Her husband and in-laws doused her with kerosene and set her on fire for not bringing along a hefty dowry. Not convinced she had died, they set her ablaze again, threw chilli powder on her and pushed her from the third floor of the house to the second, in full public glare.
Thirty-six years on, Beena Chandra’s killers have been awarded the life term.
A special court in Ghaziabad handed the sentence to Beena’s husband and his three brothers on February 20. Her parents-in-law, also accused in the case, have passed away.
Both Beena’s parents, who had filed the police complaint, and her husband’s family had stopped pursuing the case 16 years ago, in 2002. Had it not been for the additional district government counsel Vidya Bhushan Sharma, the file might have never even been reopened.
On the morning of January 2, 2017, Sharma had little to do and decided to flip through old files to kill time. It was then that he chanced upon a dowry death case from 1982. The brutality with which the crime had been carried out and that the accused had all been declared absconders prompted him to get the case reopened and pursue it for almost a year to its conclusion.
Beena, a resident of Modinagar, married Vinay, a businessman, in Pilkhuwa in 1981. “Soon after, her in-laws started pestering her for dowry.” Sharma told TOI. “This continued for some time. On June 19, 1982, her husband and in-laws dragged her to the third floor of their house, drenched her in kerosene and set her on fire. To ensure she did not survive, they set her ablaze again. They also threw chilli powder at her as she screamed,” Sharma said.
Alerted by her cries, neighbours gathered around the house and handed over four of the accused to the police. Vinay and his brother Ajay, however, managed to escape. Beena’s father Ramesh Chandra lodged a police complaint the same evening, naming Vinay, his father Bal Kishor, mother Chandrakala, and three brothers — Ajay, Vijay and Mukesh. An FIR was registered against the six at Pilkhuwa police station under sections 147 (rioting) and 302 (murder) of the IPC.
Chandra had also mentioned in the complaint that he had given Rs 12,000 to Vinay’s family a few days before the attack on his daughter and pleaded with them not to harm her. “There were a few hearings of the case. The statements of the complainant and four witnesses were also recorded. The police had filed the chargesheet, too. But Bal Kishor moved the Allahabad high court and managed to secure a stay for 20 years. This delayed the case. The case shuttled around in the courts of three judges over the past 36 years,” Sharma said.
Neither Beena’s parents nor her in-laws followed the case after 2002, by when the high court stay had been vacated. The accused, as a result, were all declared absconders. “I got warrants issued against the accused, who had almost forgotten about the case. They were summoned and the arguments were subsequently concluded,” Sharma said. On February 20, additional district judge Ratnesh Kumar Srivastava awarded life-term to Vinay and his three brothers, in their 50s and 60s now, and also fined them Rs 20,000 each. Vinay’s parents Bal Kishor and Chandrakala died in 2008. No information was immediately available on Beena’s parents.
This is not the first time that Sharma, practising since 1995, has taken an old case to its conclusion. Soon after becoming public prosecutor at the Ghaziabad district court in 2008, he had argued in a 10-year-old murder case, in which the accused had inserted an iron rod in the private parts of his wife. The woman’s husband and three of his accomplices were sentenced to death. Later, the death sentence was commuted to life by the Allahabad high court.
Source: India Times