Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Bombay High Court: In a case filed by Lata (‘petitioner’) daughter of the deceased who committed suicide and left a suicide note which pointed towards the guilt of the petitioner and her mother for offence under Section 306 read with 34 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC'), a Division Bench of Manish Pitale and G.A Sanap, JJ., quashed the FIR against the petitioner and her mother stating that there is no proximate link between the suicide note recording harassment allegedly at the behest of the petitioner and the extreme step taken by the deceased due to a time gap between the date on which the suicide letter was written and the date on which the suicide was committed.

The Court observed that in the present case, the petitioner, allegedly through her mother, was making demands towards shares in the agricultural land or monetary relief from the father, however, such repeated demands or alleged increase in the demands cannot lead to a finding that prima facie the demands were being made with the intention of driving the father to commit suicide.

The deceased had two wives and children from both the wives and the informant in the present case is the son-in-law of the deceased, who is married to the daughter of the deceased from his first wife. It was alleged that a suicide note was found which clearly demonstrated that no option was left for the deceased, but to take the extreme step, because of the aggressive behavior of the co-accused i.e., mother of the petitioner, due to instigation on the part of the petitioner.

Reliance was placed on Sanju v. State of M.P., (2002) 5 SCC 371, wherein it was found that the alleged abusive words were used by the accused against the deceased, two days prior to the date when the deceased was found hanging. In these circumstances, the Supreme Court found it fit to quash the criminal proceedings.

Further reliance was placed on M. Mohan v. State, (2011) 3 SCC 626, wherein the Supreme Court emphasized that there ought to be a proximate link between the incidents alleged against the accused and the suicide by the deceased. On the facts of the said case, it was found that when the alleged incidents had taken place about four days prior to the suicide committed by the deceased, no proximate link could be attributed.

In the case of Amalendu Pal v. State of West Bengal, (2010) 1 SCC 707, it was held that mere harassment without any positive action on the part of the accused proximate to the time of occurrence, which led to the suicide, would not amount to an offence under Section 306 of the IPC.

The Court remarked that the contents of the suicide note brought out the fact that Shobha (co-accused) at the behest of the petitioner was making monetary demands or asking for a share in agricultural land from the deceased. The demand in itself, at worst, may have been unreasonable or a demand which the father was unable to fulfill, but it would be stretching things a bit far to reach a finding that the accused as the daughter, through her mother intentionally acted in such a manner to drive the deceased to commit suicide.

The Court held that on a perusal of the suicide note shows that it was dated 09-09-2021, while the actual act of suicide was committed on 14-09-2021, thus, there is no proximate link between the suicide note recording harassment allegedly at the behest of the petitioner and the extreme step taken by the deceased on 14-09-2021.

[Lata v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 2840, decided on 22-09-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. A. M. Sudame, Advocate, for the Petitioner;

Mr. S. M. Ghodeswar, APP, for the Respondent No.1 State.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsForeign Courts

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: While deliberating upon the constitutionality of Washington’s Senate Bill 5722, the question arose that whether a state may prohibit health care providers operating under the state license from practicing conversion therapy on children; the Panel of Judges comprising of Kim McLane Wardlaw, Ronald M. Gould, and Mark J. Bennett, Circuit Judges, held that Washington’s licensing scheme for health care providers which disciplines them for practicing conversion therapy on minors, does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments. “States do not lose the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments performed under the authority of a state license merely because those treatments are implemented through speech rather than through scalpel”.

Background: Conversion Therapy encompasses therapeutic practices and psychological interventions that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The goal of such therapy is to change an individual’s sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual or to change an individual’s gender identity from transgender to cisgender. Developed in the mid-nineteenth century, conversion therapy was used to “cure” patients of homosexual desires and gender-nonconforming behaviours, which were viewed at that time as mental illnesses. Such views, once held by professional organizations in the psychology and psychiatric fields, have evolved with time and research.

The American Psychological Association (APA) removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973 and it now views gender nonconforming behaviours as “gender dysphoria,” rather than as a “gender identity disorder.” The APA has twice conducted a systematic review of the research on conversion therapy and adopted a resolution that conversion therapy “puts individuals at a significant risk of harm” and is not effective in changing a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The APA opposes conversion therapy in any stage of the education of psychologists and instead encourages psychologists to use an affirming, multicultural, and evidence-based approach.

