THANE: A district court has acquitted four members of a family who were tried for allegedly torching a woman to death following a quarrel last year in Bhiwandi township here.
District Judge A S Bhaisare acquitted the four while observing that the prosecution failed to prove the charges levelled against them under IPC sections 302 (murder), 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) and 504 (intentional insult with an intent to provoke breach of peace).
According to the prosecution, the four accused -- a 50- year-old woman, her two sons, aged 32 and 23, and her daughter-in-law, aged 30 -- poured kerosene over the woman, residing in their neighbourhood in Bhiwandi's Padmanagar slum area, and set her afire on May 29, 2016 following a quarrel the previous day.
The victim sustained severe burns and died during treatment at a hospital the same day.
The advocates of the accused pointed out several flaws in the case, like failure to mention whose thumb impression was taken on the dying declaration, the timing of the victim's statement being missing, overwriting on the timing of quarrel between the two families, and non-examination of the medical officer to prove the victim was fit to give her statement.
Judge Bhaisare observed that the dying declaration and the victim's statement before the police were contrary to each other regarding the place of the incident, whether it happened inside the house or outside.
Besides, no kerosene was found either inside the victim's house or outside it. Therefore, it is very difficult to hold whether the incident really took place at the behest of the accused persons or the victim set herself on fire, as she was frustrated because of the quarrel, he said.
The judge further noted that no clothes of the accused persons were seized or sent for chemical analysis.
Also, no independent witnesses to the incident was examined by the prosecution, he observed.
Therefore, it is very difficult to hold whether the woman's death was homicidal or suicidal. Having considered the material on record, the dying declaration on record is also not fully reliable, the judge said.
Also, the deceased's son and her sister did not support the prosecution story, he observed.
Considering the facts and circumstances of the matter, it can be held that the evidence on record is not sufficient to hold the guilt of the accused for the charges levelled against them, the judge said in his order last week.