She had killed her only son because he refused to take care of her

The Madras High Court Bench here has modified the conviction imposed on a 60-year-old widow, who killed her only son because he refused to take care of her, from Section 302 (murder) to Section 304 I (culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code and commuted her life sentence to six years of rigorous imprisonment.

Partly allowing a criminal appeal filed by the convict M. Poovammal of North Agasthiarpuram in Ambasamudram Taluk of Tirunelveli district, a Division Bench of Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and P. Devadass held that the convict had committed the offence due to sustained provocation and hence it could not be termed as murder.

According to the prosecution, the convict belonged to Maruthuvar community.

Her husband Manickam and son M. Deivendran were barbers.

After marriage, her son moved along with his wife to the latter's native Thalaiyuthu and took up job in a saloon there.

On October 5, 2007, the petitioner's husband died and so she insisted her son to come back to Agasthiarpuram.

He refused and was adamant on going back to Thalaiyuthu.

After repeated attempts to convince her son failed, Poovammal lost her temper and assaulted him with an axe lying in their house on October 23, 2007.

Later, she locked herself in a room and injured herself too in an attempt to commit suicide.

Her daughter-in-law stood witness to the entire sequence of events that took place in the house.

Writing the judgement for the Bench, Mr. Justice Devadass held that the incident was the result of the boundless love the mother had for her son.

“There was no premeditation. She picked up the axe suddenly. The situation was not created by her. It was created by her son. Her immediate post conduct was her attempt to kill herself.

“So, at the time when the offence was committed, she lost her mental balance. She was not the master of her mind. The frustration and anguish created by the deceased in her mind continuously after October 5 got erupted in the form of her overt act on October 23,” the judge said and held that such act would only fall under the category of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Unlike English Criminal Law in which the provocation must be grave and also sudden to attract the provision of culpable homicide, the judicial thinking in Indian Criminal Law had gone ahead as the Supreme Court in a catena of decisions had held that sustained provocation over a period of time would also be a ground to give the benefit of Section 304 I to the accused, the judge added.

In so far as the quantum of sentence was concerned, the judges tried to strike a balance between the plight of the convict as well as the victim's wife and girl child.

“At the time of occurrence, Poovammal was 55 years old. Now, she is about 60 years. She had lost her husband. She had also lost her only beloved son.

“As and when his glimpses come before her eyes, we have no words to explain the agony she will undergo.

Pitiable plight

“This is her pitiable plight. But we are not to justify her killing because on the other hand, the victim's wife Vijayalakshmi has lost her husband. Her daughter is now five years old. We have no words to explain the widow's suffering too. Considering these extreme ends, we deem it fit to sentence her to six years of rigorous imprisonment,” the judges concluded.