The Laws involved: Washington’s Revised Code requires health care providers to be licensed before they may practice in Washington. Chapter 130 of Title 18, Washington’s Uniform Disciplinary Act, lists actions that are considered “unprofessional conduct” for licensed health care providers and subjects them to disciplinary action. Therapists, counsellors, and social workers who “work under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or religious organization” are exempted from the Chapter’s requirements.

However, the law that came before the Court was Senate Bill 5722. Washington enacted SB 5722 in 2018, which added “performing conversion therapy on a patient under age eighteen” to the list of unprofessional conduct in the Uniform Disciplinary Act for licensed health care providers.

The Challenge and its Legal Trajectory: Tingley has worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist for more than twenty years. Although he does not work “under the auspices of a religious denomination”, his Christian views inform his work. Tingley believes that the sex each person is assigned at birth is “a gift of God” that should not be changed and trumps an individual’s “feelings, determinations, or wishes.” He also believes that “sexual relationships are beautiful and healthy” but only if they occur “between one man and one woman committed to each other through marriage.”

Tingley sued Washington State officials in May 2021, seeking to enjoin SB 5722. He alleged that Washington’s ban on practicing conversion therapy on minors violates his free speech and free exercise rights under the First Amendment, as well as those of his clients, and that the law is unconstitutionally vague under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The District Court granted Washington’s motion to dismiss and held that Tingley had standing to bring claims in his individual capacity but that he lacked standing to bring claims on behalf of his minor clients. As to the merits, the District Court recognized that Court of Appeals decision in Pickup v. Brown, 740 F.3d 1208 (9th Cir. 2014), remained good law and applied the same to reject Tingley’s constitutional claims.

Aggrieved by the decision of the District Court, Tingley went in appeal.

Observations and Findings: Perusing the facts, relevant laws and its own precedents, the Court of Appeals made the following observations-

  • Agreeing with the assessment of the District Court, the Circuit Judges observed that Tingley has standing to bring his claims in an individual capacity but, does not have standing to bring claims on behalf of his minor clients. “Tingley has alleged a sufficiently close relationship with his current clients to meet this standard. But Tingley makes generalized statements about the rights of his clients that are purportedly violated by this law, claiming that the law denies clients “access to ideas that they wish to hear, and to counselling that is consistent with their own personal faith, life goals and motivations.” Tingley does not explain how a law that allows minors to seek conversion therapy from counsellors practicing under the ‘auspices of a religious denomination’”.

  • Analysing the merits of Tingley’s claims regarding constitutionality of the Washington Law, the Court referred to tis precedent in Pickup v. Brown, wherein a nearly identical law enacted by California that prohibited licensed mental health providers from performing any sexual orientation change efforts on minors, was upheld by the Court. It was observed that both Washington and California amended their code of professional conduct for licensed mental health providers to specify that practicing conversion therapy on minors would be considered unprofessional conduct subject to discipline.

  • It was further observed that the Washington law restricted licensed providers from performing conversion therapy on minors because of the demonstrated harm that results from these practices, and not to target the religious exercise of health care providers. Washington’s law does not prevent health care providers from communicating with the public about conversion therapy.

    “The legislature’s asserted intent in enacting SB 5722 was to regulate ‘the professional conduct of licensed health care providers’. It found that it had a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by conversion therapy.”

  • Evaluating the neutrality of the impugned law, the Court observed that the law’s express protection for the practice of conversion therapy in a religious capacity is at odds with Tingley’s assertion that the law inhibits religion. “Tingley all but concedes the law is facially neutral, instead arguing that facial neutrality is ‘not determinative” and advocating what he sees as “subtle departures from neutrality’”. It was further noted that SB 5722 even-handedly prohibits health care providers from performing conversion therapy on minors, whether those minors seek it for religious or non-religious reasons: “the same conduct is outlawed for all.”

    “SB 5722 is a neutral law targeted at preventing the harms associated with conversion therapy, and not at the religious exercise of those who wish to practice this type of therapy on minors”.

  • The Court further pointed out that SB 5722 is not targeted towards anecdotal reports of regret from sex reassignment surgery or the prescription of puberty blocking drugs; instead, the law is targeted toward the scientifically documented increased risk of suicide and depression from having a licensed mental health provider try to change someone. These harms are not the same.

