The Supreme Court has ruled that a husband calling his wife a prostitute would amount to sudden and grave provocation under Section 300 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and the death caused in such an instance would be punishable as culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Bar & Bench reported on Thursday.

A bench of Justices Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Dinesh Maheshwari was hearing a case wherein a wife and another co-accused allegedly killed her husband in a fit of rage after he called her a prostitute. The wife was in an illicit relationship with the co-accused, identified as Nawaz.

In its order passed on January 22, the court ruled the wife should be punished for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and not murder, since the killing was the result of a grave provocation. Both the trial court and the High Court had convicted the accused of murder and destruction of evidence. But the Supreme Court sentenced the woman to 10 years in prison.

“The deceased provoked the accused by uttering the word ‘prostitute’. In our society, no lady would like to hear such a word from her husband,” observed the bench. “Most importantly, she would not be ready to hear such a word against her daughters. The incident is a result of a sudden and grave provocation by the deceased.”

On the day of the incident, the husband had an argument with his wife and allegedly called her a “prostitute”. He had also allegedly accused her of converting their daughter into a prostitute. Nawaz, a resident of the same building, intervened in the altercation and slapped the deceased when he refused to stop arguing.

Later, both the accused strangled the man with a towel and burnt the body to hide the crime. They were arrested 40 days later on the basis of an extrajudicial confession recorded by a schoolteacher.