Legal nuances ‘free’ dowry death accused
Posted by 498A_Crusader on March 18, 2008
MUMBAI: Legal technicality came in the way of justice.
A sessions court on Monday acquitted four accused in a dowry death case because the victim’s dying declaration was not recorded by a special executive officer (SEO).
Rita Baricha, 23, married Hemant in 1997. She gave birth to two daughters. In the first information report (FIR) recorded by the investigating officer, Rita had said that Hemant, her father-in-law Dhanji, her
mother-in-law Madhu and brother-in-law Naresh taunted her regularly for being unable to bear a male child. The entire family lived in a Kanjurmarg chawl.
In her statement, Rita had said that her husband accused her of misbehaving with her in-laws. He also blamed her for ignoring household duties. When she met her parents in Andheri on September 11, 2000, they advised her to keep her husband happy instead of picking up fights with him.
The next day she had a quarrel with her mother-in-law. While they were arguing, her husband allegedly slapped her and told her to set herself on fire because she had failed to bear a male child. She was doused in kerosene, allegedly by her mother-in-law, and given a matchbox too. Rita apparently set herself on fire inside the bathroom. When she realised she was burning she ran out of the bathroom, according to the prosecution. A neighbour, Sandeep Kadam, wrapped her in a blanket and took her to Rajawadi Hospital. Rita had suffered 85 per cent burns and she died on September 18, 2000.
Special executive officer Suvarna Karanje told the court that she had asked her ‘worker’ to record Rita’s statement. She later signed the declaration, which did not have Rita’s signature.
“The court accepted the first dying declaration (recorded in the FIR). The second one was not accepted because the SEO had not recorded it herself,” said additional public prosecutor Kiran Raykar.
Rita’s father Laxman Baria had filed an affidavit with the police about her daughter being harassed by her in-laws for a male child. But he later told the court that only her mother-in-law (she died during trial) had harassed her and not the other accused.
“If Baria had supported the prosecution, it would have corroborated Rita’s statement in the FIR which was accepted by the court. He backtracked possibly because his two grandchildren live with Rita’s in-laws,” said Raykar.