Trimbak Chouthmal Vs. State of Maharashtra
 INSC 314 (23
B.L. (J) Hansaria B.L. (J) Ray, G.N. (J) Hansaria, J.
1996 SCC (4) 148 JT 1996 (5) 336 1996 SCALE (2)368
hang or not to hang, is the basic question to be decided in this appeal. The
murder of Vijaya was undoubtedly most foul. Even so, death sentence an be
awarded if murder be of the "rarest of the rare" type. Let it be seen
whether this was so.
facts taken as established by the High Court, to whom reference was made after
the trial court had awarded the death sentence and appeals were preferred, are
that Vijaya got officially married to the appellant on April 24, 1990. This was against the wishes of his
father Trimbak, who had wanted to get his son married to some other girl and
had hoped for good dowry from that marriage. Vijaya could live only for a
couple of days with her husband before she returned back to her parents' house,
because she felt that she was persecuted by Priyatama, sister of the appellant.
On return to her parents' house, she told her father Ashruba about the demand
of dowry made by Trimbak and the appellant.
demand was of Rs.25,000/-. Ashruba, however, being an employee with meagre
salary, could agree to pay only Rs.5,000/-. The further accepted case is that
on or about December 2,
1990, the appellant
took Vijaya to Bombay. On December 14, 1990, Trimbak and his wife Mudrikabai came to Bombay. All of them were seen together at
about 9.15 p.m.
nobody saw ViJaya alive.
had been taken to Bombay with a promise that she would be
sent back on January 3,
1991 for delivery at
her parents' house, as she was carrying a child of about 8 months then. As she
did not come even 8-10 days after 3rd January, Ashruba got worried as to what
had happened to her daughter. He sent his two sons to Bombay who. alongwith two of their
friends, reached there on 15th January. On inquiry being made from the
appellant about Vijaya, it was told that she was in good health. On desiring to
meet her, the appellant, who was then a lecturer in Sardar Patel Engineering College at Andheri, said that he would take them to the house at
about 4 p.m. when she could be met. The four
persons then left for Juhu Beach and when came back to College around 4 p.m. they came to know that the appellant had already left
without leaving any message. After making inquiries about the residential
address they reached the place to be informed that the appellant and his father
had left with bags and baggage. About Vijaya, neighbors told that she had been
sent to her parents' house for delivery.
shocked the boys and they apprehended some foul play.
back to Aurangabad (the town where the parents lived)
they narrated to Ashruba what had happened at Bombay.
inquiries were made at Bombay to be given out the same story.
This led Ashruba to lodge a complaint at Borivli Police Station on 24th
January. Police arrested Trimbak who expressed his willingness to show the
place where Vijaya's head was thrown after she was murdered. The head was found
in the shrub near Gorai Creek. The head was identified to be of Vijaya because
of the peculiar nature of her curly hair and projected teeth. Trimbak further
told to the police that body of Vijaya was cut in nine pieces and was kept in
two suitcases which had been thrown in a Nala. Trimbak led to police that place
but could not find the suitcases. The appellant, on being interrogated, made a
statement that he will point out the razor and certain other articles which had
been thrown at Gerai Creek. On the police being led to that place. two knives
and a razor were found. Ultimately, the nine places of the cut body were found
contained in two bags which had been kept in a local train at Borivli which was
proceeding towards Churchgate. The two bags were taken charge of by the railway
police and the body was sent for postmortem.
After completion of investigation, charge-sheet was filed against the
appellant, his father Trimbak, his mother Mudrikabai and his sister Priyatama.
