Himachal court overturns acquittal in wife burning case; hands out life term

Shimla: Overturning a trail court judgment acquitting one Ramji Dass, a resident of Mandi district who used to ply private vehicles in Manali, of murder charges about burning his wife in 2003, the Himachal High Court after allowing a state criminal appeal held him guilty and handed out a life term sentence today.

The case pertains to Bimla Devi who died of burn injuries on March 6, 2003. Bimla Devi’s two sisters, Nikki Devi and Uma Devi, were married to Ramji brothers and Nikki who was widowed lived in the same house as her sister Bimla.

The murder victim was hospitalized for burn injuries on February 26, 2003 and made a dying declaration recorded on February 27, 2003 that her husband after a domestic quarrel over consuming liquor poured kerosene and set her on fire.

Nikki Devi was produced by the prosecution as an eyewitness to the crime committed.

However, before the trial court the murder convicts defense injected an alternate version saying that the victim had accidentally set herself on fire in order to deter Ramji Dass from consuming liquor and resorting to wife beating.

The trial court did not rely on the validity of the victims dying declaration as well as the versions of the prosecution witnesses, which included medical experts as well as Nikki Devi and Uma Devi testimony and had acquitted Ramji Das of murder charges on March 29, 2005.

With the state having appealed the acquittal, the High Court bench of Justice RB Mishra and Justice Sanjay Karol after examining the evidence and material on record in the judgment delivered April 30, 2012 overturned the trial court’s judgment and held the accused guilty of murder charges.

The judges observed that the victim had died because of burn injuries, with Nikki Devi having deposed as being an eye witness to the burning incident.

After examining the testimony of Nikki Devi and Uma Devi and corroborating it with the dying declaration the court observed “there is no occasion that the dying declaration can be disbelieved.”

In the order about quantum of punishment passed today, the judges noted that it was not a rarest of rare case and took into account that the murder convict had a 14 year old daughter before handing out life term imprisonment to the convict.

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