Supreme Court: In a case where a 14-year-old had committed suicide after his PTI Teacher had allegedly “harassed and insulted him in the presence of everyone”, the bench of SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari*, JJ has held that the suicide note suggested that it was a rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind and that it was the hypersensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extraordinary step. The Court said that the action of the teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide.
The Court explained that,
“A simple act of reprimand of a student for his behaviour or indiscipline by a teacher, who is under moral obligations to inculcate the good qualities of a human being in a student would definitely not amount to instigation or intentionally aid to the commission of a suicide by a student.”
What was the case about?
- The FIR Stated that the boy, a class 9 student, was under deep mental pressure because the appellant (the GEO, PTI Sir) had harassed and insulted him in the presence of everyone and he was not willing to go to school on 25.04.2018 but was persuaded to go to school by his parents.
- The boy was informed that the parents have been called to school next day and this brought him under further severe pressure and tension.
- In the FIR and as also the statement of the complainant recorded by the police, no reasons or cause for the appellant to harass and insult the victim were spelled out nor there are any details with respect to any action on the part of the appellant by which the deceased boy might have felt being harassed and insulted.
- The PT Teacher, apart from imparting Physical Training to the students, was also charged with the duty of maintaining discipline in the school which included keeping a watch upon students and oversee that they are attending the classes instead of bunking the same and moving around in the school premises without permission.
- It was alleged that the boy generally used to bunk his classes and was warned by the appellant and other school staff a number of times.
- On 14 19.04.2018, he was caught by the appellant bunking classes and moving around the school campus without any cause or permission and a warning was given to him.
- On 25.04.2018, he was caught bunking classes and again the appellant issued him a warning and on account of persistent act of bunking classes, reported the same to the Principal of the School, who informed the parents of the boy to come to the school.
- The boy committed suicide on 26.04.2018.
What did the Supreme Court say?
Abetment of suicide
What is required to constitute an alleged abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC is there must be an allegation of either direct or indirect act of incitement to the commission of offence of suicide and mere allegations of harassment of the deceased by another person would not be sufficient in itself, unless, there are allegations of such actions on the part of the accused which compelled the commission of suicide.
Further, if the person committing suicide is hypersensitive and the allegations attributed to the accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly situated person to take the extreme step of committing suicide, it would be unsafe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide. Thus, what is required is an examination of every case on its own facts and circumstances and keeping in consideration the surrounding circumstances as well, which may have bearing on the alleged action of the accused and the psyche of the deceased.
Can reprimand by teacher amount to abetment of suicide?
The disciplinary measures adopted by a teacher or other authorities of a school, reprimanding a student for his indiscipline would not tantamount to provoking a student to commit suicide, unless there are repeated specific allegations of harassment and insult deliberately without any justifiable cause or reason.
“‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ an old saying may have lost its relevance in present days and Corporal punishment to the child is not recognised by law but that does not mean that a teacher or school authorities have to shut their eyes to any indiscipline act of a student. It is not only a moral duty of a teacher but one of the legally assigned duty under Section 24 (e) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to hold regular meetings with the parents and guardians and apprise them about the regularity in attendance, ability to learn, progress made in learning and any other act or relevant information about the child.”
Hence, if, a student is simply reprimanded by a teacher for an act of indiscipline and bringing the continued act of indiscipline to the notice of Principal of the institution who conveyed to the parents of the student for the purposes of school discipline and correcting a child, any student who is very emotional or sentimental commits suicide, the said teacher cannot be held liable for the same and charged and tried for the offence of abetment of suicide under section 306 IPC.
Absence of any specific allegation or material on record
- In the absence of any material on record even, prima-facie, in the FIR or statement of the complainant, pointing out any such circumstances showing any such act or intention that he intended to bring about the suicide of his student, it would be absurd to even think that the appellant had any intention to place the deceased in such circumstances that there was no option available to him except to commit suicide.
- In the absence of any specific allegation and material of definite nature, not imaginary or inferential one, it would be travesty of justice, to ask the appellant-accused to face the trial. A criminal trial is not exactly a pleasant experience and the appellant who is a teacher would certainly suffer great prejudice, if he has to face prosecution on absurd allegations of irrelevant nature.
Rhetoric Suicide note
It was a note consisting of three pages with following written on each separate paper :-
01st page – ‘MY ALL THINGS GOES TO MY DEAR BRO KAIRN EVEN MY LOVE BYE BUDDY & SORRY’
02nd page – ‘NEEDED JUSTICE’
03rd page – ‘THANKS GEO (PTI) OF MY SCHOOL’
The Court noticed that the suicide note was rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind.
“A reading of the same also suggests the hypersensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extraordinary step, as the alleged reprimand by the accused, who was his teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide.”
[Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 873, decided on 05.10.2021]
For appellant: Advocate Abhishek Gupta
For respondents: Advocates Dr. Manish Singhvi and Aditya Kumar Chaudhary
*Judgment by: Justice Krishna Murari