During the course of trial, the father and sister died; and so, only the
appellant and his mother faced it fully. The former was convicted under section
302 read with 120B of the I.P.C. for committing the murder of Vijaya; and also
of the child in the womb. He was further found guilty under sections 201/34, so
too under sections 498-A/34 and 304-P/34 IPC. He was awarded the sentence of
death for the offence under section 302 read with 120B; to R.I. for seven years
for the offence under section 201/34; to R.I. for three years and a fine of
Rs.500/- in default R.I. for three months for 498 A/34 offence; and R.I. for
seven years for 304-B/34 offence the same being the minimum sentence prescribed
under law. As the appellant was awarded death sentence, it was stated by the
trial court that all his substantive sentences shall merge in this sentence. Mudrikabai
(the mother) was also found guilty under some sections and various Sentences
were awarded to her.
appeal being preferred by the convicts and reference being made by the Addl..
Sessions Judge for confirmation of the death sentence, all the cases were heard
together and by the impugned judgment the High Court has acquitted Mudrikabai
of all the charges, but has confirmed the conviction of the appellant for the
murder of Vijaya. As for the offence of causing the murder of the child in the
womb, the conviction has been altered to section 316, for which the sentence is
R.I. for ten years. The High Court has also confirmed the conviction under
sections 201/34 and 498-A/34 and the sentences as awarded. The conviction under
section 304-B/34 has, however, been set aside.
This appeal having been admitted only on the question of sentence, we have
heard learned counsel for the parties regarding the same. Shri Janardhnan,
senior Advocate appearing for the appellant, has contended that the present was
not a case of death sentence inasmuch as it was Trimbak who had done all the
acts and the appellant had really no part to play, as he had married Vijaya out
of love and he continued to love her. As to the prosecution case of his having
brought Vijaya to Bombay, it is urged that that had been done at the request of
Vijaya and the appellant had no inkling as to what was playing in the mind of
cannot at all accept the aforesaid in view of the finding of both the courts
below that the appellant was hand in glove with his father, both of whom had
hatched a plan and murdered Vijaya and also had thought out as how to dispose
of the body. There are materials on record to show that Vijaya had been brought
to Bombay, not to show the love of the
husband, but to get her killed at the cruel hands of her father-in-law. The
High Court, after noting the evidence, has come to categorical finding that the
circumstances clearly establish the active participation of the appellant with
his father right from the beginning till the end.
present was thus a murder most foul, as pointed out by us in the opening
paragraph. The motive was in get another girl for the appellant who could get
dowry to satisfy the greed of the father. Dowry-deaths are blood- boiling, as
human blood is soiled to satisfy raw-geed, naked greed; a greed which has no
limit. Nonetheless, question is whether the extreme penalty was merited in the
present case? 10.. We have given considered thought to the question and we have
not been able to place the case in that category which could be regarded as the
"rarest of the rare" type. This is so because dowry death has ceased
to belong to the species of killing. The increasing number of dowry deaths
would bear this. To halt the rising graph, we, at one point, thought to
maintain the sentence; but we entertain doubt about the deterrent effect of a
death penalty. We, therefore, resist ourselves from upholding the death
sentence, much though we would have desired annihilation of a despicable
character like the appellant before us. We, therefore character like the
appellant before us. We, therefore, commute the sentence of death to one of R.I.
for life imprisonment.
put then, at is a fit case, according to us, where, for the offence under
section 201/34, the sentence awarded, which is R.I. for seven years being the
maximum for a case of the present type, should be sustained, in vies of what
had been done to cause disappearance of the evidence relating to the commission
of murder - the atrocious way in which the head was severed and the body was
cut in nine pieces. These cry for maximum sentence. Not only this, the sentence
has to run consecutively, and not concurrently, to show our strong disapproval
to the loathsome, revolting and dreaded device adopted to cause disappearance
of the dead body. To these sentences, we do not, however, desire to add those
awarded for offences under Sections 316 and 498-A/34, as killing of the child
in the womb was not separately intended, and 498-A offence ceases to be of
significance and importance in view of the murder of Vijaya.
The result is that the appeal stands allowed to the extent that the sentence of
death is converted to one of imprisonment for life. But then, the sentence of
seven years' R.1. for the offence under sections 201/34 IPC would start running
after the life imprisonment has run its course as per law.