The man was accused of killing his wife by setting her on fire

: The Madras High Court Bench here has confirmed the conviction and life sentence imposed on an individual accused of killing his wife by setting her on fire. The conviction was confirmed on the basis of evidence adduced by their minor son who was the sole eye-witness in the case.

A Division Bench comprising Justice M. Jaichandren and Justice S. Nagamuthu held that they did not find any reason to interfere either with the conviction or the quantum of sentence imposed on the appellant, Govindharaman of Perumalpuram in Tirunelveli district, as there was ample evidence to prove his guilt.

The judges said that the convict wanted to do away with his first wife as she objected to him maintaining an illicit intimacy with another woman in the village. On October 29, 2007, he poured kerosene on his wife when she was sleeping at their house and set fire in the presence of his minor son and daughter, then a toddler.

When the victim and her son screamed for help, the convict took to his feet. The neighbours rushed to the house and extinguished the fire. Later, the woman was hospitalised and she accused her husband of the dastardly act while disclosing the cause of the burn injuries to the duty doctor.

The woman held her husband guilty even in the dying declaration recorded by a judicial magistrate as well a subsequent statement recorded by the investigating officer. She died on November 2, 2007 and the police altered the case from Section 307 (attempt to murder) to 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

After trial, a Sessions Court in Tirunelveli convicted the appellant on December 9, 2009 on the basis of the dying declaration as well as the evidence adduced by his son.

However, the convict had preferred the present criminal appeal only last year, after a delay of two years.

The appellant’s counsel attacked the trial court judgement on the ground that the court ought not to have given credence to the deposition of a child witness. He contended that the case should have been decided without considering the evidence adduced by the minor boy.

Rejecting the contention, the Division Bench said: “Though he is a child witness, from the way in which he has deposed before the trial court, we are satisfied that he is a competent person to give evidence. Therefore his evidence deserves acceptance and cannot be doubted.”