Fourteen years after murdering his wife and dumping her body in a well, the Bombay High Court has upheld the conviction of a man and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
A division bench of Justices NH Patil and AV Nirgude of the Aurangabad bench of the high court last week reversed the order of a sessions court acquitting the accused Sunil Pachpute (38) from murder charges.
The sessions court had in December 1999 acquitted Pachpute under the offence of murder and convicted him on a lesser charge of subjecting his wife to cruelty.
Pachpute was awarded two years in jail. The high court, however, reversed the acquittal and held him guilty under section 302 of IPC for murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
"By no stretch of imagination the evidence would indicate that the victim Ratanmala died due to suicide. It is clear from the evidence that she died a homicidal death," the high court said.
The bench was hearing appeals filed by Pachpute, challenging his conviction for cruelty and by the Maharashtra government seeking his conviction for murder.
According to the prosecution, Pachpute married Ratanmala (then 19) on March 23, 1998. Since her marriage, she had often complained to her parents about ill treatment by Pachpute. She even said that he used to beat her and burn her with cigarettes.
On July 2, 1998, an inebriated Pachpute assaulted Ratanmala with an iron rod, resulting in her death. He then threw her body in the well, the prosecution claimed, adding he then called out to neighbours and said his wife had committed suicide by jumping into the well.
The police which initially registered accidental death report later arrested Pachpute after the post mortem revealed injuries by a blunt object on the victim.
The autopsy also revealed that the victim was ten weeks pregnant. The high court found Pachpute guilty for murder and cruelty. "In our view, this cruelty indicated pervert mentality of the perpetrator. And all this happened during the first four months of the marriage," the court said.