Mumbai: Granting benefit of doubt, the Bombay High Court has acquitted a Nashik-based doctor from the charge of killing his wife.
A bench headed by Justice P V Hardas last week set aside life imprisonment imposed on Sanjay Ahire by a lower court on the ground the victim had given two contradictory dying declarations.
The 35-year-old doctor, a resident of Deola taluka of the North Maharashtra district, was convicted in 2009 for setting his wife Pratiksha afire, resulting in her death, as he suspected her character. However, she gave two dying declarations to police.
In the first one, the deceased said she caught fire on account of sudden flaring of the stove. In the other, recorded at the instance of the victim`s father, she implicated her husband, saying he had set her ablaze.
The HC noted there were two dying declarations given by Pratiksha, and both of them were contradictory.
The Bench said "acceptance any one dying declaration would necessarily falsify the other. In the light of the contradictory dying declarations, in our opinion, the appellant would be entitled to be given the benefit of doubt."
"It would not be open for the court to pick and choose one dying declaration for basing a conviction of the accused," said the Judges.
"There is nothing on record to even remotely indicate that the dying declaration was not the truthful narration of Pratiksha or that Pratiksha was not in a fit condition to give her statement. Therefore, in our opinion, the appellant would be entitled to the benefit of doubt," they said.
"The possibility that the subsequent dying declaration was a result of tutoring of Pratiksha by her relatives cannot be ruled out. That background, therefore, impels us to allow the appeal and give benefit of doubt to the accused."
On October 14, 2009, Malegaon Sessions Court had convicted the doctor on charges of murdering his wife and subjecting her to domestic violence.
The prosecution had told the trial court that Hardas had killed Pratiksha as he suspected her of infidelity.