Issuing a legal notice and filing a complaint case against someone, would that amount to abetment of suicide? Del HC deciphers [Detailed Analysis]

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J. expressed that,

Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing.

Crux of the matter

Genesis of the case was in the transaction entered into between the petitioner and the deceased with respect to purchase of a vintage motorcycle; and in relation to which the petitioner on instructions of the deceased transferred a sum of USD 4,650 in the account of one Narender Verma, who acknowledged the receipt of the amount vide an email stating that he would be sending the bank transfer receipt.

Petitioner had submitted that even after the entire consideration been paid in the year 2012, the vintage motorcycle was never delivered.

Complainant’s case was that the delivery of the subject motorcycle had been made in the year 2012 itself, the petitioner had lodged a false complaint against the deceased for harassment solely for the purpose of getting his other motorcycles serviced by him free of cost.

Further, he stated that the delivery was made in the year 2012 to the petitioner’s authorized person but the requisite transfer documents were promised to be executed once he came to India.

Issue for Consideration

Whether issuance of a legal notice and filing of complaint case by the petitioner would amount to ‘abetment’ punishable under Section 306 of Penal Code, 1860?

Analysis, Law and Decision

 A person abets the doing of a thing if he firstly, instigates any person to do that thing; or secondly, engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or thirdly, intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.

 In the Supreme Court decision of Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2017) 1 SCC 433, Court observed that:

“21. It is thus manifest that the offence punishable is one of abetment of the commission of suicide by any person, predicating existence of a live link or nexus between the two, abetment being the propelling causative factor. The basic ingredients of this provision are suicidal death and the abetment thereof. To constitute abetment, the intention and involvement of the accused to aid or instigate the commission of suicide is imperative. Any severance or absence of any of these constituents would militate against this indictment. Remoteness of the culpable acts or omissions rooted in the intention of the accused to actualize the suicide would fall short as well of the offence of abetment essential to attract the punitive mandate of Section 306 IPC. Contiguity, continuity, culpability and complicity of the indictable acts or omission are the concomitant indices of abetment. Section 306 IPC, thus criminalizes the sustained incitement for suicide.”

It’s pertinent that the petitioner did an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option.

It is significant that the petitioner had the mens rea to commit the offence.

In M. Arjunan v. State, (2019) 3 SCC 315, the Supreme Court elucidated the essential ingredients of the offence under Section 306 IPC.

Recently, the Supreme Court in Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2020) 10 SCC 200, reiterated the exposition of law relating to the offence of abetment.

In the present matter, complainant (wife of the deceased) filed a criminal complaint under Section 156 (3) CrPC.

Petitioner with a view to harass the deceased had issued the legal notice and filed the criminal complaint so that the deceased would repair his other two motorcycles free of cost. It is stated that the deceased was harassed and mentally tortured by the police officers on the complaint lodged by the petitioner.

Deceased had told the complainant that he was called to the police station where he was made to sit on his knees for long period and was tortured/harassed. Deceased repeatedly tried to contact the petitioner on his phone but he avoided the phone calls.

Suicide note ran into 3 pages and on each page, the deceased had mentioned the date as 28-11-2014 and also appended his signatures but the whole suicide note was completed on a later date and on the said note he stated that he was mentally disturbed.

High Court stated that deceased had felt harassed, but the act of petitioner could not be held to have abetted the deceased in committing suicide.

Adding to the above, Bench stated that the filing of a criminal complaint by the petitioner was his legal recourse, as advised to him and the transaction between the petitioner and the deceased relating to purchase of a vintage motorcycle was an admitted fact. Whether the motorcycle was delivered to the petitioner or not, would have been established after inquiry, it cannot be said that by filing a criminal complaint against the deceased, petitioner had the mens rea to instigate or goad the deceased to commit suicide and further was left with no option but to commit suicide.

Conclusion

High Court held that neither any live link nor any proximity between the acts of petitioner and act of committing suicide by deceased was discernible.

In view of the above petition was disposed of. [Atul Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4107, decided on 23-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Sarojanand Jha, Suraj Malik and Megha Shawani, Advocates

For the Respondents: Neelam Sharma, APP for State with SI Sushil Sanwaria, DIU, Central Distt.

Amarjeet Singh Sahni, Advocate for R-2 with R-2 in person.

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