The Madras High Court recently commuted the life sentence awarded to a woman who had been convicted for setting her 13-year-old daughter on fire to 10 years in jail.
The bench of Justices PN Prakash (since retired) and G Jayachandran held that the woman’s conviction for the offence under section 302 of IPC could not sustain and instead she could be held guilty only under section 304(1).
The division bench reasoned that from the facts of the case, it appeared that the incident happened as a result of a quarrel between the mother and the daughter over the latter’s lack of interest in studies and it was only after four months of the incident that the case was altered to one under section 302 of IPC when the daughter succumbed to her burn injuries.
The order was passed in the criminal appeal moved by the convicted woman against the judgement of the fast-track court.
The facts of the case were that the 13-year-old victim was apparently not good at studies. Consequently, her parents admitted her to the Government-Aided Residential School in Kovilpatti. However, only after eight days, the girl escaped from the hostel and returned home at midnight. This triggered a quarrel the next day between the victim and her mother who angrily threw kerosene on the girl and set her on fire.
On hearing the girl shouting, her father, who was asleep during the quarrel, woke up and immediately carried the victim to the Government Hospital, Kovilpatti, where she was admitted as an inpatient. As per the wound certificate, the victim had suffered 50% burns.
On information to the police, the statement of the victim was recorded, and based on that a case was registered under section 307 of IPC against her mother. One dying declaration of the victim was recorded at that time.
The victim was given medical treatment for over four months during which she had been discharged and readmitted multiple times as her burns were not healing. Eventually, she succumbed to the injuries.
As a consequence, the case was altered from one under section 307 of IPC to section 302. The trial court convicted the mother for the offence under section 302 and sentenced her to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000.
The mother, thereafter, challenged her conviction under section 302 before the high court. The HC considered the question as to whether the mother had the intention to commit the murder of her daughter. The court ruled in negation and, therefore, allowed the appeal.
Accordingly, the high court convicted the mother under section 304(1) of IPC and sentenced her to undergo 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs 5,000.
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