While commuting the death sentence of a convict for killing his mother-in-law and a nine-month pre-birth girl child, to life in jail, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered a lower court to prosecute four prosecution witnesses, including one injured witness for turning hostile.
A bench of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Bhalchandra Debadwar was seized with a plea filed by a convict, who challenged the death sentence awarded to him by a lower court for stabbing his mother-in-law to death and also stabbing his full term pregnant wife, who somehow survived the attack, but the girl child in the womb died. The convict had also stabbed the real sister of his mother-in-law.
According to the prosecution case, the convicted doubted his wife's character, due to which she had come down to her parental home. The wife was pregnant and was about to deliver a child in a day or two, the prosecution claimed.
On the fateful day, the convict came to his in-laws' house early morning to take his wife back to his own house. However, the deceased mother-in-law had asked him to bring his parents along. Only after a discussion with them, she would send the wife back.
The convict, as per the prosecution, had then left from their house. However, he returned with a knife in the afternoon. He stabbed his mother-in-law, who died on the spot. He then stabbed his pregnant wife and mother-in-law's real sister, who were present at the spot.
Soon after the attack, the three women were taken to the hospital. With timely treatment, the wife and her aunt survived. However, the girl child who was yet to see the world died in the womb.
During the course of trial in the sessions court, the wife's aunt had turned hostile along with three other prosecution witnesses. They four of them refused to recognize the convict. The aunt, who was attacked and was injured too, denied that she was attacked by the convict.
The judges, while scrutinizing the testimonies of all the witnesses and also the evidence on record, concluded that the convict had committed the 'heinous' offence. The bench said that the convict's ego was hurt after the mother-in-law refused to send his wife back with him despite his request.
"We cannot ignore that this brutal attack resulted in the death of a woman in her mid forties and a child who was about to see her first day on earth. No doubt, the crime is heinous and condemnable. However, we do not find that the convict has committed a barbaric and cold blooded act and has not attacked the ladies with such ferocity and brutality that it would send shivers down the spine of a man, sufficient for demanding that such an appellant deserves to be deprived of his life, not only to punish him, but to deter such murders," the judges said while commuting the death sentence into life.
The bench further expressed its displeasure over the 'glaring' hostility of the four prosecution witnesses, one of whom was injured by the convict. "We have formed a view that these four witnesses, who have turned hostile, need to be dealt with by following the due process of law," the judges said.
"We are, therefore, directing the Additional Sessions Judge, Jalna, to issue notice to these four hostile witnesses and follow the due procedure of law in dealing with their glaring acts of turning hostile, thereby, committing perjury," the judges ordered.
A further directive has been issued to the Registrar (Judicial) to circulate this judgment's copy to all the district Principal Judges so that hostile witnesses could be prosecuted for perjury.