Bera Murder Appeal Partly Allowed
By Vijay Panjwani, Advocate.
Thursday May 3, 2012.
The murder appeal raised important issues:
(i) of excessive incarceration than maximum permissible under which accused appellants finally convicted by Supreme Court .
(ii) indiscriminate use of Section 302 IPC prescribing capital sentence rather than 304-B IPC in a case of dowry death.
(iii) no bail to mother in law continuously for 14 years and one month.
Lawyer appointed by supreme court to defend neglected to file bail application on behalf of mother in law for many years.
Briefly the facts are that a young woman named Mayarani was married to Gokul in West Bengal. A part of the agreed dowry was satisfied at the time of marriage. Both families were residents of neighbouring villages and belonged to weaker section of society.They worked as daily wagers. A few months after marriage Mayarani’s in-laws started taunting her about lack of dowry, at her inability to do household chores, and on her physical attributes. Mayarani was a large boned well fed fat woman. She was addressed to as ‘Bhondi’ a term used in Bengal for fat women.
In the third year in-laws patience ran out and the and demand for ‘arrears dowry’ became a daily routine but no physical violence was reported to any one. However, in-laws encouraged her to commit suicide. They said a fat woman must bring a fat dowry. Finally, unable to bear the mental torture Bhondi escaped to her parental home from where she was returned to her in-laws with promise to pay ‘arrears dowry’. Bhondi and her mother were abused and insulted. And four days later at 2 PM news reached Bhondi’s parents that she died of burn injuries at 6 AM in the morning.
The medical evidence showed the body was charred. No external injuries were found. All internal organs- liver, kidneys, viscera was intact. In such a situation the doctor failed to find injuries and wrote ‘no cause of death could be found’. The police stuck to its strange version that Bhondi was killed by strangulation in the matrimonial home by in-laws and then taken out and her body burnt partially and brought back to matrimonial home. The forensic report and burnt items seized from the crime scene said some other story which was hidden but not so cleverly as to escape scrutiny in supreme court. The doubts once raised about the veracity of evidence do not go easily.
The prosecutor in supreme court was unable to show from record evidence of ingredients to prove murder. The appellants/accused [thru vijay panjwani] were shown not to have committed murder . In a plea bargaining appellants counsel suggested conversion of murder to a lesser conviction of dowry death. For reasons recorded the supreme court set aside the high court judgment on muder with life imprisonment and convicted the accused/appellants under section 304-B for dowry death to sentence already undergone. Husband and father in law were on bail since 2006 after 8 years incarceration and mother in law 14 years imprisonment in Midnapore Jail. The fine was set aside and bail bonds of the male accused persons discharged.It is for readers to form an opinion how this category of family cases should be tried.
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