Manipur sexual assault Supreme Court
The SC Bench is hearing a batch of petitions concerning the violence in Manipur | iStock photo for representation

Court not for sermonising society on morality; bound by rule of law: SC

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The court is not an institution to sermonise society on morality and ethics; rather, it is bound by the rule of law while taking decisions, the Supreme Court has said while ordering the premature release of a woman convicted of the murder of her two children.

The incident happened in Tamil Nadu almost 20 years ago. The woman apparently had an affair with a man who used to threaten her. So, she decided to end her life along with those of her children.

She bought plant pesticides and made her two children drink it. Thereafter, when she poured the pesticide in a tumbler to consume it herself, her niece pushed it down.

Unfortunately, the two children were declared dead on arrival in the hospital and an FIR under Section 302 IPC (murder) was lodged against her.

“Cruel and brutal” offence?

The trial court in January 2005 convicted the woman under IPC sections 302 and 309 (suicide) and sentenced her to life imprisonment besides a fine. The Madras High Court partly allowed her plea by acquitting her under Section 309 while upholding the conviction under Section 302.

Recently, the woman pleaded for premature release, saying she had been in prison for almost 20 years. However, the Tamil Nadu government rejected the recommendation of the State Level Committee, considering the “cruel and brutal” nature of the offence.

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However, a Supreme Court bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Ahsanuddin Amanullah felt that the circumstances in which the woman poisoned her two sons was “clearly reflective of her being under a state of tremendous mental stress”.

The court pointed out that she did not murder her sons to continue her illicit relationship. On the contrary, she tried to kill herself and her children “in disappointment and frustration over the quarrel picked by her paramour”, the court said.

The bench added: “This court is not an institution to sermonise society on morality and ethics and we say no further on this score, bound as we are, by the brooding presence of the rule of law.”

“Cruel hands of fate”

The apex court said the case cannot be simply bracketed as a cruel and brutal offence as the woman herself was trying to end her life but was prevented by her niece in the nick of time.

“Moreover, the recommendation of the State Level Committee conveyed by the Additional Director General of Police/Inspector General of Prisons also notes her undisputed reflective conduct as also the long period of incarceration already undergone,” it said.

The top court said there was no valid reason or justifiable ground for the state to not accept the recommendation of the State Level Committee for premature release of the woman.

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“We are not oblivious to the crime but we are equally not oblivious to the fact that the appellant (mother) has already suffered at the cruel hands of fate. The reason thereof is an arena this Court would avoid entering.

“The appellant is held entitled to the benefit of premature release as per GO issued by the Home (Prison-IV) Department, under the signature of Additional Chief Secretary to Government. Accordingly, the appellant is directed to be released forthwith, if not required in any other case,” the bench said.

(With agency inputs)

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