HC sets aside conviction of Poonch family accused of murdering daughter-in-law

HC sets aside conviction of Poonch family accused of murdering daughter-in-law
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Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday set aside conviction and life sentence to a mother and his son and daughter accused of killing their daughter/sister-in-law in Poonch in 2006.
A trial court in Poonch had convicted and sentenced the three in December 2012.
The High Court while setting aside the conviction observed that the trial court had made up its mind to convict the three persons by picking only those aspects which supported a conviction.
“The trial court has ignored the crucial points which tended to either create doubts or to establish the innocence of the appellants,” a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey said.
“In a criminal trial, the accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. But, unfortunately, the trial court has proceeded just the other way around by presuming them to be guilty, unless proven innocent. That is not how the criminal jurisprudence has evolved in this country.”
Sessions Judge, Poonch had convicted Balbir Singh, Ranjit kour and Parvinder Kour under Section 302/34 R.P.C. for having committed the murder of Harbhajan Kour on 31.12.2006.
All the three were awarded life imprisonment, and accordingly order of sentence was sent for confirmation in terms of Section 374 Cr.P.C.to J&K High court wherein an appeal was also filed by appellants before the court pleading their innocence.
Harbhajan Kour was married to one Gurdev Singh. The prosecution alleged that 31.12.2006, on a minor issue, Gurdev Singh got enraged with his wife and left the room.
It is further alleged that Balbir Singh, the brother-in-law of the deceased who was in the verandah of the upper story said that he would settle the issue between them once for all and came down from the verandah. In the meanwhile, Harbhajan Kour had also come out of the room. She was dragged in by him. Her mother-in-law (Ranjit Kour) and sister-in-law (Parvinder Kour) also arrived at the spot and started abusing her.
It is then alleged that Ranjit Kour picked up a can of kerosene oil from the room and sprinkled kerosene upon Harbhajan Kour and Parvinder Kour, put her on fire by igniting a match from a match box. Harbhajan Kour tried her level best to get rid of the flames and, according to the prosecution, after a great struggle, she extricated herself from the ‘clutches’ of the accused persons and went out of the room and raised an alarm for help. Due to this fire, she received serious burn injuries.
Harbhajan Kour, after having received burn injuries was initially taken to the District Hospital, Poonch. But, in the same night, she was removed from the District Hospital Poonch and brought to the Government Medical College Hospital at Jammu. She remained in that hospital till 15.01.2007, when she passed away.
The prosecution case relied on the alleged statement of Harbhajan Kour to his brother, Gurmeet Singh in an ambulance, and “dying declaration” to Mohd. Hayat (ASI) on 03.01.2007 allegedly recorded by him in the Government Medical College Hospital at Jammu.
The counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants submitted that the case put forth by the prosecution was false and the witnesses have not supported the version put forth by the prosecution.
He submitted, in particular, that prosecution witnesses have testified that none of the accused were present when Harbhajan Kour caught fire.