New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday called for a "complete overhaul" of the system for curbing the spurt in crime against women, including rape and sexual harassment, saying only deterrent punishment will be effective.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said that crime against women has increased despite stringent legislation to prevent other offences like bride burning, cruelty and suicide.
"In spite of stringent legislations in order to curb the deteriorating condition of women across the country, the cases related to bride burning, cruelty, suicide, sexual harassment, rape, suicide by married women etc have increased and are taking place day by day.
"A complete overhaul of the system is a must in the form of deterrent punishment for the offenders so that we can effectively deal with the problem," the bench said.
The observation was made while upholding the conviction and life imprisonment awarded to two women and their mother who had burnt the victim to death.
The court observed that the victim had been harassed by her sisters-in-law and mother-in-law for her inability to conceive and she was burnt to death within three years of her marriage on February 28, 2000.
It said that kerosene was poured on the victim and she was set on fire by the appellants, Ashabai Puna Tayade and Kavita Ajay Medhe and their now deceased mother, Kesharbai.
"Even though the mother-in-law, who also filed a separate appeal, died on February 10, 2012, in view of clinching evidence led by the prosecution, there cannot be any leniency in favour of the appellants, who are sisters-in-law of the deceased and at whose instance the deceased was burnt at the hands of her mother-in-law.
"... We find no merit in the appeal. Consequently, the same is dismissed," the court said.
The bench also rejected the contention of defence counsel that there were contradictions in the four dying declarations of the victim.
"We are satisfied that there is no contradiction as to the main aspect, namely, implicating her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law as well as the role played by them," it said.
"The law does not insist upon the corroboration of dying declaration before it can be accepted. The insistence of corroboration to a dying declaration is only a rule of prudence," the court said, adding "The deceased was in a fit state of mind to make dying declarations and her statements in those dying declarations are consistent and truthful."
The trial court on March 30, 2005 had convicted the three women under sections 302 (murder) and 498 A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the IPC and had sentenced them to life imprisonment which was upheld by the Bombay High Court on April 11, 2007.
The victim was set ablaze by her mother-in-law at the instigation of her sisters-in-law on March 5, 2003 and she had given four dying declarations to the police before she had succumbed to the burn injuries on April 18, 2003.
The entire prosecution case was based on the four dying declarations of the victim and the statements of the mother, elder brother and maternal uncle of the victim, the court noted.