A recent High Court judgment has reduced the life sentence of Vasant Hadal, a resident of Khunawade Thane, who attacked and killed his wife, Patubai, with an axe, citing the fourth clause of Section 300, which can be invoked when the death is caused ‘in the heat of passion arising out of a sudden quarrel and without premeditation’ (see box).
Patubai and the couple’s three children — Sangita, Sanjay and Jasubai — were asleep when a drunk Vasant came home late one night. He accused Patubai of having affairs with several men in the village. Soon the quarrel got out of hand and Vasant reached for an axe and he hit Patubai, instantly severing her spinal cord.
Sanjay tried to stop his father, who pushed him aside. Sanjay sustained injuries to his jaw and shoulder in the scuffle. Vasant then fled from the crime scene, but was soon arrested. During the trial, the three kids testified against their father in court. Vasant denied all the charges against him and pleaded not guilty. Sangita, who was the first to wake up on hearing her parents quarrel, registered the FIR against her father, while it was Sanjay who saw the axe in his father’s hand. The court noted that all three children’s testimony was clear and cogent.
The division bench of justices VK Tahilramani and SS Jadhav observed, “[In this case] in whatever way the quarrel may have originated, the subsequent conduct of both the parties puts them in respect of guilt, on equal footing. The homicide committed is then clearly not traceable to unilateral provocation, nor in such cases can the blame be placed on one side.”
While giving reasons for why Vasant deserved a reduced sentenced, the court noted, “It takes two to make a fight. A fight is a combat between two or more persons with or without weapons.”
The bench also took note of the fact that Vasant had only given his wife a single blow. Noting that Vasant was guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the court further said, “Thereafter he did not inflict further injuries on Patubai. This shows he did not act in a cruel or unusual manner or that he took any undue advantage.”
To use the fourth exception to IPC Section 300, the death must be caused:
·In a sudden fight
·In the heat of passion arising out of a sudden quarrel
·Without the offenders having taken undue advantage
·The offender must not have acted in a cruel or unusual manner
·The fight must have been with the person killed