India: Woman diagnosed with post-partem depression sentenced to life in prison for infanticide

The mother was convicted for offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code. She was sentenced to life for murder and three years for the offence of parent leaving a child with intention to abandon.

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Twelve years after a mother was accused of throwing her one-and-a-half-month-old infant from a government-run hospital's bathroom window, a Sessions court in Mumbai, India sentenced her to life imprisonment for infanticide. 

The girl was one of the twins born prematurely to the mother, now 40-years-old. While CCTV footage at the BMC run KEM Hospital showed the mother entering the toilet with the child in her arms, she had returned without the baby. 

The head of the Psychiatry department of the same hospital had diagnosed Parmar with post-partum depression after the incident and deposed as a defence witness in the case.

On Wednesday, the mother was convicted for offences punishable under sections 302 (murder) and 317 (parent leaving a child with intention to abandon) of the Indian Penal Code. She was sentenced to life for murder and three years for the offence under section 317.

The judge relied heavily on the woman's extra-judicial confession and her conduct right after the incident to hold her guilty of murder. Regarding the defence of post-partem depression, the judge said the diagnosis was only after the incident, therefore there was nothing to demonstrate she was suffering at the time of the incident.

"I have no hesitation in arriving at a conclusion that the prosecution proved beyond all reasonable doubt that it is the accused who knowingly with an intention to abandon and was aware of the fact that if the girl child is thrown from the window of the bathroom will die have thrown her girl child from the window of the bathroom, resulting into her death," the court observed. 

The mother and her twins were admitted to the KEM Hospital a day before the incident, on October 25, 2010 as the babies were under-weight. According to the prosecution, at 5am Parmar started screaming that her baby was missing from the cot. She told the nurse that she had gone to the bathroom to wash her clothes when the child was stolen.

While the nurse started searching for the child and alerted the hospital security, a guard said that he heard a child crying outside the hospital toilet on the ground floor. The child's ear seemed to have been bitten by a rat and there was a severe head injury.

The baby was admitted to the hospital and succumbed to her injuries later.

CCTV footage found the mother coming out of the bathroom empty-handed. The toilet window was broken. A total of nine witnesses were examined by the prosecution to prove Parmar's guilt.

Advocate Devendra Yadav for the mother contested the authenticity of the CCTV footage. He said there were discrepancies in the manner in which the footage was saved and therefore should be discarded as evidence.

The head of Psychiatry department at KEM deposed as a defence witness in the case. The HoD told The HoD told the court that the mother had undergone treatment for post-partum depression after the incident and was kept away from the second male twin for the fear of infanticide.

The HoD also deposed about the mother's earlier miscarriage, and another child she had lost after giving birth. 

The doctor said that the mother hadn't rested – eaten or slept – since the twins were born. The HoD also told the court that the couple had borrowed money during the previous pregnancies and were under stress due to their twins' ill health.

Moreover, she had to be kept away from her second child for a while fearing another episode of infanticide. The defence pointed out that the police failed to even record the doctor's statement.

The prosecution, however, argued that the mother's treatment began after the infant's death and she had not complained of any ailments till then.

The bench observed that the defence only examined Dr Shubhangi Raghunath Parkar as their witness who had check the woman after the incident. Parker's opinion that the woman had depressive symptoms on the night of October 26, 2010 was based on the medical history the husband had given. But the husband was not examined as a witness. 

The court noted the woman's behaviour immediately prior and after the incident (of shouting) to to ascertain whether she knew what she was doing.

"This piece of evidence…goes to show mental position.., that she was in fit state of her mind and when she has abandon her child after throwing her girl child behind the bathroom, she came there and with an intention to blame some other person started shouting that her one child was missing.

This itself clearly goes to show that the accused at the relevant time of incident was in fit state of mind, was knowing that what she had done is wrong and therefore with an intention to save herself started shouting that her one child was missing from the cot."