In a recent decision, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and life imprisonment sentence of a man charged with the brutal act of setting his wife on fire. The Bench, comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and Ujjal Bhuyan, categorically declared that such an act constitutes ‘extreme cruelty’ falling under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which pertains to the punishment for murder.

The appellant’s appeal was summarily dismissed by the court, which also ordered him to surrender before jail authorities within four weeks. Failure to comply would result in the issuance of nonbailable warrants against him, as directed by the court.

The case originated with the filing of an FIR under Section 307 IPC when the victim, the appellant’s wife, was admitted to a hospital with burn injuries. Subsequently, Section 302 IPC was added as she succumbed to her injuries. The dying declaration of the victim revealed a distressing pattern of alcohol-fueled domestic violence, wherein the appellant would allegedly beat her for money to purchase liquor.

On the fateful day, the appellant, in an inebriated state, demanded money from his wife. Upon her refusal and instruction to go to sleep, he reportedly doused her in kerosene and set her ablaze. The appellant’s attempt to extinguish the fire with water was noted in the dying declaration.

The Trial Court convicted the appellant under Section 302 IPC, a decision upheld by the High Court. In 2012, the appellant approached the Supreme Court, securing release on bail due to the time served. Senior Advocate Sirajudeen represented the appellant, arguing that there was no intention to kill, and the case should be considered under Part 1 of Section 304 IPC, not Section 302.

The Supreme Court, however, rejected this argument, emphasizing that the plea was not raised during the trial or the appellant’s statement under Section 313 CrPC. The Bench, having appointed Amicus Curiae Aditya Singh in response to the absence of state representation, affirmed the guilt established beyond reasonable doubt and upheld the concurrent findings of the lower courts.
Section 302 and Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertain to different degrees of culpable homicide, distinguishing between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Section 302 IPC:
– Definition: Section 302 deals with the offense of murder.
– Punishment: A person convicted under Section 302 can be punished with life imprisonment or the death penalty.
– Intent: For an act to fall under Section 302, there must be an intention to cause death or bodily harm likely to cause death.
– Circumstances: It encompasses situations where the accused’s actions result in the death of another person with the requisite intent.

Section 304 IPC:
Section 304 is further divided into two parts – Part I and Part II – each dealing with different aspects of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Part I – Section 304(A):
– Definition: It deals with causing death by negligence.
– Punishment: The punishment can extend up to two years of imprisonment or with a fine or both.
– Intent: This section doesn’t require a specific intention to cause death. It involves death caused by a rash or negligent act.

Part II – Section 304(B to 304(D)):
– Definition: It covers cases where death is caused by a rash or negligent act, but the act is so imminently dangerous that it shows a “culpable disregard for human life.”
– Punishment: Imprisonment may extend to ten years, with a fine.
– Intent: While there might not be a direct intention to cause death, the accused’s reckless actions lead to fatal consequences.

The case, titled Naresh v. State of NCT of Delhi, serves as a stark reminder of the grave consequences of domestic violence. The Supreme Court’s unwavering stance against the appellant’s plea underscores the severity of the crime committed and the importance of holding individuals accountable for such acts of brutality. The court’s decisive judgment reaffirms its commitment to justice and stands as a precedent for cases involving extreme acts of cruelty within domestic settings.

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