HomeIn Re Sreerangayee (1973) 1 MLJ 231


Facts

A woman was accused of murdering 5 children and booked under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and section 309 of the Indian penal code for attempting suicide. She admitted to being guilty of administering poison to the 5 children and jumping in the village well coerced by her living conditions in abject poverty.

Issues

Whether poverty can be used as a reasonable justification for murder.

Rule

Sections 300 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

Analysis

The woman admitted to all the murders committed by her but sought justification due to poverty. The court responded by giving the reasoning that even though living in poverty comes with many challenges, it cannot be held to be a justifiable ground for a grave offence like murder. The court recommended that the woman could be sent for reformative rehabilitation in line with a policy devised by the government. In my opinion, the sentence given to the accused is appropriate, because even though poverty is challenging, there were other avenues that the woman could have adopted instead of murdering her children and then attempting to kill herself.

She could have chosen to leave an unhappy marriage and opted to stay in a government shelter with her children. Additionally, resorting to murder because of economic instability cannot be justified or excused in law as it would establish a dangerous precedent, especially in a country like India where the last estimated account of poverty was 29.6% of the population, which amounts to a staggering 363 million people.

Conclusion

The court held that she was guilty of murder and sentenced her to life imprisonment. However, they also recommended that the government may commute her sentence.

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