  • Analysing that whether the impugned law is constitutionally vague or not, the Court rejected Tingley’s claims stating that terms like “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. The Court stated that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have common meanings that are clear to a reasonable person, let alone a licensed mental health provider. The Court observed that SB 5722 is not unconstitutionally vague as by its terms, the law gives fair notice of what conduct is proscribed to a reasonable person, and certainly to a license-holding provider with the specialized, technical knowledge of the psychology. The law contains standards limiting the discretion of those who will enforce it, and it does not matter that the law allows individuals to initiate actions for injunctive relief because, the law ‘provides both sufficient notice as to what is prohibited and sufficient guidance to prevent against arbitrary enforcement’.

Conclusion/ Decision: With the afore-stated observations, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the District Court to dismiss Tingley’s claims and upheld Washington’s SB 5722 stating that the law is not vague and is well within the well-established tradition of constitutional regulations on the practice of medical treatments.

[Brian Tingley v. Robert W. Ferguson, 2022 SCC OnLine US CA 9C 1, decided on 06-09-2022]


*Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief.

Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deliberating upon the instant writ petitions for quashment of FIR registered in connection with the suicide of prominent tribal leader Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar,(MP, Dadra and Nagar Haveli), the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and Shrikant D. Kulkarni, JJ., exercised their powers under Section 482 of CrPC and quashed the FIR filed against Praful K. Patel (Administrator, Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and others by Mohan Delkar’s son Abhinav Delkar.

Background

Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar (the deceased) was a prominent tribal leader and was representing Dadra and Nagar Haveli since 1989 as Member of Parliament. On 21-02-2021, Mohan Delkar along with driver Ashok Patel and private bodyguard Nandu Wankhede reached Mumbai for attending some Court matter. The deceased was staying at Sea Green South Hotel, Marine Drive. On 22-02-2021 the deceased committed suicide by hanging in his hotel room. The deceased’s son, Abhinav Delkar was intimated of the turn of events through driver Ashok Patel. A suicide note and minutes of Parliamentary Privilege Committee were recovered from the scene. Abhinav Delkar recorded his statement with the police and the same statement was treated as First Information Report.

In the FIR it was stated that the deceased was subjected to ill-treatment, harassment and defamation at the instance of certain persons. It was also stated that this ill-treatment and harassments were done under the orders of Praful Khoda Patel, Administrator, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Since the deceased was unable to bear this harassment, he committed suicide. It was stated in the FIR that the petitioners by hatching a conspiracy created such an atmosphere of pressure and depression which led the deceased to end his life.

The FIR against 9 persons was registered for offences punishable under Sections 306 (Abetment to suicide), 506, 389, 120-B of Penal Code, 1860 read with relevant provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The FIR further stated that the deceased was representing Dadra and Nagar Haveli since 2019 as an independent Member of Parliament (MP) and he belonged to a scheduled tribe community (Dhodia Patel). It was further stated that the deceased was continuously taking steps for the development of the area and in the past 1 year he was under tremendous pressure as the administration of Dadra and Nagar Haveli was continuously harassing and ill-treating him. The motive behind this harassment and ill-treatment was to take control over the college being run by the deceased and to prevent him from contesting the next elections.

Contentions of the Petitioners

The counsel of each petitioner made detailed submissions before the Court, the crux of which was-

  • It was contended that taking the FIR as it stands would only reflect that deceased himself admitted that he was active in social and political life for a considerably long period; had faced many adversities, and, was bold enough to face these difficulties and proceed further in his active political career.
  • It was submitted the deceased only made assumption and presumption that officers in the administration were acting under the orders of the Administrator and that the private individuals were hand in glove with the Administrator and were acting vindictively against the deceased.
  • It was also contended that the copy of the suicide note was not made available to the Petitioners and it is only referred to in the FIR. Since this material itself is undisclosed and withheld, therefore the petitioners are left only to guess work.
  • It was submitted that as far as the incidents quoted in the FIR are concerned, there is no proximity of these incidents and the act of committing suicide by deceased. Mere assumption and presumption are not sufficient enough to attract the provisions of the IPC. The FIR is silent on the aspect of the enmity or grudge being carried by the petitioners against the deceased; general and baseless statement that the petitioners joined together and hatched conspiracy under the direction of the Administrator is wholly unsustainable.

