The Bombay High Court has acquitted a man of murder charges of burning his wife alive 13 years ago. The court observed that the trial court had failed to take into account the history of accidental burns given by the woman herself before she died.
A division bench of Justices Sadhana Jadhav and Milind Jadhav, on May 6, acquitted Satish Kale, observing that he “deserves to be acquitted of all the charges levelled against him as the dying declaration (of his wife Manisha Kale) would constrain us to take another possible view”.
The HC was hearing an appeal filed by Kale challenging the order of the sessions court at Pune, convicting him for murder and sentencing him to life imprisonment on January 31, 2013.
According to the prosecution, Kale and Manisha married 13 years ago. On November 18, 2009, Manisha was admitted to Sassoon Hospital, Pune, with burn injuries. She told the police that her husband is an alcoholic and is not gainfully employed. She even said that earlier that day, Kale demanded money from her to buy alcohol. When she refused, he started assaulting her and doused her with kerosene and set her ablaze while she was sleeping. She succumbed to her injuries on November 23.
The police treated her statement to the police constable as dying declaration. Additional public prosecutor MM Deshmukh argued that the dying declaration is sufficient to convict Kale.
Defence advocate Ashish Satpute contended that the dying declaration cannot be relied upon for conviction. Although the magistrate had accompanied the police to the hospital, Manisha’s statement was not recorded by the magistrate. Further, she herself voluntarily gave a history of accidental burns.
“The police constable (who recorded her statement) has also stated that the treatment had commenced before the statement was recorded and at that time she was murmuring something. In these circumstances, no reliance can be placed on the dying declaration and the accused deserves to be acquitted,” said the court.
Satpute further contended that Manisha’s upper limbs were burnt to the extent of eight per cent each and, therefore, the thumb mark could not have been so clear. Therefore, the entire recording of the dying declaration is doubtful. Also, the prosecution failed to examine one Bhapkar, a neighbour, who admitted Manisha to the hospital.