The Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court has commuted death penalty of a 35-year-old man from Jalna district, who was convicted of killing his mother-in-law and injuring his pregnant wife resulting in the child loss in October 2015, to ‘rigorous life imprisonment’.
The HC also directed the Jalna Sessions Court to issue notice to four ‘hostile witnesses’ as per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and to follow the procedure in law while dealing with their ‘glaring acts of turning hostile’, thereby committing perjury.
The court also asked principal district judges in the state to follow the laid down law while dealing with hostile witnesses.
A division bench of Justice Ravindra V Ghuge and Justice B U Debadwar on Tuesday passed a judgment after hearing a criminal appeal filed by Krishna Pawar, seeking to quash the death sentence passed by Jalna Sessions Court on June 18.
The state government had also filed a plea seeking confirmation of the death sentence.
The Jalna police, through assistant public prosecutor K S Patil, said that Krishna and his wife were five years into their marriage on the day of the incident. The wife had moved to her parental home when she was six months into her second pregnancy, due to the constant physical violence meted out by the appellant. The two had a son. Krishna suspected his wife to have an illicit relationship with another man. Senior counsel Rajendra Deshmukh for the appellant submitted that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt and therefore the death sentence be set aside.
Deshmukh said the prosecution failed to examine ‘independent witnesses’, creating doubts over the truthfulness of the probe. “Therefore, the whole case is based on a solitary witness, the wife, whose version did not prove the case as required corroboration was missing,” he submitted.
After hearing submissions and perusing material on record, the bench said that though the appellant had planned to attack his wife and mother-in-law, it was only a coincidence that the sister of his mother-in-law had also accompanied them.
The bench said, “On seeing all three together and owing to the anger that he carried in his head, he may have overcome his sense of reason which led to his stabbing the three women with a single weapon… We cannot ignore that this brutal attack resulted in the death of a woman in her mid 40s and a child who was about to see her first day on earth. No doubt, the crime is heinous and condemnable.” The court then commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.
Moreover, noting that the witnesses, including the deceased’s sister, had turned hostile, the court said that “prosecution had faltered on account of casualness and lack of sensitivity”.
Directing principal judges in the state to strictly follow the laws laid down by the Supreme Court while dealing with hostile witnesses, the bench said, “…In order to send out a message loud and clear to such unscrupulous witness, legal action needs to be initiated against glaring cases of hostile witness.”
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