Contentions of the Respondent

Meanwhile the respondents contended that-

  • Conspiracy was hatched under the directions of the Administrator and pursuant to the conspiracy the petitioners harassed the deceased. Submitting details about the various incidents as referred to in the FIR, the counsels stated that though they are different incidents, however, a common thread in all these incidents is that they lead to the humiliation and harassment of the deceased.
  • It was submitted that FIR is not an encyclopedia as such, the investigating agency, upon lodging of FIR conducts the investigation and further material is collected or unearthed in the investigation.
  • It was submitted that though commission of suicide is a final act, the process of abetment to suicide is a complex one. There are certain causes for commission of suicide and consideration of these causes can be set as dynamics of suicide. It was stated that broadly there are two reasons for commission of suicide i.e., internal or personal reason and secondly, external factors. The effect of these two factors depends upon the sensitivity of a person.
  • It was contended that the investigation is still in progress, therefore, this is not a fit case for exercising powers under Section 482, CrPC.

Findings

Upon perusal of the contents of the FIR and noting the contentions raised by all the petitioners, the Court was of the opinion that that there are considerable merits in the submissions raised by the counsels appearing for Petitioners.

The Court agreed with the petitioners that the deceased was active in social and political life for a long period and faced many difficulties in life boldly and the alleged incidents of ill-treatment stated in the FIR were mere impressions carried out by the deceased. The Court noted that the petitioners presented sufficient material to show that the deceased was never disrespected in any of the public functions and proper protocols were followed considering the deceased’s stature.

Concerning the powers of the Court under Section 482, CrPC, it was observed by the Bench that while exercising powers under Section 482, the Court is not expected to undertake the exercise of detailed scrutiny or assessment of the material collected in the investigation, and it is expected from the Court to go through the contents of the FIR and material along with it.

The Court also agreed with the petitioners that the contents of the FIR fall short in order to attract Section 120-B of IPC. In order to attract Section 120 (B), there must be positive material to show that the petitioners came together to hatch a conspiracy and effect was given to that conspiracy. In the present case, except bare words that the petitioners were acting under the directions of Administrator, there is not a single incident to show that these petitioners came together and acted under the dictates of the Administrator.

Concerning offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Court pointed out that the FIR also falls short in attracting the charges under the 1989 Act.

Regarding Section 306 of IPC, the Court noted that there must be material of a positive act, as a pre-requisite for satisfying the word ‘abetment’, the contents of FIR and reference made to incidents falls too short to show any positive act committed by the petitioners so as to satisfy the term ‘abetment’.

[Sharad Darade v. State of Maharashtra, WP No. 1806/2021, decided on 08-09-2022]


Appearances

For State: AS Pai, PP


*Sucheta Sarkar Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief

 

 

Madras High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Madras High Court: In a case related to allegation of murder and rape of a 12th standard school-girl, G.K.Ilanthiraiyan, J. viewed that there is no evidence to attract the offence under rape and murder and on perusal of the suicidal note of the deceased, it is very clear that the deceased felt difficulties in studies. Therefore, it is a clear case of suicide by her.

The Court observed that:

“It is an unfortunate and sorry state of affairs that the teachers who teach the students are facing threat from their students and their respective parents. It is very unfortunate that the petitioners have now been arrested and under imprisonment for advising the students to study well. Even as per the suicidal note, there is no evidence to show that the petitioners instigated the deceased to commit suicide soon before her death”

In the present case the deceased studied in 12th standard at Sakthi Higher Secondary School as a day scholar. Thereafter, she was boarded in the hostel of the said school. On 13.07.2022, the parents of the victim girl received a phone call from the school and were informed that the victim jumped from the third floor of the hostel. After 30 minutes, the parents received another call and were informed that their daughter died, and her body was kept in the Government Hospital. Thereafter the parents of the deceased verified the place of death and found that there was no evidence to show that the deceased jumped from the building,thus, her parents suspected the school authorities with regards to their daughter's death and lodged a complaint.

The FIR was initially registered under S.174 of the Criminal procedure Code, 1973 and was later altered to the offence under S. 305 of the Penal Code, 1860 and S. 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2002 and S. 4(B)(ii) of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002 against five accused persons.

