mother to kill her daughter, appointed Advocate Mohammad Mannan as amicus curiae to interact with her.
Amicus finds that she was not in a proper mental condition when she was brought to jail in 2003
The amicus, along with Advocate Sudha Gupta, interacted with the lady as well as other inmates. She told them that she does not even remember anything about the incident. The inmates, who were already in jail, when the lady was brought, told them that she was not in a sound mental condition and was not in her senses. She had to be force fed, given bath like a child and would not react in spite of being undressed completely. She even did not interact with anybody and was oblivious of her surroundings, they averred. They also remember the jail authorities sending her to a mental asylum, where she was treated for some time.
The jail authorities, though did not show any medical reports of those times, told the amicus that presently she is not suffering from any psychiatric illness or perceptual disturbance or any formal thought disorder and that she is, in fact, normal and stable and her conduct has remained steadfast all this period.
“She has now been given the responsibility of supervising the female prisoners. She even started her education in jail and has now cleared Class VIII examination. She has also learnt sewing and embroidery in the jail as well as yoga, which she practices regularly. She has even participated in Nukkad Natak,” read the report by amicus.
Did trial court err in not medically examining the mother?
Perusing the reports, the bench observed that even if it is to be presumed that she had committed the murder of her daughter, who was four years of age at that time, in all likelihood, she was not in a proper mental condition at that time and, therefore, was unaware as to what she was doing. “We can arrive at this reasoning not solely relying on the aforesaid report of Ms. Sudha Gupta, which contains her interaction with the four female inmates, but also by reflecting on the inconceivable nature of the crime of a mother, who seemingly without any reason took the life of her child,” the bench said.
“The ordeal stirring in the mind of a mother that would compel her to kill her own child is beyond comprehension for most people. Such a crime has the capacity of shaking us to the core as for it is unfathomable to think that someone who gives life, shelter and protects is the same person who for no justification can end that same life thereby shattering a part of her soul. Some psychologists have accounted for extreme depression, a psychotic breakdown or even violence at home. A mother who finds herself in extreme social adversity incapable of providing for her children may also be driven by unknown circumstances thinking that such a drastic step is her only viable option. In this case, however, the reason that made a mother take such a course is overlaid with a thick blanket of mystery,” the bench remarked.
The court then opined that that the trial court erred in not showing due diligence by not conducting her medical examination at that time when she was facing trial, which would have shed some light on the circumstances which made her kill the daughter.
SC asks state to consider releasing her
The court then directed the state to consider her application for remission of sentence and observed: “If the object of our justice system is to reform the criminal, the appellant's exemplary conduct has aptly fit the bracket. Punishment can be used as a method of reducing the incidence of criminal behaviour either by incapacitating and preventing them from repeating the offence or by reforming them into law abiding citizens. Reforming criminals who understand their wrongdoing, are able to comprehend their acts, have grown and nurtured into citizens with a desire to live a fruitful life in the outside world have the capacity of humanising this world. The crime was a result of a conflict between the motive of the mother and her character, with the motive triumphing. However, the 13 years she has spent in the prison, she has built her character moulding it by educating herself and learning the ways of life. The reformed appellant will be able to add value to the life of her now 15 year old son, by taking what she has learnt in these past few years and living by it.”
January 2016: She gets released from prison
The state on 7th January, 2017, released her from the prison and the court disposed the appeal.
Read the orders here.
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