CHENNAI: Son of a poor ex-serviceman in a remote village in Vellore district, he became an engineer, secured a lucrative job, fell in love with a woman and married her, was blessed with a son and was leading a happy life. A bolt from the blue fell on the man, A Steepen, and it completely ruined his life.
In a depressed condition, he killed his son by forcing on him an overdose of sleeping pills and attempted to commit suicide. While the son died, he survived, only to receive life imprisonment from a lower court.
Steepen received a message that his father had fallen ill on October 20, 2008. He rushed in his car to his native place with his wife Sangeetha and son. Next day, he received a message from his office directing him to return immediately. Early next morning, he started his journey back to office. Unfortunately, the car hit against a tree and his wife died on the spot. He and his son sustained serious injuries. They were admitted to the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore. The wife’s body was cremated by her parents in Chennai. There remained a balance amount of `2.50 lakh due to the hospital.
He rushed to his house with the hope of settling the bill by pledging/selling his wife’s jewels and `1.80 lakh kept in the house. But to his shock, he found nothing. On enquiry, he came to know that his father-in-law came to the house previous day and carried away the jewels and cash and all the documents relating to his daughter’s insurance. Steepen also found a complete indifferent attitude of his father-in-law towards him. Adding fuel to the fire, the in-laws also demanded `80,000 from him towards the expenses for the cremation of his wife!
Steepen, who lost his job, as he was totally immobile, somehow managed to settle all the dues. But had no money to meet the day-to-day expenses, including one square-meal, leave alone funds to continue the treatment for him and his son.
He went to his father-in-law’s house in West Mambalam, entered into a room and bolted it from inside on July 8, 2009. He forced his 5-year old son to pop up overdoses of sleeping pills and hanged himself from the fan hook. Before doing so, he wrote a suicide note. The police broke open the doors and found both lying unconscious. They were rushed to a hospital, where the son died, but Steepen survived.
Two cases were registered against him, one for killing his son and the other for attempting to commit suicide. Additional Sessions Court in Chennai awarded life imprisonment to him on June 24, 2010.
When the matter came up before a division bench of Justices M Jaichandran and S Nagamuthu, advocate D Selvam contended that the accused was in a state of ‘severe depression’ and his action could not be termed as a murder. The bench examined doctor Mythili, attached to KMCH, who treated Steepen. She submitted that he was under ‘severe depression’ and had also recommended strict vigil on him as he was likely to commit suicide. There was no one to look after him in the hospital. The depression in medical terms is known as ‘major depressive disorder’ and if not treated, he would undergo any type of risk such as suicidal or homicidal attack.
If the frustration turns inward, the patient would attempt to suicide and if it turns outward, he would try to attack others, the court witness stated.
“From these answers by the doctor, it is crystal clear that the cognitive faculty of the accused was not under his control and he was not conscious of the consequences of his act,” the judges saidand ordered his acquittal on March 16 last.