SC: Immolating wife extreme cruelty that cannot be contained by Section 304 IPC but only by Section 302 

The Supreme Court has held that setting one’s wife on fire leading to her death is an act of such cruelty that it can only invoke Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code. 

THE Supreme Court has held that setting a person on fire leading to their death is an act of such cruelty that it can only invoke Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The court made this remark while dealing with a case involving a husband pouring kerosene oil over his wife and setting her on fire, leading to her death. The husband had pleaded that Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and not Section 302 of the IPC should be invoked against him.

Brief facts

The appellant has been convicted under Section 302 of the IPC by a sessions court in Delhi. 

He was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment for killing his wife by pouring kerosene oil on her.

The convict appealed against the judgment of the sessions court before the Delhi High Court which dismissed the appeal on January 1, 2009. Against the high court Order, an appeal was filed before the Supreme Court.

The appellant argued before the Supreme Court that he had no intention to kill his wife. He submitted that after pouring kerosene oil on his wife, he tried to extinguish the fire by pouring water over her.

As per the appellant, his case falls under Part I of Section 304 and not Section 302.

The Supreme Court appointed advocate Aditya Singh as amicus curiae in this case.

Singh submitted that the guilt of the appellant is proved beyond reasonable doubt. He told the court that the concurrent findings of facts recorded by the two courts need not be interfered with by the Supreme Court.

What did the Supreme Court say?

Based on the material placed before it, a Supreme Court division Bench of Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Ujjal Bhuyan held that it found no merit in the argument of the appellant that his case falls under Section 304.

The court reasoned that the appellant did not raise this contention during the trial or when his statement was recorded under Section 313 (power to examine the accused) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Hence, the court found that there is no illegality or infirmity in the judgments of the sessions court and the Delhi High Court.

The appellant’s sentence was suspended in 2012. After the dismissal of this petition, the Supreme Court has directed him to surrender before the concerned jail authorities within four weeks from January 10, 2024. 

If the appellant fails to surrender, the Supreme Court has directed the sessions court to issue a non-bailable warrant against him.

Click here to read the order