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Judicial CP - May 1998

Corpun file 8324

Trinidad Express, Port of Spain, 1 May 1998

12 years, 12 lashes for burning wife

By Josie-Ann Carrington
South/Central Bureau

THE agony of realising from puberty that he was not really a man, coupled with pressure from society, was what might have driven a man to set his wife afire.

This was the suggestion made to a San Fernando High Court by attorney Subhas Panday in a plea in mitigation on behalf of his client Narine Bharath.

Earlier in the week, Bharath, 33, was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to his former wife, Sharda, by pouring kerosene on her and setting her on fire.

Sharda, who was scarred for life by her former husband, cried tears of relief yesterday when Bharath was jailed for 12 years hard labour, and ordered to receive a dozen strokes with the birch.

The incident occurred on February 25, 1989, at the couple's home at Ramoutar Maharaj Trace, Debe, after Bharath accused his wife of being unfaithful.

In sentencing Bharath, Justice Raj Narine said the court could not comprehend the level of cruelty and horror of what Bharath did to his wife.

"That was an act of calculated savagery and you have shown no remorse," Narine told Bharath, a labourer.

After slapping her and pulling her hair, Bharath poured the kerosene on her and tried twice to set her afire. On the third attempt, Sharda burst into flames, suffering second degree burns to her torso, and spent five and a half months at hospital, the Fourth Criminal Court heard.

In his plea, Panday told the court that at the time of the incident, the Bharaths' two-year-old arranged marriage had not been consummated and Sharda had accused her husband of being a homosexual. "His nickname in the village was 'Bullers'. He was the butt of jokes on the outside, and he got pressure from the outside," Panday said.

He added that Bharath was depressed.

Panday also read a letter to the court, allegedly written by Bharath to his wife sometime after the incident.

In the letter, Bharath professed his love for Sharda and he said if she would not have him, "he would leave her and this world forever".

Sharda and some of her relatives who were present expressed disbelief at some of the things Panday was telling the court in his mitigation plea.

At one point, Sharda's brother was asked to leave the court so he could "cool down".

Panday also told the court that Bharath had since remarried, and had two children-one four years and the other two years old, both of whom were born with deformities.

Narine said the court was not unsympathetic to Bharath's "personal incapacity" but the gravity of his actions could not go unpunished.

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