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Madras HC commutes the life sentence of a woman who set her minor daughter on fire

The court overturned the trial court's decision that found her guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and instead ruled that she could be convicted of the lesser charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304(1) of IPC.

The Madras High Court recently reduced the life sentence given to a woman who was convicted by a Mahila court for killing her 13-year-old daughter by setting her on fire while she was asleep, using kerosene.

On January 6, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, consisting of Justices PN Prakash (now retired) and G Jayachandran, issued a ruling reducing the life sentence of the appellant, Rajeshwari, to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.

The court determined that the woman did not intend to kill her daughter and subsequently issued an order accordingly.

The court overturned the trial court’s decision that found her guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and instead ruled that she could be convicted of the lesser charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304(1) of IPC.

The judges noted that Rajeshwari was furious with her daughter Mariselvi because she had left her hostel and returned home stating she had no desire to continue her studies. On June 12, 2012, a day after Mariselvi came home, Rajeshwari set her on fire in anger.

The victim died from her injuries four months after the incident.

Rajeshwari was apprehended and given a life sentence by a local court in 2019. She, however, filed a legal challenge to her conviction and sentence in the High Court by filing an appeal.

The High Court bench said that the issue before the court was to determine if Rajeshwari intended to kill her daughter when she set her on fire.

Going by the evidence, the bench contended, the conviction of Rajeshwari under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was “not sustainable.”

It stated that she could only be found guilty under Section 304(1) of the Indian Penal Code for the offence of culpable homicide not equating to murder.

It was reported that Mariselvi had been taken to the hospital by her father, and received treatment for four months for her 50% burn injuries sustained in the incident. She was discharged twice during this period, due to the slow healing of her burns, before being re-admitted.

In its ruling, the High Court stated that taking into account Mariselvi’s father’s confirmation that she had no interest in studies, her multiple hospitalizations and the fact that Rajeshwari was angry at the time of the incident, it was determined that it was a case of 304 (1) of the Indian Penal Code and not a case of murder.

“Taking all these facts into consideration, we are afraid that we cannot sustain the conviction of the appellant for the offence under Section 302 IPC and instead, the conviction can be one under Section 304(1) IPC,” the bench said.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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