Crime & Court

Male Partners Using Violence Against Females A Serious Problem, Says Justice Goundar

Justice Goundar said Ms Devi was a daughter, a wife and a mother and she was a victim of gratuitous violence at the hands of her husband.
14 Feb 2020 15:38
Male Partners Using Violence Against Females A Serious Problem, Says Justice Goundar
Yogesh Rohit Lal at the High Court in Labasa on February 13, 2020. Photo: Laisa Lui

The culture of male partners using violence against their female partners is a serious problem in our community.

In many cases, the male partners resort to violence because they are not prepared to accept the decisions of their female partners for self-autonomy.

It must be made clear that the elephant in the room is not female self-autonomy but family violence.

These statements were made by High Court Judge Justice Daniel Goundar yesterday while sentencing Yogesh Rohit Lal, 40, for the murder of his wife, Saleshni Devi, 34, in August 2019.

Lal killed his wife in the presence of their two-year-old daughter on August 21, last year.

Lal appeared at the High Court in Labasa yesterday and Justice Goundar delivered his sentence from the court in Suva via Skype conference.

Lal was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 24 years.

Justice Goundar said Ms Devi was a daughter, a wife and a mother and she was a victim of gratuitous violence at the hands of her husband.

He said Ms Devi was killed in her home.

The court heard that Ms Devi was married to Lal for nearly 18 years and had three young children.

The court also heard that two months before she was killed, Ms Devi had moved to live with her parents in Wainikoro, Labasa, and took her youngest child, her two-year-old daughter with her.

On the day Ms Devi was killed, she was at home with her mother and daughter.

Lal left his home at 6.30pm on a bus and arrived at Ms Devi’s home at around 7pm when it was dark.

After arriving at Ms Devi’s home, Lal disconnected the electricity and hid at the back of the house. When Ms Devi went out to check the main switchboard, Lal sneaked from behind and struck her on the head with a cane knife he had brought from his home.

Ms Devi had sustained injuries to her head and hand. Her mother rushed to her rescue, but Lal pushed her mother away.

Her mother had pleaded with Lal to spare her daughter from harm, Lal, however, did not listen.

Despite being seriously injured, Ms Devi ran inside her house for safety but Lal pursued her inside the house and struck her multiple times in the neck and head with the cane knife.

Ms Devi died at the scene.

After the killing:

After killing Ms Devi, Lal left the house and returned to his home in Daku.

When he arrived at his home, he called his immediate family and friends and told them that he had killed Ms Devi.

Lal in his caution interview statement told Police he was involved in a maintenance dispute with Ms Devi after they separated and that his wife was threatening to kill him and settle down with another person in Suva with their youngest child.

He claimed his wife was of promiscuous character.

Justice Goundar said the victim’s character was of little relevance in the sentence.

He said even if she was of a promiscuous character, she had the right to life.

“She may have wanted to move on with her life after separation, but Lal was obsessed with her.

“The motive for the killing is clear. Lal could not accept that Ms Devi had a right to autonomy and a right to choose her own course in life.

“Lal could not accept that she no longer wanted to be in a relationship with him. He considered himself entitled to insist that Ms Devi conform to his wishes rather than pursuing her own.

“The prospect of Ms Devi pursuing a new relationship was galling to him. He felt ridiculed when Ms Devi rejected him.

“In response to her perceived temerity, he killed her, his own wife and the mother of his children,” Justice Goundar said.

He highlighted that the court must ensure that those who commit family violence resulting in the death of a spouse or partner pay a heavy price for their crimes, to punish them, to denounce the crime and to deter others.

Justice Goundar said the victims of family violence must be protected in so far as the courts were able to afford them protection.

He said the harmful impact of domestic violence was felt not only by the family of the victim but also by the community.

Justice Goundar said the punishment for murder was fixed by Parliament and it was life imprisonment with discretion to fix a minimum term before a pardon may be considered.

He said once a minimum term is fixed, the offender cannot apply for a pardon until he had served the fixed term.

He also said that after serving the fixed term, he may apply to the President to pardon him upon advice of the Mercy Commission, but it was not necessary that he would be granted one.

Justice Goundar said in the event the offender was not granted a pardon, he remained in prison till death.

Edited by Percy Kean

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