Bombay HC concludes man who set wife on fire did not want her to die

13th Apr 2017
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In a country where women are beaten up, stabbed, and doused in acid on a daily basis by lovers doubting their fidelity, by in-laws who are demanding dowry, by neighbours whose romantic overtures were rejected, by husbands who are upset dinner was not cooked well, it is extremely important that the judiciary shows no leniency in cases of violence against women.

While the political powers-that-be are mired in corruption scandals or snoozing due to apathy, the judiciary is our hope for upholding the law of the land in a just and rightful manner. But there are times when it lets us down.

The Bombay High Court said an accused, Hanumant Chavan, had not intended for his wife to die, as he had tried to douse the flames (after he set her on fire) and had taken her to the hospital. The court commuted the life sentence of the man who had poured kerosene on his wife and set her on fire but later poured water on her to extinguish the flames, according to a report by Live Law. The court held that it was clear the accused did not intend to kill her. The woman did succumb to her injuries in the hospital a few days after she was attacked in 2008.

Mumbai High Court (image credit: Creative Commons)

The high court declared that had Hanumant Chavan known his act would endanger wife Vandana’s life, he would not have done it. The high court bench, comprising justices VK Tahilramani and MS Karnik, set aside Chavan’s murder conviction and instead convicted him for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and he will now spend just 10 years in jail.

The accused was an alcoholic who suspected his wife was cheating on him and set her on fire on the night of November 24, 2008. He seemingly had a change of heart soon after, dousing the flames and taking her to the hospital. In her dying declaration, Vandana had said her husband was the one who tried to kill her and a case of murder was registered against him based on this. A sessions court had held him guilty and convicted him for murder in 2011.

In its judgement, the high court said, “From the evidence discussed above, it is seen that after his wife caught fire, the appellant extinguished it and took her to the hospital. Very probably, the appellant would not have anticipated that the act done by him would have escalated to such a proportion that Vandana might die. If he had ever intended her to die, the appellant would not have immediately thrown water on her and rushed her to the hospital in an effort to save her.”

In a country where women are beaten up, stabbed, doused in acid on a daily basis by lovers doubting their fidelity, by in-laws who are demanding dowry, by neighbours whose romantic overtures were rejected, by husbands who are upset dinner was not cooked well, it is extremely important that the judiciary shows no leniency in cases of violence against women.

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