Accused of setting afire another woman of family

Four women of a family who had been awarded life imprisonment by a trial court for burning to death another woman of the family following a minor quarrel between the children of the victim and her sister-in-law have been acquitted by the Delhi High Court.

The trial court had convicted the four -- Akbari Begum, Salma Begum, Shahida Begum and Rabia -- in the case and sentenced them to life imprisonment solely on the dying declaration of the victim, Shahjahan, wife of Akbari Begum's son, Sabu.

The case of the prosecution was that the four women had poured kerosene over the victim and her mother-in-law set her on fire following a quarrel between the children of the victim and her sister-in-law.

The four women in their appeals against their conviction by the trial court said that the dying declaration of the victim was not reliable as there were numerous procedural lacunae in it. The investigating officer of the case had recorded the dying declaration of the victim in the presence of the doctor who had prepared the medico-legal case of the victim.

Counsel for the appellants further submitted that the dying declaration did not have the proper endorsement and also had no mention when and on what date it was recorded. The police officer who had recorded the dying declaration was also not able to explain the contradictions in it in the trial of the case.

Allowing the appeals, a Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Veena Birbal said: “….the contents of dying declaration do not inspire much confidence in as much as according to the victim the incident took place because Shahjahan's son had been pushed by her sister-in-law Rabia's son and that she had accordingly complained to the mother-in-law Akbari Begum, who instead of controlling the situation scolded her and therefore a quarrel ensued.

Thereafter, all the appellants poured kerosene oil upon her from behind. Akbari Begum lit the match stick. The incident of one small child being pushed by another small child escalating into such a serious event also does not seem to be probable.”

“We may also notice the fact that the victim ropes in all the female members of the house, which are the four appellants before us. We may also point out that the language in which the dying declaration is recorded is clearly not that of Shahjahan but that of a police officer,” the Bench observed.

“We cannot place reliance on the dying declaration which is the main piece of evidence…” the Bench said.

  • Women had been sentenced for life by trial court; Judge did not trust victim's dying declaration

  • “A little feud over children's quarrel unlikely to have mushroomed into such an act”