Mumbai: A man convicted for killing his wife in the presence of their three children has been acquitted of murder by the Bombay High Court, which held that he was guilty of a lesser offence.
Vasant Hadal had appealed against the trial court`s order which had sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2002. The High Court held that he was not guilty of murder under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, but offence fell under Section 304 part I (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).
A division bench of justices Sadhna Jadhav and VK Tahilramani sentenced Hadal to eight years` rigorous imprisonment last week. Though quashing the murder charge, court held that Hadal certainly had the intention to kill his wife when he struck her with axe. "We are not prepared to accede to the submission of defence lawyer Arfan Sait that the case would fall under Section 304 part II (act done with the knowledge that it may cause death, but without intention).”
"The accused in fact intended to cause the death of wife Patubai," said the High Court.
"We say so on the basis of injuries which as seen from the evidence of prosecution witness Dr Pandit are extensive in nature."
Advocate Sait had argued that the incident had taken place in the course of a sudden quarrel, and Hadal had no intention to kill his wife. The case would be covered by exception 4 to Section 300 of IPC, he said.
Exception 4 to Section 300 says: `Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender`s having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner`. The judges said that for the exception to apply, all the `ingredients` in it must be present. It was true that there was an altercation, and the accused had not come to the spot armed with a weapon, but it also must be shown that he did not take "undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner".
Therefore, in view of the injuries inflicted, the bench held that Hadal was guilty of culpable homicide, under Section 304 part I. While life imprisonment is mandatory for murder; for culpable homicide, a lesser sentence can be awarded.
Hadal had picked a quarrel with his wife on the day of the incident alleging that she was having affairs with other men. He was drunk, and during the quarrel he picked up an axe and hit her on the back.
Though he denied before Palghar Sessions Court that he committed the act, his three minor children, the only eye-witnesses, deposed against him.