The Supreme Court granted bail to the Appellant who was incarcerated under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for 9 years and altered her conviction into Section 304 Part I. The Court asserted that the Appellant had been provoked by her husband's repeated refusal to give Rs. 500 to their daughter and that the weapon used in the crime was a stick, which could not be considered a deadly weapon. The Court noted that the Appellant was entitled to the benefit of the doubt and therefore her conviction could be altered into part I section 304 IPC.

The Bench headed by Justice B.R. Gavai and also comprising Justice J.B. Pardiwala asserted, “It is to be noted that the weapon used in the crime is a stick which was lying in the house, and which, by no means, can be called a deadly weapon. Therefore, the possibility of the appellant causing the death of the deceased while being deprived of the power of self-control, due to the provocation on account of the deceased not agreeing to pay Rs.500/- to PW-1, cannot be ruled out…We further find that it will also be necessary to take into consideration the background in which the offence took place. There used to be persistent quarrels between the deceased and the appellant. In one of such incidents, the leg of the appellant was fractured by the deceased, and a case was already pending against him for the said offence”.

In paragraph 15, “In our considered view, the appellant is entitled to benefit of doubt, inasmuch as the offence committed shall fall under Exception I of Section 300 IPC. Thus, the conviction under Section 302 IPC needs to be altered into Part-I of Section 304 IPC”, the Bench emphasised.

Advocate Aditya Dhawan appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Samir Ali Khan appeared for the Respondent.

In this case, an appeal was filed challenging the impugned order of the High Court, wherein the Court upheld the decision of the Trial Court. The Trial Court convicted the Accused/Appellant for offences punishable under 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

The Court noted that the main issue to ascertain was whether the conviction under Section 302 of the IPC was required to be maintained, or whether the case could fall under a lesser offence. In this context, the Bench observed, “As stated hereinabove, the short question that falls for consideration is as to whether the conviction under Section 302 of the IPC would be required to be maintained, or whether the case would fall under a lesser offence”.

The Court noted that the Appellant falsely reported to the police that her husband had been missing whereas she had killed him with a stick after he refused to give money to their daughter to attend a National Cadet Corps Camp. The Appellant and her son were arrested and charged with murder and destruction of evidence. The post-mortem report showed that the husband had died from hemorrhagic shock and oedema of the brain. The Trial Court convicted the Appellant of both charges and sentenced her to life imprisonment. The Court emphasised that as per the testimony of the Appellant’s daughter, the conviction under Section 302 IPC is difficult to sustain and therefore took into consideration the background of the Appellant with the deceased.

The Bench noted, “In any case, even after a careful scrutiny of the testimony of Priyanka (PW-1), we find that it will be difficult to sustain conviction under Section 302 of the IPC… If the testimony of PW-1 is read as a whole, it would reveal that her father and mother often quarreled”. In paragraph 12, the Court asserted, “Thereafter, a quarrel started between her father and mother. Her mother gave blows with a stick on the head and legs of her father. Her father sustained injuries, which led to his death”.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and the accused was directed to be released.

Cause Title: Nirmala Devi v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2023 INSC 662)

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