The Bombay High Court has overturned a sessions court verdict that held a man and his brothers guilty of killing his wife, saying that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges.
A division bench of judges PV Hardas and Ajey Gadkari acquitted Dattu Madhvai, a resident of Yeola in Nashik district, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and his brothers Machindra and Ramesh, who were given seven years rigorous imprisonment.
"Upon careful consideration of the evidence, we find that the prosecution has utterly failed to prove the offence against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The appellants, therefore, in our opinion, are entitled to be given the benefit of doubt," the high court judges stated on the appeal by Madhvai and his brothers. The incident happened about a decade ago.
The judges said that the evidence on record would certainly indicate that Kavita may have accidentally fallen into the well and may have died due to drowning.
Additional public prosecutor Hitendra Dedhia argued that Madhvai assaulted his wife Kavita and then threw her into a well on August 29, 2003. His brothers were charged with helping him and inflicting injuries on Kavita.
The prosecution alleged that Madhvai and his family were cruel to Kavita and forced her to bring Rs50,000 from her parents to buy a tractor. Kavita's father had given Rs10,000 as advance to the main accused and promised to give the balance later. As Rs40,000 was unpaid, Kavita was subjected to cruelty and killed.
On August 29, 2003, Kavita was said to be missing and her father lodged a complaint with the police. The next day, her body was found floating in a well near their house.
"There is no evidence on record to indicate that the accused had subjected Kavita to ill-treatment. Apart from the witnesses merely stating that Kavita was ill-treated or harassed there is no other evidence which would conclusively establish the nature of ill-treatment," the HC judge said.
In the absence of precise evidence relating to cruelty, their conviction cannot be sustained on such omnibus evidence that for a demand for Rs40,000 Kavita was ill-treated, the court noted.
"There was no evidence on record to even remotely indicate that either Kavita was killed by the accused or that Kavita had committed suicide. In the absence of this evidence, the conviction of the appellants for offences punishable under IPC sections 302 and 304-B is not sustainable," the judges stated.
It was a case of accidental death. Kavita had died due to drowning because of accidental fall in the well, the court observed.