karnataka high court

Karnataka High Court: While deliberating over the instant petition wherein the petitioners had allegedly been involved in harassing a person mentally particularly vis-à-vis his sexual orientation thereby leading him to commit suicide; the bench of M. Nagaprasanna, J.*, rejected the petition stating that there is no need of interference of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC. The Court opined that the instant case is not a case where there is no prima facie material, or the allegations are made in thin air. Cases which involve death of a person, and the accused are guilty of abetment to suicide of the said victim, will have to be considered owing to the facts of each case. There cannot be any particular parameter; yardstick; or a theorem for interference, particularly, in cases of abetment to suicide.

The Court further emphasised on the fact that deceased belonged to the LGBTQ community. The sensitivity of them being ostracized pervades in their psyche. “Therefore, such people must be treated with all love and affection and not point at the infirmity that they have no control of. If every citizen would treat such citizens with all love and care, as is done to a normal human, precious lives would not be lost. Unfortunately, the precious life of a youth is lost in the case at hand, all for the prima facie allegations of pointing at sexual orientation of the deceased.”

The deceased initially joined the Landmark group and his first stint was between 2014 and 2016. He finished his first stint and resigned. Next time he rejoined the Company in the year 2022. It is the second stint of the deceased in the Company that forms the entire fulcrum of the lawsuit. The 1st petitioner was the person to whom the deceased was to report, and the 2nd petitioner was a teammate of the deceased. The 3rd petitioner was the Manager.

The deceased communicated with the company HR and the said communication narrated that he was being treated inappropriately due to his sexual orientation. The communication apart from other things emphasized on the fact that he was repeatedly questioned on his sexuality. In February 2023 the deceased flagged more concerns of excessive micromanaging, and other work-related issues, but again narrates about sexual orientation treatment.

The deceased being fed up with these things, submitted his resignation on 28-02-2023 and his last date of work was depicted to be 26-05-2023. After submission of resignation the deceased complained to the Committee constituted for sexual harassment of women at workplace and alleged being harassed due to his sexual orientation.

Furthermore, on 03-06-2023 the deceased also complained of being subjected to castigations remarks. On the same day of venting his grievance regarding these remarks, the deceased committed suicide.

Crime was registered against the petitioners for offences under Sections 306 and 34 of Penal Code, 1860 and sought quashment of the same. After registration of crime against the petitioners, the instant petition was filed before the Court.

The Court stated that if the accused by their alleged acts have played an active role in tarnishing or destroying the self-esteem of a hypersensitive person or even their self-respect, would definitely become guilty of commission of abetment to suicide; if the accused have kept on irritating or annoying the deceased by words or deeds, provoking them and driving them to the wall, would also become circumstances that would be ingredients of abetment, all prima facie. “Delicate analysis of human behaviour that shrouds each case will have to be analysed, on a case-to-case basis. The human mind could be affected and would react in myriad ways, one such way could be ending of one’s life”.

Referring to Mahendra KC v. State of Karnataka, (2022) 2 SCC 129, the Court stated that Supreme Court recognised that a person who is depressed and suffering from mental health issues could be hypersensitive. Every individual is different and different individual personality would manifest as a variation in the behavior of people and has held that quashment of the proceedings, at the stage of crime, is not a course of action that can be undertaken while exercising its jurisdiction under Section 482 of the CrPC.

Highlighting the fact that deceased belonged to the LGBTQ community and the sensitivity of them being ostracized pervades in their psyche; therefore, it is for every citizen to bear this in mind while interacting with sensitive people. “It is necessary that every one of us introspect on this issue, after all, everyone of them are human beings and all are worthy of equality.”

[Malathy S.B. v. State of Karnataka; 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 50, decided on 28-07-2023]

*Order by Justice M. Nagaprasanna

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the petitioners- Sandesh J. Chouta, SR. Advocate A/W Mrinal Shankar, Advocate;

For the respondent- K.P. Yashodha, HCGP.

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