Justice B. Veerappa and Justice V. Srishananda of the Karnataka High Court upheld the sentence of life imprisonment awarded by the Sessions Court against the accused Mahesha who plead not guilty. The accused had proposed to the victim for marriage; however, the latter refused the proposal since her parents did not consent for the same. The accused felt disgusted by the rejection, wherein he decided to throw acid on her face in an attempt to disfigure her face so that “no one marries her in the future.” At 16:40 hrs on January 31, 2014, the accused intercepted the victim and the co-victim, a U-KG student, on a motorcycle on a public road, wherein he proceeded to throw acid on her; consequently, the acid caused grievous corrosive injuries to the face, back and hands of the victim while causing corrosive injuries to the co-victim on the face and head. The Sessions Court charged the accused under Sections 307, 326A and 326B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The Sessions Court charged the accused under Section 307: “For doing the act of throwing acid with the intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, hurt is caused to the victim and co-victim by such act” with life imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 50,000/- with default sentence; additionally, the accused was charged under Section 326A: “Whoever (the accused) causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns or disfigures any part/ parts of the body of or causes grievous hurt to the victim and co-victim by throwing acid with the intention of causing ir with knowledge that the accused is likely to cause such injury or hurt” with life imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10 lakh to be paid to the victim under Section 326A to meet her medical expenses for reconstruction surgery owing to the fact that reconstruction surgeries cost a fortune that cannot be easily afforded by the middle-class parents of the victims.
Although the two-judge bench at the High Court pointed out the malicious abrogation of the Right to Life (endangering the life of the victims due to the corrosive nature of the injuries, both physical and mental) and the Right to Personal Liberty (the accused threw acid on the victim to fulfil his wish to marry her against her will) under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Court pointed out the immense, irreparable damage suffered by the victim, which may or may not be correctable by the said series of surgeries.
The Court; however, held that the subordinate Court had committed a mistake by convicting the accused under Sections 307 and 326A of the IPC, wherein two life sentences were conferred upon the accused concurrently. The Court pointed out that if an accused is charged with life imprisonment under two sections of the IPC, then the major sentence contemplating life usurps the other sentence contemplating life, such that the punishment under Section 307 merges into the life imprisonment under Section 326A since two life sentences cannot run consequently. The Court nullified the unsustainable punishment awarded by the subordinate Court under Section 307 while upholding the punishment under Section 326A of life imprisonment and Rs. 10 lakh fine by invoking the case of Muthuramlingam & Ors. v. State Representation By Inspector of Police (2016) CRA. Nos. 231-233/ 2009 where Justice T. S. Thakur held that no consecutive sentences can be awarded and two life sentences cannot be directed run consequently since life imprisonment implies imprisonment till the end of the convict’s normal life.
The Court held that the crime is uncivilized and heartless and it does not deserve any leniency; additionally, the grave nature of the crime deserves an equally grave punishment.