Bombay HC upholds life term given to man for killing pregnant wife

The Bombay High Court has upheld the life sentence awarded to a man by a lower court for killing his pregnant wife by setting her afire for not meeting his dowry demands.

The HC observed that the evidence adduced by the prosecution points at the guilt of the accused.

However, a bench headed by Justice Vijaya Tahilramani, reduced the two-year sentence awarded to the victim's mother-in-law (on the charge of aiding and abetting the dowry demand) to the period already undergone by her in jail (nine months).

Accordingly, the appeal of Dattatraya More was rejected by the bench while that of his mother Chandrabhaga More was allowed and her sentence reduced from two years to nine months.

More, who hails from Phaltan in Satara district, was married to Jyoti and had two children.

According to prosecution, he used to often beat his wife for not bringing dowry from her house. When she refused to get Rs 5,000 from her mother, More poured kerosene on her on June 2, 2006 and set her ablaze.

Jyoti, who was four-month pregnant, suffered 52 per cent burns and succumbed to her injuries in hospital a few days later.

Police had recorded three dying declarations of Jyoti.

While one of them was recorded by a special executive magistrate, two others by a police inspector. Besides, there were oral dying declarations given by Jyoti to her mother, sister and paternal uncle.

"In the cross-examination of these witnesses, it is true that the defence counsel has succeeded in eliciting some inconsistencies or discrepancies, but, in our considered opinion, they do not affect the core of their testimony as to the demands and harassment mated out by both the accused to Jyoti," the court observed in their order delivered recently.

"Instead of making their evidence suspect in any way, these discrepancies act as inbuilt guarantee of their truthfulness. Considering that marital life of Jyoti was about four to five years and there were several instances of the cruelty meted out to her and also of the unlawful demands, it is but natural that the evidence of witnesses cannot be a parrot like version," the judges remarked in their judgement.

The Judges further said, "To brush aside the evidence of these witnesses on the ground that the allegations are of general and omnibus nature, is to adopt totally an unrealistic and insensitive approach to the plight of a married woman who is at the mercy of her husband and in-laws and whose married life consists not of one or two isolated instances of cruelty but is of constant cruelty."

"In our considered opinion, therefore, the evidence of these witnesses is more than sufficient to prove the cruelty and harassment, which was meted out to Jyoti at the hands of accused No.1 and 2, so as to prove the charge under Section 498-A (cruelty) read with 34 (common intention) of the IPC," the Judges opined.

The bench also believed the three dying declarations given by the deceased while upholding the conviction of Dattatraya on charges of killing his wife.

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