Bom HC | A fatal impulse or an ill-fated thought of the deceased cannot fray the fabric of S. 306 IPC; Acquittal of in-laws for abetting suicide of woman upheld

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the respondent-accused were acquitted of the offences under Section 498-A (husband or relative of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (abetment of suicide) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Penal Code.

The case of the prosecution was that prior to date of incident, the accused (husband and in-laws of the deceased), in furtherance of their common intention, subjected the deceased to cruelty and abetted a suicide. The accused were chargesheeted and tried for the offences under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 IPC. However, they were acquitted of all the charges by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the State filed the instant appeal.

Regarding the offence under Section 498-A, the High Court observed: “Law on what would amount to an offence under Section 498-A, has been well discussed in catena of judgments. It is settled law that under Section 498-A IPC, every cruelty is not an offence. The cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by this Section, i.e. it must be willful conduct of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, and health of the woman.” It was noted by the Court that the allegations made against the accused regarding demand of money, ill-treatment due to inability to cook, cruelty due to not conceiving, were general allegations and no details were mentioned. In such circumstances, it was held that the allegations under Section 498-A were not proved.

Coming to the offence under Section 306, the High Court noted that this was a case of abetment by instigation. It was observed: “In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’ there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.” After referring to a catena of decisions on the subject and considering the facts of the instant case, the Court stated: “It is nobody’s case that the accused intended Aarifa to commit suicide. A fatal impulse or an ill-fated thought of the deceased, however unfortunate and touchy it may be, cannot fray the fabric of the provision contained in Section 306 IPC. In short, it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by their act which is more important in this context.”

In light of what has been mentioned above, the High Court concluded that the opinion of the trial court could not be held to be illegal or improper or contrary to law. The order of acquittal, in Court’s view, required no interference. [State of Maharashtra v. Nabab Mohammad Shaikh, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 290, decided on 04-02-2020]

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