Lifer to 95-year-old woman

New Delhi: A 95-year-old woman has been sentenced to life by the Delhi High Court for burning to death her daughter-in-law and seven-month-old grandson, 13 years after a trial court acquitted her in a dowry case. A division bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Sunil Gaur held Sumitra guilty of committing the double murder in collusion with her elder son and daughter-in-law for bringing insufficient dowry, setting aside the trial court`s 1998 order, acquitting the trio.

The infant was in his mother`s arms at the time of the crime. The elder son and daughter-in-law of the convict, however, died early this year before the high court could conclude its hearing on the Delhi Police appeal against their acquittal.

The high court convicted Sumitra, relying upon the dying declaration of victim Meenu, who had told the sub-divisional magistrate that her mother-in-law, along with her elder son and daughter-in-law had set her ablaze after dousing her with kerosene oil even as she held her child in her arms.

She said though her husband and her father-in-law never harassed her, her mother-in-law and elder brother-in-law and sister-in-law used to harass her for dowry and set her and son ablaze on March 20, 1996. "Finding the dying declaration of Meenu to be inspiring utmost confidence, with no iota of doubt about her mental faculty, we unhesitatingly rely upon it to hold that the charge of murder stands proved beyond doubt against the respondent-accused, as she was instrumental in setting Meenu on fire," the bench said, convicting the nonagenarian woman.

The trial court gave its acquittal order relying on the deposition by the victim`s mother, who had submitted that her daughter was unconscious when she had tried to talk to her in hospital.