SC wants overhaul of system to deter crimes against women

New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) Lending its voice to the country wide demand for strong laws to ensure the safety and security of women, the Supreme Court called for a revamp of the system to provide for stringent punishment in cases of crimes against women.

"A complete overhaul of the system is a must in the form of deterrent punishment for the offenders so that we can effectively deal with the problem," a bench of the apex court comprising Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, in a recent judgment.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam said: "In spite of stringent legislation in order to curb the deteriorating condition of women across the country, cases of bride burning, cruelty, suicide, sexual harassment, rape, suicide by married women etc. have increased."

The court made the observation while upholding the conviction of Ashabai and Kavita, sisters-in-law of Vandana Raghunath Tayade, who was burnt to death in Maharashtra in 2003 for her inability to conceive.

"in view of clinching evidence led in by the prosecution, there cannot be any leniency in favour of the appellants, who are sisters-in-law of the deceased and at whose instance the deceased was burnt at the hands of her mother-in-law", the apex court said, dismissing the appeals.

Addressing the contention that Vandana had made four dying declarations which were inconsistent and could not be relied upon, the apex court said: "When the (trial) court is satisfied that the dying declaration is voluntary, not tainted by tutoring or animosity, and is not a product of the imagination of the declarant, in that event there is no impediment in convicting the accused on the basis of such dying declaration."

"When there are multiple dying declarations, each dying declaration has to be separately assessed and evaluated on its own merit as to its evidentiary value and one cannot be rejected because of certain variation in the other," the judgment said, offering a precedent for cases in which there is more than one dying declaration.

Finding nothing amiss with the fact that the trial court had relied on four dying declarations, the court said: "The persons who recorded the four dying declarations were examined and they were also cross-examined about the statement made by the deceased, which they recorded. In such circumstances, we fully endorse the view expressed by the trial court and affirmed by the high court about the acceptability of four dying declarations implicating the mother- and sisters-in-law."

Vandana was married to Raghunath Puna Tayade Feb 28, 2000, at Khirwad Village of Rawer taluq, Jalgaon district, Maharashtra. After marriage, she was staying at her matrimonial home in a joint family consisting of her husband, mother-in-law Kesharbai, father-in-law and two sisters-in-law, Ashabai and Kavita.

Vandana had been unable to conceive a child, and this rankled her husband's family.

Vandana's mother-in-law, at the instance of her daughters, burnt Vandana to death after pouring kerosene on her on March 5, 2003, when she had been married just a little over three years.

The additional sessions judge, Jalgaon, by order March 30, 2005, convicted the mother-in-law Kesharbai and two sisters-in-law Ashabai and Kavita and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The Bombay High Court upheld the verdict April 11, 2007.

Kesharbai died Feb 11, 2012, while her appeal was pending before the apex court.

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