Santosh Hegde, J. -
(1.)The appellant has preferred this appeal against the judgment dated 31-3-1999 passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in Criminal Appeal No. 403-DB of 1997 confirming the conviction and sentence passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Ambala, dated 25-2-1997 and 27-2-1997 convicting him of an offence punishable under Section 302, IPC and sentencing him to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/-, and in default of payment of fine the accused was further directed to undergo 6 months' RI.
(2.)Briefly stated, the prosecution case is that the appellant was married to one Ruksana Parveen for about 8 years and had two issues out of the said wedlock. The relationship between the husband and wife was not cordial and there use to be constant quarrels between the duo. It was also alleged by the prosecution that the appellant was a wavered person given to bad habits, therefore, his father in order to safeguard the monetary interest of the family, had purchased a house in the name of his wife, and also two cars, apart from investing money in certain FDs. for the benefit of the children which was also in the joint names of the father of the appellant and his wife, thereby excluding the appellant from handling the monetary affairs of the family. It is further stated that on 17-12-1993 there was a quarrel between the deceased and the appellant in regard to the sale of two cars registered in the name of the deceased and the purchase of a new car which was registered in the appellant's name. Because of the said quarrel, the appellant beat the deceased with a stick earlier on that day. It is furher stated that at about 7 p.m. on the fateful day, the appellant came home and called the deceased to the bathroom where he splashed petrol on her which he had kept in a mug and lit the deceased with a candle consequent to which the deceased was engulfed in flames and she ran out of the house into the street and within minutes she was charred to death. The case of the prosecution primarily rested on the evidence of Smt. Nisha, PW-4, the mother of the deceased who, according to the prosecution, was visiting the deceased and the appellant for about a month prior to the date of the ghastly incident. According to PW-4, on the date of the incident, when she and her daughter were present in the house at about 12'O clock, the appellant came to the house and gave beating to her daughter with a stick and left threatening that he will not spare her on that day and that she would be finished and that he would not get the vehicle transferred in her name. Subsequently, at about 6.30 p.m. he again came inside the house, called the deceased who was in her room, sprinkled petrol on her. At that point of time, PW-4 was stated to be on the roof of the house who on hearing the commotion, came down and saw the appellant lighting a candle with a matchstick and throwing the same on her daughter. It is stated that while she tried to help her daughter, her clothes caught fire and were partially burnt. It is also stated by her that her daughter while in flames, ran outside the house and fell down on the road in front of the house. At that time, the appellant fled from there threatening PW-4 that should she report the case to the Police, she will also be finished. It is the further case of the prosecution that on hearing the cries of PW-4, her elder son Babban came to the spot along with his teacher and both of them went and made a telephonic call to inform the Police. In the meantime, the deceased succumbed to her injuries.
(3.)Based on the evidence adduced before it, the trial Court came to the conclusion that the appellant was a wavered person because of which his father had purchased a house two years after the marriage for Rs. 8,50,000/- and two Maruti vehicles in the name of the deceased because of which the appellant was constantly fighting with the deceased and in view of the above marital discord, committed the offence of murder of his wife by dousing her with petrol and seting her ablaze. In this regard, it accepted the evidence of the prosecution, rejecting the contention of the defence that it was not safe to rely on the evidence of PW-4 because of the contradictions and improvements found in the evidence of the said witness on material facts. The trial Court in regard to the charge of contradictions and improvements pointed out by the defence as to the evidence of PW-4, held thus :
"As regards the alleged improvements made by her i.e. complainant, I find that there is no material improvement in her statement. The statement recorded by the police is meant to be a brief statement and it is not expected to cover each and every matter and so if the witness gives detailed version in the Court which he or she had not given in his/her statement to the police, it cannot be said that he or she had improvement upon his/her earlier statement made to the police. There is no material improvement in the statement of the complainant over the statement made by her to the police. Even to the police complainant Nisha had stated that as the accused had been beating her daughter and had been harassing her, she was living there to protect her and to look after her and that the accused had firstly beaten her daughter and threatened her that he would finish her and would not transfer the vehicle in her name and then he had returned at 6.30 p.m. and had sprinkled petrol by pulling her from the room and had then lighted the candle and had thrown that candle on her daughter. The complainant had struck to that version even in her statement in the Court and minor discrepancies are bound to appear even in the statement of a most truthful person."