Murder and the law: India

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Death threats

Generally no action is taken

Online posts can land one in jail but one can get away with death threats; Examples- 2016-17
From December 8, 2017: The Times of India

See graphic:

Online posts can land one in jail but one can get away with death threats; Examples- 2016-17

Gay panic defence

Bombay HC accepts gay defence, reduces murder term/ 2018

Shibu Thomas, HC accepts ‘gay panic defence’, cuts murder term, August 24, 2018: The Times of India

Around seven years after a 35-year-old man was arrested for stabbing his friend to death in Mumbai’s Nagpada area, he used the rare “gay panic defence” to get a lighter sentence.

The Bombay HC earlier this month struck down the murder conviction and life imprisonment given to the man, and held him guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. A division bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Sarang Kotwal sentenced him to imprisonment for the term he had already served and ordered his release.

The accused did not contest the fact that he was responsible for the death of his friend, but claimed that he had killed the man as he was forcing him to have “unnatural sex” and had assaulted him. He invoked the “gay panic defence”, a rare legal strategy first used in US courts in the 1960s for a lesser sentence.

“We are of the considered view that the explanation, as given by the (accused), is plausible. If a person is asked to indulge in unnatural sex and assaulted, it is quite probable such a person in heat of passion would assault the person demanding such unnatural act,” said the bench, adding that the accused was entitled to the benefit of doubt. The court noted that the accused had served a prison term of six years and nine months. “We find that the sentence undergone by the (accused) would sub-serve the ends of justice,” the judges said.

The case goes back to November 20, 2011, when a scrap dealer in Nagpada heard cries for help coming from his neighbour, who had a butcher shop. When he opened the door, he found his neighbour lying in a pool of blood and the accused trying to come out. The scrap dealer pushed the accused back into the room, locked it and called other shop owners and police. When they opened the shop, they found the butcher was dead and the accused in an injured condition. A sessions court in 2013 held the accused guilty of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The accused challenged the verdict in high court. His lawyers Payoshi Roy and Yug Chaudhary claimed that the accused was responsible for the death, but the deceased was compelling him to have unnatural sex. When he refused, the deceased started assaulting him. The accused snatched the weapon and assaulted the deceased “in heat of passion”, the lawyers said, urging for a lesser sentence.

Additional public prosecutor Sultana Sonawane said that the number of stab wounds sustained by the deceased made it was clear the accused intended to cause death. The prosecutor added that the injuries sustained by the accused were self-inflicted. The trial court had held that the accused’s injures appeared self-inflicted, relying on the scrap dealer’s statement. The HC said considering the serious nature of injuries sustained by the accused, they could not have been self-inflicted, and it was not safe to conclude it based on the sole testimony of one witness, the scrap dealer.

The Bombay high court struck down the murder conviction and life imprisonment given to a Mumbai man, and held him guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder

Murder committed in inebriated condition

From the archives of The Times of India 2010

Drunk husband kills wife, SC says he wasn’t in his senses


New Delhi: A drunk man objects to his wife being in an inebriated condition, picks up a fight and assaults her with an axe leading to her death. The trial court convicted him of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The Bombay High Court upheld the conviction and sentence.

But, the Supreme Court felt that since the fight took place in an inebriated condition, probably both husband and wife had no control over their acts and the husband while striking her with the handle of an axe did not realise that it would cause death.

With doubts created by the version given by the couple's daughter, who was an eyewitness to the incident, a Bench comprising Justices D K Jain and Deepak Verma felt that the offence could be categorized under Section 304-I, which meant the act was likely to cause death but the perpetrator did not have the knowledge that his action would actually result in death.

The husband, Pundalik, and wife, Rukhmabai, used to quarrel frequently. On June 2, 2002, both visited Yaolkhed in Akola district of Maharashtra and came home drunk. On reaching home, Pundalik questioned his wife as to why she got drunk, which led to a verbal duel between them. He got angry and assaulted the wife with an axe in front of their two daughters. Rukhmabai succumbed to injuries.

Hearing the appeal against the decision of the HC, the apex court noticed that one of the daughters, who was examined as an eyewitness, did not support the case of the prosecution. It also found that the trial court held him guilty only on the basis of circumstantial evidence.

The SC also saw the evidence of the doctor who conducted the postmortem. The doctor gave an opinion that the injury which proved fatal was possibly caused by the handle of the axe and not by the sharp metallic side and that the other injuries were not sufficient to cause death.

After perusing the evidence, the bench said: “taking into account all factors and in view of the totality of facts and circumstances of the case, in our opinion, the appellant has committed an offence punishable under Section 304-I of the IPC and not the offence punishable under Section 302.”

Allowing the appeal partly and modifying the sentence, the bench said “a custodial sentence of rigorous imprisonment for a period of 8 years would meet the ends of justice.”

Provocation, grave and sudden

Not a “cruel act“ of murder

CUT IN LIFE TERM - Death due to provocation not `cruel act' of murder: SC, April 12, 2017: The Times of India

Death due to “grave and sudden provocation“ could not be termed as a “cruel act“ of murder, the Supreme Court has said while reducing the life term of a man to 10-year-jail term in a homicidal case.

A bench comprising justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal granted the relief to Punjab resident Surain Singh who had filed an appeal against a 2008 judgment of high court of Punjab & Haryana which had confirmed a 1998 trial court verdict awarding life imprisonment to him.

“It cannot be said that the accused had any intention of causing the death of the deceased when he committed the act in question. The incident took place out of grave and sudden provocation and hence the accused is entitled to the benefit of section 300 (murder) exception 4 (sudden fight) of the Indian Penal Code.“

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