The Bombay High Court (HC) dropped the murder charge against a man sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his minor daughter, 18 years ago. The HC decided that the man be released after observing that he had assaulted the girl in a fit of rage and had already served over 14 years in jail.
Gata Jadav from Dadra and Nagar Haveli was convicted under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to life by a Sessions court at Silvassa on January 22, 1999, after being found guilty of his daughter’s murder.
On December 17, 1996, around 5 am, Jadav’s wife Urmilaben witnessed a squabble between her husband and their daughter Shobhana (14). The mother saw her husband and daughter having a heated argument over the latter’s demand for money for a school trip. Shobhana’s request annoyed her father, and the arguments snowballed into a bitter verbal duel.
After 15-20 minutes, Jadav picked up an axe and hit his daughter on her head. Shobhana, one among the couple’s three children, remained in hospital for over a month before succumbing to severe head injuries on February 1, 1997.
Attempt to murder charge under Section 307 of IPC was subsequently converted into Section 302 after Shobhana’s death. Jadav denied the charge and was tried for murder.
Appointed defence lawyer, Arfan Sait, argued that his client had given just one blow to the victim’s head. He contended, therefore, there was no intention to kill, else Jadav would have continued assaulting her. Sait told a bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and V L Achliya that it was not a “pre-meditated” assault, but took place in a fit of rage and thus the case would fall under Section 304, part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).
The court said that in the present case the evidence showed that both the man and daughter had “worked themselves into a fury” on account of verbal altercation that went on for about 15 to 20 minutes. “The appellant did not come to the spot armed with a weapon but he assaulted Shobhana with an axe lying in the house. The fact that the appellant gave only one blow with an axe shows that he did not take undue advantage or act in an unusual manner.”
However, in court’s opinion, the case fell under Section 304, part I of IPC as Jadav “did not just have the knowledge that his act is likely to cause death, but in fact he intended to cause death of Shobhana”.
“We say so on the basis of the weapon used, part of the body where the injury was inflicted, the force used while assaulting and the nature of the injuries,” the judges observed, while setting aside the murder charge.
Considering Jadav’s prison time of 14 years already spent, the bench ruled earlier this month, “In view of the matter, the appellant be released forthwith, if not required in any other case.”