In several judgements over the years, an accused woman has always received absolute benefit of doubt, however, in the below case, the apex court has acquitted a mother of murder, because they felt it was “unnatural” for a mother to kill her own child.
- The appellant (mother) was admitted in the maternity ward of the Lady Hardinge Medical College Hospital, Delhi, and delivered a baby girl on August 24, 2007
- The new born was handed over to the mother on August 26, 2007 post which the child was strangulated and killed
- According to the police, it was the mother herself who murdered her new born because she was a girl child
- The doctor too opined that cause of death was asphyxia due to ante mortem strangulation
- On August 31, 2007 a case was registered against the appellant for the offence under Section 302 IPC, for causing death of her new born baby
- She was tried for the charge under Section 302 IPC by the court of Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court, New Delhi
- In her statement, she had not pleaded guilty and claimed trial
- To prove the charge against the appellant, prosecution in all, had examined 23 witnesses
- The trial court, by judgment dated December 19, 2009 found that prosecution had been able to prove complete chain of circumstances and proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, that the appellant accused was guilty for the commission of offence under Section 302 IPC and imposed the sentence of imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs 2000
- The Delhi High Court too upheld the conviction and sentence imposed on the appellant
- However, the Supreme Court has now acquitted the woman citing benefit of doubt
The bench comprising Justice Mohan M. Shanthanagoudar and Justice R. Subhash Reddy noted:
- There is no evidence on record to attribute motive that the mother strangulated the baby because the new born is a baby girl
- The husband, a prosecution witness who later turned hostile, had deposed that they already had a male child, and they wanted a female child to complete the family
The bench observed:
It is true that in the post-mortem, doctor has opined that death is due to asphyxia and there were marks of strangulation, but at the same time if totality of evidence on record is considered, motive is not established and it is totally unnatural for the mother to kill her own baby by strangulation.
Granting her the benefit of doubt, the bench acquitted the accused. It said:
The Trial court as well as the High Court has based conviction on presumptions without any basis. It is fairly well settled that to base conviction solely on the circumstantial evidence, unless chain of circumstances is established conviction cannot be recorded.
The bench further noted that from the totality of evidence on record it is clear that the baby girl was put in incubator with an oxygen mask and she has also not opened her eyes and she did not cry after birth. Thus the Supreme Court did not rule out a possibility of natural death.
Though the doctor has opined in the post-mortem report, the cause of death is asphyxia but in absence of any clear evidence on record, the bench felt it was not safe to convict the appellant for the offence under Section 302 IPC. The top court noted:
As the evidence on record is not sufficient to bring home the guilt of the accused, beyond reasonable doubt, we are of the considered view that the appellant is entitled to benefit of doubt, for acquittal from the charge framed against her.