The Court observed that the parents of the deceased compelled her to continue her studies in Residential School and the statements of the classmates of deceased revealed that the deceased felt difficulties in solving equations in Chemistry, further, as per the suicide note also, the deceased felt difficulties in solving the equations in Chemistry. Moreover, she requested the correspondent and Secretary in the suicidal note to return the tuition fees as well as the book fees to her parents. Therefore, it is a clear case of suicide and there is absolutely no evidence to show that the petitioners had instigated the deceased to commit suicide as alleged by the prosecution.

Placing reliance on the autopsy reports and expert opinion, the court observed that “the other injuries found on the body of the deceased are all ante-mortem injuries and there is no iota of evidence for rape and murder of the deceased as per the postmortem reports”. It further observed that the mark found in the right breast of the deceased happened due to gravel injuries, the blood stain in the inner garments is due to the extravasation of blood in the surrounding para vertebral muscles. Further, there is no injuries found on her private parts.

The Court observed that “when the teachers are directing their students to study well and to tell the derivation or equation, it is part and parcel of the teaching, and it would not amount to abetment to commit suicide. Therefore, the offence under S. 305 of Penal Code is not at all attracted as against the petitioners”, hence, bail was granted to all the petitioners.

[Kiruthika Jayaraj v. State of Tamil Nadu, Crl.O.P.Nos.20088,20135 and 20406 of 2022, decided on 26.08.2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

S.Prabakaran, Advocate, for the Petitioners;

Public Prosecutor Hassan Mohammed Jinnah and Additional Public Prosecutor A.Damodaran, Advocate, for the Respondent.

Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Bombay High Court: While deciding the instant bail application of a 20-year-old boy charged with abetment of suicide of a 16-year-old girl, the Single Judge Bench of Bharti Dangre, J., observed that in order to invoke offence under Section 306, Penal Code, 1860 i.e., abetment to commit suicide; it is necessary to establish its ingredients, i.e., instigation or incitement, for the deceased to commit suicide. The sudden reaction of a 19-year-old boy to the news of pregnancy may fall short of it.

Facts of the case: A 16-year-old girl (now deceased) was pursuing her education in the 11th standard. She told her mother about her developing relationship with the applicant with whom she met on Instagram. The mother of the deceased alleged that the applicant was harassing her daughter as a result of which she was disturbed. On 03-03-2021 the girl hanged herself in the bedroom pursuant to which the mother lodged the complaint.

During the investigation, the deceased's WhatsApp chat with the applicant was revealed which consisted of conversations referring to a pregnancy kit and deceased's apprehension regarding a possible pregnancy. The chats also appeared to reveal the applicant's alleged indifferent and abusive attitude towards the deceased's predicament.

In due course of the investigation, the deceased's autopsy was carried out which did not reveal any sign of pregnancy and cause of death was ascertained as ‘asphyxia due to hanging'.

Observations

  • Perusing the facts and details revealed during the investigation, the Court observed that the deceased had missed her periods by two weeks and thus she took a pregnancy test, which revealed that she was pregnant. Therefore, she established contact with the applicant via WhatsApp and when he expressed an indifferent approach, the girl rife with anxiety, unfortunately decided to take the extreme step of ending her life.

  • The Court further noted that the investigation has been completed. It was pointed out that the postmortem report clearly revealed that the deceased was not pregnant and anxious with thought of conceiving, and on noticing the applicant's unexpected response, she made up her mind to commit suicide.

  • The Court also noted that the applicant was 19 years old when the unfortunate incident took place. The Court further noted the proximate relationship shared between the applicant and the deceased and the applicant's alleged indifferent reaction to the news of pregnancy.

Conclusion and Decision: With the afore-stated observations and considering the young age of the applicant, the Court decided that his incarceration upon the completion of investigation is unwarranted. “He shall ultimately face the consequences of his acts, when he shall face the trial.”

  • The Court also clarified that its observations are restricted only for the purposes of determining the instant application and the Trial Court should not be influenced by these observations.

  • The applicant was granted bail with conditions attached.

[Kunal Chabu Doke v. State of Maharashtra, BAIL APPLICATION NO.3550 OF 2021, decided on 17-08-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Shantanu Phanse, Advocate, for the Applicant;

S.V. Gavand, APP, Advocate, for the State-Respondent No.1;

Jaideep Thakker, Advocate, for the Respondent No.2.


*Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a rape case that resulted in suicide by the victim, the Division Bench of D.Y. Chandrachud and J.B. Pardiwala*, JJ., reversed the M.P. High Court’s order discharging accused of all the charges on the ground that there was a delay in lodging the FIR and holding the entire case put up by the parents of the deceased was doubtful. The Court remarked,

“The facts of this litigation are quite heart-breaking and at the same time, more disturbing is the utterly incomprehensible impugned judgment of the High Court discharging the accused of the offence of rape essentially on the ground of delay in the registration of the FIR.”

Factual Matrix

The father of the deceased (the informant hereinafter) had assailed the impugned judgment and order of the M.P. High Court discharging the accused and setting aside the Special Court’s order framing charge against the accused for offences punishable under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 5 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act).

On 27-04-2020, the deceased complained of severe stomach ache. Suspecting a stomach tumor, the informant immediately rushed to the hospital with his daughter for medical treatment. The informant made the deceased sit on a bench outside the hospital and went to talk to the doctor. However, before the doctor could attend the deceased, she delivered a baby.

Later on, the deceased disclosed to the informant that she had conceived through one Amit Tiwari and would take a room on rent and start living life along with Amit and the newborn. On the same evening, the deceased committed suicide by hanging herself on the rod of the OT light affixed to the ceiling with a dupatta.

Evidence Adduced

The following evidence was adduced by the prosecution to prove the offences alleged:

  • The school record indicates that the deceased was born on 20-07-2001;
  • The mother of the deceased revealed that on 07-07-2019 the deceased revealed that she had missed her period (menstruation) for the past one and a half months and that she had conceived through Amit Tiwari (the accused);
  • (C) The deceased attained majority on 20-07-2019;

The Impugned Judgment

The Special Court framed charges against the accused under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 5 and 6 of the POCSO Act. The accused filed a revision application before the High Court contending that he was in a consensual relationship with the deceased and the deceased being major at the time of the incident could be said to be a consenting party. Hence, the Special court could not have proceeded to frame the charge of rape against him.

The High Court allowed the criminal revision application and discharged the accused of all the charges.

Analysis and Opinion

The Court opined that in a case praying for quashing of the charge, the principle to be adopted by the High Court should be that if the entire evidence produced by the prosecution is to be believed, would it constitute an offence or not? The truthfulness, sufficiency and acceptability of the material produced at the time of framing of a charge can be done only at the stage of trial. There must be reasons to hold that in the interest of justice and to avoid abuse of the process of the Court a charge framed against the accused needs to be quashed. occasions. The Court expressed,

“It is to be kept in mind that once the trial court has framed a charge against an accused the trial must proceed without unnecessary interference by a superior court and the entire evidence from the prosecution side should be placed on record.”

The Court reiterated that the focus of Courts need not be on the proof of the allegation rather it has to be on the material produced to form an opinion on whether there is a strong suspicion that the accused has committed an offence, which if put to trial, could prove his guilt. Opining that the framing of charge is not a stage, at which stage the final test of guilt is to be applied, the Court held that to hold that at the stage of framing the charge, the court should form an opinion that the accused is certainly guilty of committing an offence, is to hold something which is neither permissible nor is in consonance with the scheme of Criminal Procedure Code.

Unappeased by the manner in which the case has been dealt with, the Court remarked,

“One (another) disturbing feature of this litigation is that it is the unfortunate father of the deceased who had to come before this Court seeking justice. It was expected of the State to challenge the illegal order passed by the High Court.”

“Another disturbing feature is that the trial court thought fit not to frame charge against the accused for the alleged offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC i.e., abetment to the commission of suicide. Unfortunately, no one has questioned that part of the order of the trial court declining to frame charge for the alleged offence of abetting the commission of suicide punishable under Section 306 of the IPC. In such circumstances, we do not say anything further in this regard.”

Referring to Thakur Ram v. State of Bihar, (1966) 2 SCR 740, the Court expressed that barring a few exceptions, in criminal matters the party who is treated as the aggrieved party is the State which is the custodian of the social interests of the community at large and so it is for the State to take all the steps necessary for bringing the person who has acted against the social interests of the community to book.

