Chennai: The Madras High Court has upheld the life sentence awarded by a lower court to a man who set ablaze his family-run jewellery shop in Namakkal in 2009 over a property dispute, in which a worker died of suffocation.
Hearing the appeal by Suresh Kumar, challenging the order of Namakkal District and Sessions court, the division bench, comprising Justices M Jaichandren and S Nagamuthu, declined to refer the case back to the trial court.
Four of Kumar's family members, including his father and brother, had sustained burn injuries in the fire, while a shop employee died of suffocation.
The Principal District and Sessions Court Judge, Namakkal, had convicted Kumar under various sections of IPC, including 436 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 302 (Murder) 307 (Attempt to murder)(4 Counts) and sentenced him to life imprisonment
The judge had also slapped a fine of Rs 2.2 lakh on Kumar under various sections of IPC.
When the matter came up before the High Court last week, Kumar's counsel requested that the case be remanded back to the trial court, so as to recall all witnesses and cross examine them.
The bench declined to do so, saying "the trial court has taken a liberal approach to grant long adjournment with a view to enabling the accused secure the presence of his counsel to cross examine the witnesses. However, the counsel did not file any petition seeking to recall any witnesses."
It pointed out that the trial court had sentenced the accused after having considered evidence available on record.
The bench said the incident had occured in 2009. After this long period if witnesses were allowed to be recalled, it might not amount to a fair trial to the victims who had suffered injuries and would only amount to harassment."
Upholding the sentence, the judge said the prosecution had clearly established it was Kumar who poured petrol and set the shop ablaze and that the worker died of suffocation.
The court also reduced the fine of Rs 2,20,000 to Rs 18,000.