Aftab Poonawalla, this name has been haunting all of us for several days now. A while ago, this man was caught for killing his live-in partner Shraddha Walker by strangulation. He then chopped her body into 35 pieces and stored it in his fridge while slowly disposing of the pieces in different areas of Delhi in the span of 18 days. Ever since then, new and more gruesome details of the case have been coming to light as the police continue the investigations while trying to find all the parts of Shraddha Walker’s body. Recently, Aftab was presented in Delhi’s Saket court after his 5-day police custody expired. And guess what? The accused, Aftab told the court that he killed Shraddha Walker “in the heat of the moment” and it was not deliberate. TBH, it’s just shocking how casually this term “heat of the moment” is used.
Just last night I was watching Aishwarya Lekshmi and Naveen Chandra starrer Telugu drama film Ammu. In the film, Naveen’s character Ravi hits his wife, Aishwarya’s character Ammu and more often than not, he justifies his actions by saying things that translate to things like “I was angry” or “It happened in the heat of the moment” and apologised to her. Come to think of it, it’s surprising how most men not just justify but get away with a lot of things using “heat of the moment” as an excuse.
Before we go further, let’s understand what this term means. “Heat of the moment” refers to things that people say or do without thinking in a moment when they’re overcome by emotions like anger or excitement. It’s when someone is so overwhelmed by emotions that they don’t stop to think about the repercussions of their action or words. Aftab Poonawalla isn’t the first one to use “heat of the moment” in an attempt to save his skin. Men have been using this term to get away with a lot of things and justify their problematic behaviours and it’s not new. This isn’t something that men have started doing suddenly, “heat of the moment” has been used to justify many problematic behaviours displayed by men since time immemorial. From domestic violence to impulsive actions, this term has become a way for men to get away with things that cannot be justified. Be it ignoring consent or displaying anger, it’s almost always used to justify impulsive behaviour or lack of restraint with things like “it happened in the moment, babe” or “it was in the moment” or “I couldn’t think straight because I was angry”.
Murder is considered culpable homicide if there is a sudden or grave provocation. Since Aftab Poonawalla is guilty of the crime, there’s no way for him to get away but using “heat of the moment” as an excuse could help him get a reduced sentence. The law sees provocation as something that may cause a reasonable person to lose control and partially commit a criminal act. In this case, “heat of the moment” is an attempt to get Aftab a lesser punishment by saying that he did not deliberately kill Shraddha Walker as it wasn’t planned or premeditated which means that there was no “intent to kill”. This may be a form of partial defense for murder which can lead to his alleged criminal act being considered a lesser offense. As per the Indian Penal Code, “culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.” Essentially, this is an attempt to save Aftab from harsh punishment.
For the longest time, we have been letting men get away with the most absurd excuses. Even when they’re young, we hear things like “boys will be boys” and it’s okay it’s “young blood” and “garam khoon hai”. These excuses are used to justify and help men get away with problematic behaviour and this gives them a sense of entitlement. Moreover, even as kids, when boys display violent behaviour, it is often excused by saying that men are usually more violent and aggressive and that’s how they process emotions but let’s be honest, how healthy is that? When men have been permitted by society to display their violent behaviour and justify it using their gender, it normalises the idea of men acting on impulse and failing to restrain themselves and having anger issues. And eventually, when things start getting out of hand, they start using terms like “spur of the moment” or “in the heat of the moment” as an excuse for anything and everything and we’ve all been institutionalized to simply accept this as a justified reason and let things slide.
TBH, it’s time we stop letting men around us get away with problematic behaviour using this excuse. “It happened in the heat of the moment” is not an excuse. No one should be allowed to justify problematic traits using this excuse. It’s time we call them out on their lack of restraint and acting on impulse without thinking because that’s how they’ve grown up. Unless we call it out, they’re not going to unlearn it and nothing will ever change.