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Man who set his wife on fire not a murderer as he didn’t realise it would kill her, rules Bombay HC

The court said it was clear that Hanumant Chavan had not intended for her to die as he had tried to douse the flames and taken her to hospital.

The Bombay High Court commuted the life sentence of a man who had thrown kerosene on his wife and set her on fire but later poured water on her to extinguish the flames, Live Law reported on Monday. The court held that it was clear the man did not intend to kill her. The woman, however, had succumbed to her injuries in the hospital. The incident had taken place in 2008.

The high court, citing a previous Supreme Court judgement, reasoned that had the accused, Hanumant Chavan, known that his act would endanger Vandana’s life, he would not have done it. The high court bench, comprising justices VK Tahilramani and MS Karnik, set aside Chavan’s murder conviction and instead convicted him for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. He will now spend 10 years in jail.

According to the prosectors, Chavan was an alcoholic who doubted his wife’s fidelity, and set her on fire on the night of November 24, 2008. He apparently had a change of heart soon after, doused the flames and took her to hospital. In her dying declaration, Vandana accused Chavan of trying to kill her and a case of murder was registered against him based on this. A sessions court had held him guilty and convicted him for murder in 2011.

In its judgement, the high court said, “From the evidence discussed above, it is seen that after his wife caught fire, the appellant extinguished it and took her to the hospital. Very probably, the appellant would not have anticipated that the act done by him would have escalated to such a proportion that Vandana might die. If he had ever intended her to die, the appellant would not have immediately thrown water on her and rushed her to hospital in an effort to save her.”

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