Delhi High Court has quashed a trial court order sentencing a couple and their daughter to life for allegedly setting ablaze their daughter-in-law in 1991, ending “prolonged incarceration” and trauma of over 25 years in the murder case.
A bench of Justices Gita Mittal and Anu Malhotra set aside the trial court’s judgement passed in 2000 by which they were convicted for the offences under sections 302 (murder), 498 A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC and were awarded life term.
During pendency of the appeal before the high court, the mother-in-law of the deceased had died in March 2003 and the proceeding against her was abated.
In its judgement, the high court said the prosecution has miserably failed to establish the case against the couple and their daughter and their conviction by the trial court was not sustainable in view of the evidence on record.
The bench noted in its verdict that they had remained in jail for a long time and only in 2001, the sentence imposed upon them was suspended during pendency of their appeals.
“These few facts set out the grave suffering that the appellants and their family members have faced because of their prolonged incarceration,” the bench said.
“The trauma and suffering of over 25 years which commenced on November 13, 1991 has not ended in as much as this appeal has remained pending and the uncertainty of the outcome must be haunting these appellants and their family members would have left indelible scars and is irreparable,” it said.
The couple and their daughter had moved the high court in 2000 challenging the trial court’s verdict. According to the police, in November 1991, daughter-in-law of the couple had suffered burn injuries in her matrimonial home and later died after a month during treatment. She was married to the son of the couple in November 1990.
The police had relied on two dying declarations of the deceased which was recorded in the hospital. The high court noted that in the first dying declaration, the woman had said that her clothes caught fire while she was cooking and in her second statement, she had alleged that parents and sister of her husband had set her ablaze.
The bench said it was not safe to believe the statements made by the deceased as there were some contradictions in it.
“A careful scrutiny of the record would show that, other than statements attributed to the deceased, the prosecution has failed to lead any independent evidence to corroborate the statements attributed to the deceased alleging commission of the offence. The evidence is to the contrary,” it said.