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Karnataka High Court upholds life term for murder

It rejects defence of ‘sudden provocation’ from youth who stabbed a girl.

The Karnataka High Court upheld a 2016 trial court verdict of life imprisonment for a youth who had stabbed a girl to death at her home after she declined his proposal.

Rejecting the convict’s plea for leniency that he had stabbed the victim after “grave and sudden provocation” after she rejected his proposal the court said agreeing to his claim will have the “effect of robbing the victim of her right to express her choice”.

“In other words, the defence of ‘grave and sudden provocation’ shall not avail an accused if the result of permitting such a defence is to dehumanise the person of victim, stultify her individual autonomy, agency and dignity,” the court held.

A Division Bench, comprising Justice S. Sunil Dutt Yadav and Justice P. Krishna Bhat, delivered the verdict while upholding a trial court’s 2016 order of convicting Vijay alias Vijendra, a resident of Javalaga in Aland taluk of Kalaburagi district, and sentencing him to life imprisonment.

The convict, who was a B.Ed. student, stabbed Pushpa, 18, at her house in the presence of another woman in 2009.

The Bench noted that Vijay had gone to Pushpa’s house with a knife, imposed himself upon her to marry him, and on her refusal, stabbed her.

Asserting domain

“In other words, he was trying to assert some kind of domain over her only because he was a male and he was unwilling to reconcile to the situation that victim as a woman could rebuff the same and assert her individual autonomy and agency to take a decision on the choice of her life partner,” the Bench observed.

In such a situation, the Bench said, it is completely absurd to contend that there was ‘grave and sudden provocation’ from the side of the victim especially when, while she was rejecting the proposal what she was essentially doing was asserting her individual autonomy, which was entirely legitimate for her to do.

The Bench also observed that to permit him to take a defence of ‘grave and sudden provocation,’ in the facts and circumstances of this case, apart from being “obnoxious”, will result in negation of the fundamental rights of the victim under Articles 14, 19 (1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution of India.

“He betrayed utter disdain to the inherent right of victim as a human; to her individual autonomy to choose who to love and to her right to choose a husband and even, to defer to the wishes of her parents in matters of significance in her life, which in itself is a conscious ‘choice’,” the Bench said.


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