Holding as “unusual” the conduct of a mother, the Supreme Court has confirmed the life sentence on a woman who axed to death her four-year-old son.

“Motherhood is one of the most precious gifts endowed upon mankind and there is no relationship more pristine and pure than that of a mother and her child. No mother in normal circumstances can tolerate even a scratch on the body of her child,” a bench of justices P. Sathasivam and H. L. Dattu observed in a judgement.

The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal of a tribal woman Satna Bai, charged with axing to death her minor son Kannilal in Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur district on August 18, 1996.

“The appellant was found standing near the body of her son with a bloodstained axe in her hand. The normal reaction for any mother would have been to go hysterical and clutch the body of her son.

“But, what is the reaction of a mother in the present case? As stated by PW—1 and PW—2 in their evidence, who came near the scene of occurrence on hearing the cries of Anita and Sumitar (two other witnesses), the accused tried to flee from the scene of the crime before being restrained,” the apex court said.

Though there was no direct evidence, the prosecution relied upon the evidence of relatives of the accused Heera Bai (PW1) his wife Balobai (PW—2) who on hearing shrieks rushed to the accused’s house and found Satna Bai standing near the body with a blood stained axe and clothes.

The bench said this kind of reaction and lack of remorse would not have been forthcoming had she been innocent as claimed. According to the prosecution when she tried to escape, she was caught by Balobai even as Heera rushed to the police to report the incident.

The sessions court convicted and sentenced her to life imprisonment. The high court confirmed the sentence, following which she appealed before the apex court.

As the accused was illiterate, the apex court appointed an amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter who took the view that since there was only circumstantial evidence, Satna should be given the benefit of doubt.

However, the court rejected the argument and recalled that there are a number of its earlier rulings, wherein it was held that conviction can be based solely on circumstantial evidence if there was sufficient material to establish the guilt of accused.

“This unusual reaction to the death of her son who was aged four at the time of his death, in no uncertain terms point towards her involvement in the crime. In our view this is an unusual case and therefore the plea that a mother is not capable of killing her own son in the absence of any evidence contrary cannot be accepted,” the apex court observed.

The apex court said the claim that she was falsely implicated cannot be countenanced as the witnesses were her own brother-in-law and sister-in-law who had no grudge against her.

Quoting writer Washington Irvin, the apex court observed, .

“A father may turn his back on his child; brothers and sisters may become inveterate enemies; husbands may desert their wives, and wives their husbands.

“But a mother’s love endures though all; in good repute; in bad repute, in the face of world’s condemnation, a mother still loves, and still hopes that her child may turn from his evil ways and repent; still she remembers the infant smiles that once fill her bosom with rupture, the merry laugh, the joyful shouts of his childhood, the opening promise of his youth; and she can never be brought to think him an unworthy.”

However, in the present case the mother acted in a wicked manner and committed the heinous offence hence, it dismissed the appeal.

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