Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday reduced the life sentence of a farmer convicted for killing his estranged wife after she screamed “impotent” at him and humiliated him in a public place, on the grounds that it was “not a premeditated act”.
A division bench of Justice Sadhana S. Jadhav and Justice Prithviraj K. Chavan also ordered his immediate release from jail if he was not required in any other cases and disposed of the 12-year-old case appealing against the life sentence.
The judges noted that the incident occurred on a busy road near a bus stop when the woman grabbed her husband by the neck, pulled his shirt and hurled abuses, including that he was “impotent”, which was heard by many.
“It was quite natural for the man (convict) to feel ashamed upon being referred as impotent… the incident of assault is the outcome of a grave and sudden provocation. The man was deprived of his self-control and hence, he could not have any restraint upon himself while mounting assault. It was not a premeditated act,” the bench noted in its verdict.
The court also quashed the order of the Additional Sessions Judge, Pandharpur, handing down a life sentence for murder under Indian Penal Code’s Section 302, in July 2012, and said only the offence of “culpable homicide likely to cause death” under IPC Section 304(II) could be maintained.
While commuting Nandu Dada Survase’s sentence to the 12 years he has already spent in jail and ordering his release forthwith, the judges appreciated his lawyer Shraddha Sawant for assisting the court to the best of her capacity.
It was on the morning of August 28, 2009, when Survase, a sugarcane farm labourer, was cycling down to his farm in Ranjani village with his sickle, when his wife Shakuntala suddenly accosted him.
There was a fierce altercation between them near the bus stop, she grabbed his neck, pulled his shirt and started abusing him, including that he was “impotent”.
Embarrassed and gravely provoked by her proclamations, Survase tried to leave the spot quietly, but Shakuntala continued to obstruct his bicycle and even tried to snatch his bag.
As she continued to shout, in a fit of rage, the farmer removed the sickle from the bag and assaulted her at least 10 times, even as a passerby — who later became a witness — tried to intervene and stop the brawl.
Later, some relatives found her in a pool of blood with her damaged organs, near the bus stop, and her father lodged a police complaint.
Survase was subsequently arrested and the Investigating Officer Shankar Jirage said that it was not a pre-planned murder but committed out of sudden rage at the “scathing remarks against his honour” in public.
The couple was married for nearly 15 years and had 3 grown-up children studying in an Ashram School, but the duo parted due to marital discord at least four years before the incident (August 2009), and lived independently without interfering in each other’s lives.
Despite having three children, she not only labelled him “impotent” but even justified it as an excuse for her illicit relations.
During the trial there were discrepancies in the testimony of three witnesses who were Shakuntala’s kin, claiming Survase had launched an unprovoked attack on her, while one important witness turned hostile.