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Woman who brutally killed 6-year-old stepchild gets life term

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
By Bhavna Uchil

The physically and intellectually disabled child had 13 grievous injuries; including pierced eyes

The prosecution had sought a death penalty in the case arguing that it falls in the category of 'rarest of rare' in view of cruelty. Pratibha Sawant, however, was sentenced to life in prison by a sessions court on Tuesday.

Additional Sessions Judge Surekha Patil found the woman guilty of murder. The injuries sustained by six-year-old Payal Sawant at the hands of her stepmother Pratibha, as mentioned in the childs' post mortem report, are disturbing, to say the least. The intellectually disabled child, who could also not walk without support, nor talk or understand what was spoken around her, was pierced in both eyes with a safety pin. She was found to have multiple burn injuries – on her face and palm. Her fingers had burn injuries too. Her left ear drum had ruptured. The post mortem report mentioned many injuries on her chest, abdomen and buttocks as well. The report had opined that she died an 'unnatural death' because of 'septic shock due to penetrating eye injuries..'

The doctor who conducted the post mortem told court that the scalp injury could be caused due to repeated banging on the wall, the abrasions on the body could be caused by a scissor, the eye injuries due to a safety pin.

Pratibha, 40, had killed the child as she was tired of having to do her work. The child used to relieve herself wherever she was. In her statement to the police in 2015, Pratibha had said that the girl had passed stool and that had acted as a trigger for her assault. She had said that when she had an arranged marriage with Rajesh in 2013, she was unaware that both daughters of her second husband, a rickshaw driver, were intellectually disabled. She had lost her first husband to typhoid. She had also told that her six-year-old son from her first marriage was not allowed to live with her after her second marriage, though Rajesh's family had promised so.

During trial however, she had taken the defence that the child had fallen from the cot and her eyes were hurt by falling on a sharp object.

On November 30, 2015, when Rajesh had tried to wake his daughter Payal up, to take her for her ablutions, he had found her body rigid and cold. He had called a family doctor to check on Payal, who had found injuries on the child's body and asked him to take the child to the hospital. The hospital had declared the child dead on arrival. As per Rajesh's statement to the police then, he had asked Pratibha if she had assaulted the child and she had said arrogantly that she had killed the child and he may do what he wants. Further, he had told the police that they would have frequent quarrels as Pratibha wanted him to leave the children at an ashram.

When the incident took place, Rajesh's brother-in-law and his family as well as his parents, who used to live with them, had gone to Solapur for a wedding. He had gone to work when the crime took place. On returning from work at night, he had inquired if the child had eaten and Pratibha had answered in the affirmative, after which he had gone to sleep.

Payal's elder sister Mayura, then eight years, had told the police that Pratibha would not give the sisters food and would mercilessly beat them. On that day, she said she had heard her sister scream and had gone near, but the woman had slapped her, after which she had gone to another room and slept off.

Pratibha and Rajesh had a toddler son who was 11 monts old when the crime had taken place. He lived with his mother in the jail all this time. The court had ordered that the child be given in the custody of the father.

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