Punjab and Haryana High Court: In an appeal challenging the legality of judgment dated 29-11-2006 passed by Trial Court, wherein the respondents were acquitted of charges under Section 306/34 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), N.S. Shekhawat J., dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the Trial Court saying that the prosecution witness leveled vague and general allegations against the respondents and failed to withstand the test of cross-examination.
According to the facts, the victim (deceased) was married to the respondent in 1984. It was alleged that the deceased came back home after 7 days of marriage saying that the husband wanted to divorce her. It was also stated that even though dowry was given beyond the parents’ capacity, the respondent and his family members started harassing the deceased and forced her to bring more dowry. It was also alleged that the deceased also complained that her husband had kept another lady, and when she protested, she was beaten up and maltreated. They had also raised a demand of 3 lacs and threatened them that in case the money was not paid within a period of four days, they would put an end to the life of the deceased. It was alleged by the petitioner (father) the deceased committed suicide due to torture by consuming poisonous substance. FIR was registered at the instance of deceased’s father. The fast track Court after analyzing the facts and circumstances of the case, ruled in favour of the respondent and were acquitted them of the charge. Thereafter, the State of Haryana has preferred the instant appeal.
The Court perused Section 107 and 306 of IPC providing for what constitutes abetment and the offence of abetment of suicide. The Court relied on Mahendra Singh v. State of M.P., 1995 Supp (3) SCC 731 and Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 and appreciated the findings of Trial Court in the instant case and held the same liable to be upheld by the Court. The statement of one of the witnesses who performed the marriage of deceased was relied upon by the Court, who conveyed that in 18 years of marriage, no complaint or application alleging maltreatment or misbehavior was made by anyone.
The Court concluded that the prosecution witness leveled vague and general allegations against the respondents and failed to withstand the test of cross-examination.
The Court observed that wife committing suicide in matrimonial home itself does not make the in-laws and husband liable for harassment/ abetment to commit suicide. It further said that “there was no concrete or conclusive evidence against her in-laws and her husband to prove their complicity in the commission of the crime.” The Court clarified that abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing something, and that in the absence of a positive act by the accused, conviction cannot sustain. It further pointed that “mens rea to commit the offence is a sine qua non to convict a person under Section 306 IPC.”
Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal preferred by the State and upheld the decision of the Trial Court discharging the respondents.
[State of Haryana v. Darshan Lal, 2023 SCC OnLine P&H 445, Order Dated: 22-03-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Deputy Advocate General Sheenu Sura;
For the Respondents: Advocate S.P. Arora, Advocate Himmat Singh Sidhu.