Observing that a husband had not intended to kill his wife when he set her on fire in his inebriated state, the Bombay high court has commuted his sentence from life imprisonment for murder to eight years’ imprisonment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. He has been in jail since August 7, 2014, and served more than seven years of his sentence already.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and Abhay Ahuja, on November 16, reduced the life sentence of Bhiwandi-resident Allabaksh Shaikh observing: “The appellant (Shaikh) would not have intended to inflict the injuries which the victim sustained on account of his act with an intention to cause death and, therefore, we are persuaded to bring down the offence from first-degree murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.”
The sessions court at Thane convicted Shaikh to life imprisonment on June 28, 2017. He then filed an appeal before the HC through advocate Aniket Vagal.
According to the prosecution, Shaikh had returned home from work on the evening of August 6, 2014, in an inebriated state and asked his wife Shama for a meal. When she said that she hadn’t prepared it as he had said he would return only late evening, an agitated, Shaikh picked up a quarrel with her and assaulted her. He then picked up a can of kerosene, poured it over her and set her on fire.
When Shama began shouting for help, Shaikh panicked and attempted to douse the fire by pouring water on her and covering her with bedsheet. He then took her to a local hospital with the help of a neighbour and her mother, who resided nearby. Doctors however asked him to shift Shama to Thane Civil Hospital as she had suffered over 85-90 per cent burns.
At the hospital, Shaikh was also treated for burns on his hands.
Shama gave a dying declaration that Shaikh had set her on fire after a dispute over the preparation of meal. She succumbed on August 12, 2014.
After going through the evidence, the court observed that the circumstances suggested that there was “no premeditation to commit the offence nor an intention to kill”.
The judges observed that Shaikh was upset that Shama had not served him food and the fight began. “It is not as if the appellant (Shaikh) planned that he would go home and kill his wife. The conduct strongly suggests that he wanted to save her. The whole thing just went out of the control.”
Observing that they were not discarding Shama’s dying declaration, the HC said: “But we were considering the fact that Shaikh was in an inebriated state while setting her on fire and then making frantic attempts to save and treat her leads us to believe that the appellant probably would not have anticipated that the act done by him would have escalated to such a proportion that she might die. If he had intended her to die, he would not have made the efforts to rescue/save her.”
“We are inclined to believe that the appellant though thought of inflicting burns on the victim and to frighten her, but the situation slipped out of his control and became fatal,” noted the judges.
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