Drunk husband kills wife, SC says Not Murder

NEW DELHI: A drunk man objects to his wife being in an inebriated condition, picks up a fight and assaults her with an axe leading to her death. The trial court convicted him of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The Bombay High Court upheld the conviction and sentence.

But, the Supreme Court felt that since the fight took place in an inebriated condition, probably both husband and wife had no control over their acts and the husband while striking her with the handle of an axe did not realise that it would cause death.

With doubts created by the version given by the couple’s daughter, who was an eye-witness to the incident, a Bench comprising Justices D K Jain and Deepak Verma felt that the offence could be categorised under Section 304-I, which meant the act was likely to cause death but the perpetrator did not have the knowledge that his action would actually result in death.

The husband, Pundalik, and wife, Rukhmabai, used to quarrel frequently. On June 2, 2002, both visited Yaolkhed in Akola district of Maharashtra and came home drunk. On reaching home, Pundalik questioned his wife as to why she got drunk, which led to a verbal duel between them. He got angry and assaulted the wife with an axe in front of their two daughters. Rukhmabai succumbed to injuries.

Hearing the appeal against the decision of the HC, the apex court noticed that one of the daughters, who was examined as an eye-witness, did not support the case of the prosecution. It also found that the trial court held him guilty only on the basis of circumstantial evidence.

The SC also saw the evidence of the doctor who conducted the post-mortem. The doctor gave an opinion that the injury which proved fatal was possibly caused by the handle of the axe and not by the sharp metallic side and that the other injuries were not sufficient to cause death.

After perusing the evidence, the Bench said: “taking into account all factors and in view of the totality of facts and circumstances of the case, in our opinion, the appellant has committed an offence punishable under Section 304-I of the IPC and not the offence punishable under Section 302.”

Allowing the appeal partly and modifying the sentence, the Bench said “a custodial sentence of rigorous imprisonment for a period of 8 eyars would meet the ends of justice.”

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