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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM


Author: Shreyas N R

Facts of the case

The important facts of the case are as follows. Kiranjit Ahluwalia married Deepak Ahluwalia in Canada and then the couple moved down to live in the United Kingdom. A few years into their marriage Kiranjit Ahluwalia faced a lot of abuse from her husband. The abuse was both physical and mental abuse. When the couple once came to India for a vacation where Kiranjit explained about the abuse she was facing to her family. After hearing her side of the story Kiranjit was asked to adjust and live with her husband even though facing all the abuse.

During the period where she faced continuous abuse from her husband, she even gave birth to two male children who were also witnesses of the abuse that she was facing. She was abused even more when she came to know about her husband was in an extra marital affair, he was abusing her to give money or else he would kill her. After bearing all these abuses she decided to teach her husband a lesson.[1]

One fine evening of 8th May 1989, she threw caustic soda and petrol together in the bedsheet of her husband and lit a torch at his leg so that he would not abuse her again in his life. Unfortunately, after suffering serious burn injuries he died from the treatment provided by the doctors.

Hence, she was arrested for the murder of her husband and was put on trial for life imprisonment. During the course of the trial, she repeatedly said that she had no intention to kill her husband whereas she only had the intention to teach him a lesson. After all this, she went for an appeal.

Arguments made

The appellant in the appellate court raised these major contentions or issues to the release of the appellant. The first issue was that any kind of provocation was a reason for the act of the appellant. The second issue is that the character of the appellant was taken into consideration during the initial trial.

During the initial trial secession, the judge ordered Kiranjit Ahluwalia's life imprisonment keeping in mind the murder of her husband. Later she moved for an appeal in the higher court. Here the first issue of if there was any provocation that was caused due to the abuse that she faced. An important case was looked into when the question of provocation was posed to the court of law.[2]

The case law of R v Duffy was taken as a precedent to this case. In that case, the learned judge came out with a decision stating that provocation does not appear at that point of time whereas the provocation may be “slow burn”, meaning that the provocation might be there from the starting but may not be shown outside. This case also became an important precedent in this case.

The second issue was whether the character of the appellant taken into consideration. Here the appellant being a woman her character of being unable to respond to the abuse that she was facing was being quoted, but the respondent side took up the question of “reasonable man” and the question of the act was whether manslaughter or not. Here the case law of Director of public prosecutions Vs Camplin[3] was quoted saying that the question of reasonable man means that he/she is of sound mind but could not have taken a normal decision due to the situation where the person was in.

Hence, these were the important issues that were posted by the appellant and the respondent regarding this case.[4]

Precedent to the case

There are a lot of precedents to the case. Out of them, there are two important cases. The first precedent to this case is R v Duffy 1949 1 ALL ER 932. It was in this case that the concept of “slow burn” was coined by the learned judge.

The second precedent to the case is Director of Public Relations v Camplin 1978 AC 705 House of Lords. In this case, the question of “reasonable man” and the question of the level of the provocation was also spoken about.

Decision of the court

The House of Lords on September 25th, 1992 decided to release Mrs. Kiranjit Ahluwalia based on the murder plea that she put forth during the trial. The decision to release her was based on the facts and the arguments made where to her character and the provocation that she faced during the period of abuse by her husband. The judge quoted the provocation that she faced during the abuse period was called the “boil over” period than the “cool down” period. The reason for the release was also told that she was psychologically affected due to which she faced endogenous depression which may be a common cause due to the abuse that she was facing.

After the appeal and retrial where her manslaughter plea was accepted, and she was sentenced to three years and four months which was the exact period where she had already served.

This decision by the court of law also set an example for any other new cases where a woman may be affected due to any kind of abuse that may happen in a marriage. The court quoted the concept of battered woman syndrome which also may be a cause of depression and which may affect the character of a woman if she was being forced to abuse of any kind for a longer period of time.[5]

My comments on the case law

Kiranjit Ahluwalia is an important cause. Most of us still do not know about the facts or the abuse that she faced. The trauma and the depression she faced were enormous.

By knowing about the facts and the issues about the case makes me feel that women still are not protected in their own household. In India, we have a lot of helplines to help women who are undergoing these kinds of abuse in their homes.

Women who face these kinds of abuse are subjected to endogenous depression which in turn affects the character of the women. Even still in many societies and families, the abuse that is faced by women is not known and the family members do not take any action against the abuser.

Still, now women are considered as weaker sections of the society and are not given equal respect as to a male person in the family. For many people, the abuse may even be from a family member.

Hence, from the case law, we can clearly understand that she only wanted to teach her husband a lesson and she did not have the intention to kill her husband for the abuse that he was causing.


[1] [2] homicide/director-of-public-prosecutions-v-camplin/ [3] 2 All Eng.Rep. 168, 2 W.L.R. 679 (England 1978). [4] [5]

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