The Telegraph
Sunday , January 6 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC calls for deterrent punishment

New Delhi, Jan. 5: The Supreme Court has underlined the need for deterrent punishment to curb increasing cases of violence against women, saying an overhaul of the system was a “must” to deal with the problem.

The observation, amid calls for punishing rapists with death in the wake of last month’s brutal assault on a 23-year-old, came as a two-judge bench threw out the appeal of two sisters convicted of burning to death their brother’s wife in April 2003.

Justices P. Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said despite stringent legislation, cases related to bride burning, sexual harassment, rape and suicide by married women had increased and were taking place day by day.

“A complete overhaul of the system is a must in the form of deterrent punishment for the offenders so that we can effectively deal with the problem,” the bench said in its judgment yesterday.

The court dismissed the appeals of sisters Ashabai Puna Tayade and Kavita Ajay Medhe, who had been jailed for life for burning to death their sister-in-law Vandana as she hadn’t been able to conceive even three years after marriage.

A trial court had convicted them, along with their now-deceased mother Kesharbai, for murdering Vandana by setting her on fire after dousing her with kerosene at her matrimonial home in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.

The trial court had, however, acquitted two other accused, Shobha Sitaram Tayade and Sitaram Ramaji Tayade, both relatives of the convicts.

The sisters had moved the apex court after Bombay High Court upheld their punishment.

The sisters had argued in the apex court that there were four dying declarations and that Vandana had added the names of Shobha and Sitaram in her last statement before a magistrate. Since the trial court had acquitted the two relatives, none of the dying declarations should be accepted.

The Supreme Court disagreed. “Though, in one of the statements, she implicated two more persons (who were acquitted) she was consistent about the role played by her mother-in-law and her sisters-in-law,” the bench said, adding that it was also “relevant to note” that the incident took place in the bedroom of the deceased.

“It is also clear that she was subjected to torture as she had not conceived a child… and in all the four dying declarations, she was conscious in mentioning the role of her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. We are satisfied that there is no contradiction as to the main aspect, namely, implicating her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law as well as the role played by them,” Justice Sathasivam, who wrote the judgment, said.

The bench referred to Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act to explain that it was “not in dispute” that her statement related to the “cause of her death”.

The bench said it was settled law that if the prosecution solely depends on dying declarations, courts must ensure their genuineness.