In March 2010, the Delhi High Court held a woman guilty for allegedly strangulating her baby, knowing she was a girl. However, she challenged the Delhi HC judgment in the Apex court and sought to uphold her conviction and sentence. The woman argued that there was no reason for her to murder her newborn baby girl, as she already had a male child.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and acquitted her stating that it was “totally unnatural” for the woman to kill her child. The bench of justices Mohan M Shantanagoudar and R Subhash Reddy held that there was no ‘clear evidence on record’ to hold the woman guilty of the alleged offense. The bench further held that the judgments of the trial court and the Delhi HC were based on “presumptions without any basis.”
The court in its judgment settled that “It is true that in the post-mortem, doctor has opined that death (of child) is due to asphyxia and there were marks of strangulation, but at the same time if totality of evidence on record is considered, motive is not established and it is unnatural for the appellant-mother to kill her baby by strangulation.”
According to the prosecution, Manju (the appellant) had delivered a baby on 24 August 2007 who died in the after-hours on the same day. Subsequently, an autopsy was performed on 26 August 2007 and it was concluded that the cause of death was asphyxia due to antemortem strangulation.
As claimed by Manju, the baby was kept in an incubator and she was under the influence of some drugs. Since the time she got to see the baby, it was dead. Her husband mentioned that PW-8 and PW-9 who deposed the baby said that they kept the baby with the mother, after taking her out of the incubator. They further insisted that the baby was found dead by the doctor who came on duty to check at around 6:30.
In 2009, Manju was tried for the murder and was convicted under section 302 of IPC by the trial court, which sentenced her to life imprisonment. The conviction was later upheld by the Delhi HC.
Setting aside the Delhi HC’s order, the apex court stated that “In absence of any clear evidence on record, high court, as well as the trial court, committed error in attributing motive to the appellant that she has killed her baby as she was female.”