35-year-old man reportedly lived a debauched life, and would not contribute towards household expenses, leading to frequent arguments with victim, who is critical with 90 per cent burns

A call centre employee allegedly set his wife ablaze in Malwani on Tuesday night. She was eight-months pregnant.

The victim, Sadhna Sonawane (26), has sustained 90 per cent burns and is reported to be in a critical condition.

Bearing the brunt: Coming home drunk, Sunil Sonawane allegedly
picked a fight with his wife, and then poured kerosene over her and set her on fire

Malwani cops have revealed that the couple would frequently be embroiled in severe altercations.

Two years ago, Sadhna had married Sunil (35), who works as a peon in a Malad-based call centre. Sunil had reportedly taken to a depraved lifestyle ever since he started working for the firm. He would spend beyond his means, blowing off all his money on alcohol, nights out in pubs and discotheques, and illicit affairs.

According to Malwani cops, Sunil had even stopped contributing from his salary for household expenses. To make ends meet, his wife would have to work as a domestic help.

Uncomfortable with his wife stepping out of the house every day, Sunil would doubt her fidelity, and would physically abuse her, on a regular basis.

Sadhna, who had almost carried the baby to full term, had complained of Sunil's abusive ways many times to her brother Babu Kakde, who lives in Aurangabad. Concerned, Kakde had offered to come down to Mumbai and take her away with him to Aurangabad. He arrived in the city yesterday, only to learn that his sister had been set on fire by her husband.

"I had no idea that I would be greeted with this horrifying news. I should have taken her away before," said Kakde.

"On Tuesday night, Sunil came home drunk, and picked a fight with Sadhna over a trivial issue. In a fit of rage, he poured kerosene over Sadhna and set her on fire. Seeing his wife engulfed by flames, Sunil panicked, and began to run. Sadhna followed him for a short distance, but then collapsed," said A R Shaikh, senior police inspector of Malwani police station.

Horrified by the sight of a woman running even as flames devoured her, neighbours splashed buckets of water on her to douse the fire. Sadhna was then rushed to the Bhagwati Hospital. The police have launched a manhunt for the absconding Sunil, who has been charged with attempted murder.

The couple had married two years ago, after Sunil's first wife died from a prolonged illness.