The Kerala High Court has commuted the life imprisonment awarded to a young man who had killed his paternal uncle whom he saw assaulting his mother and awarded him jail term for the period of incarceration -- more than 3 years -- already undergone by him.
Referring to a Chinese proverb -- "If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow" -- the high court said that by sheer misfortune, a son fell prey to his ungovernable passion upon witnessing an assault on his mother.
The trial court had in April 2016 sentenced him to life imprisonment for the offence of murder under section 302 of the IPC and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on him.
The incident had occurred in January 2010 when during a heated argument between the accused's mother and paternal uncle over removal of timber logs from the former's land led to the latter pushing down the woman.
Infuriated by what he saw, the accused had intervened and pushed his uncle down who in turn picked up a stick so as to assault the former and got stabbed as a result, the prosecution had told the court.
The high court set aside the conviction for murder and instead held the accused guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, saying he had no intention to kill his paternal uncle, but he had knowledge that stabbing the victim with a knife could cause his death.
It awarded the accused a punishment of imprisonment already undergone by him -- which was more than 3 years -- and enhanced the fine imposed on him to Rs one lakh.
The high court modified the conviction and sentence saying "there was a grave and sudden provocation by way of an assault to the mother of the accused, there was only a single stab injury, the accused never intended to cause the death of the deceased, he had accompanied the deceased to the hospital, and the accused was only of the tender age of 19 years at the time of commission of the crime".
"We find that special circumstances exist mitigating the gravity of the offence, which appeals to our judicial conscience and discretion to show clemency to the accused in the matter of sentence.
"We are, therefore, persuaded to limit the substantive punishment to the period of imprisonment already undergone by the accused, which is more than 3 years as submitted by the senior counsel for the appellant, simultaneous with enhancing the fine component to Rs 1,00,000," the high court said.
"We conclude by allowing this criminal appeal in part. The judgment of conviction under Section 302 of the IPC is set aside," it added.
The accused, in his appeal against the trial court decision of 2016, had claimed that he had no intention of killing his paternal uncle and that he had only stabbed the latter in self-defence when the victim had picked up a stick to assault him.
The high court, however, rejected his claim of self-defence.