Conclusion

Lastly, the Court criticized the High Court for assuming it fit to discharge the accused of all the charges on the ground that there was delay in lodging the FIR and that the entire case put up by the parents of the deceased was doubtful. The Court noted,

“What is relevant to note is that although the High Court has devoted two full paragraphs for the purpose of recording the submissions as regards the age of the deceased, ultimately no specific finding has been recorded in that regard by the High Court.”

In the light of the above, the appeal was allowed and the impugned order was set aside. The Trial Court was directed to put the accused on trial.

[Manendra Prasad Tiwari v. Amit Kumar Tiwari, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 10572, decided on 12-08-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice J.B. Pardiwala


Appearance:

For Appellant: Mr. Siddharth Singh, AOR

For Respondent(s): Mr. Swarnendu Chatterjee, AOR, Mr. Pragaya Parijat Singh, Adv. Mr. Himanshu Naidwad, Adv. Mr. Ambuj Tiwari, Adv. Mr. Yashwardhan Singh, Adv. Ms. Deepadrshi Garg, Adv. Ms. Ankita Choudhary, DAG Ms. Himanshi Shakya, Adv. Mr. Sunny Choudhary, AOR and Mr. Upendra Mishra, Adv.

*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Andhra Pradesh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Andhra Pradesh High Court: Subba Reddy Satti J. granted anticipatory bail to the Chief Executing Officer (applicant-accused) as on perusal of complaint there was no sign of instigation and abetment and mere allegation of harassment will not attract offence under Section 306 Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC') unless such actions compelled the victim to commit suicide.

The wife of the deceased employee lodged a complaint alleging that her husband worked as Clerk for nine years in Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society (‘Society') and presently was working as Secretary. It was alleged that due to the pressure made by the accused, the deceased committed suicide. Based on the said complaint, the present crime was registered. Thus, instant petition was filed under Section 438 Criminal Procedure Code (‘CrPC') seeking pre-arrest bail to the petitioner/A3 in the event of her arrest in connection with the said registered offence punishable under Section 306 Penal Code, 1860 .

The Court noted that the averments of the complaint with regard to the pressure made by the petitioner who is CEO may not arise for the reason that in case of any defaults, the President and Secretary will follow the procedure contemplated under the Co-operative Societies Act and not the accused who happens to be the Chief Executing Officer ‘CEO'.

Placing reliance on Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan, 2021 SCC Online SC 873, wherein it was held mere allegation of harassment will not attract offence under Sections 306 IPC unless such actions compelled the victim to commit suicide.

Further placing reliance on M. Mohan v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2011) 3 SCC 626, the Court noted that mere allegations of pressure or harassment made by wife, in the instant case, will not suffice to attract ingredients of Section 306 IPC and to attract the offence under Section 306 IPC, there should be instigation or abetment on the part of the accused.

Thus, the Court held as there is no instigation or abetment made by the accused which led the deceased to commit suicide as indicated by the complaint and hence, ingredients of Section 306 IPC are prima facie not made out and the accused be granted bail.

[B Sridevi v. State of Andhra Pradesh, Criminal Petition No. 4976 of 2022, decided on 14-07-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

O Kailashnath Reddy, Advocate, for the Petitioner.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Madras High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: In a case where a mother administered poison to her daughters and she survived but the daughters died, D. Bharatha Chakravarthy J. took a lenient approach in sentencing a woman convicted under Section 302 and Section 304 Penal Code, 1860 on account of the ‘Nalla Thangal Syndrome’.

The present appeal arises out of an order dated 27-09-2019 of a Fast Track Court, Vellore, that found the accused guilty of Section 302 and 304 IPC (2 counts) and imposed a sentence of Rigorous Imprisonment for three years and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/- for each count. The case was condemned as a glaring testimony of the perpetuating gender inequality in society. The accused was a mother of three girls- Lathika, Hasini and a one-and-a-half months old baby, on 22-07-16, when distraught from the overbearing taunts of the society about her misfortune for bearing only female children, she committed the alleged offence. She administered a poison- Organo Phosphorus compound to Hasini and the baby girl and then consumed it herself, in an attempt to commit suicide. Subsequently, while she was rescued, both the children died.

After the registration of the case under Section 302 and Section 304 of Penal Code, 1860 and filing of the final report, it was committed to the Principal Sessions Court, Vellore and thereafter was forwarded to the Trial Court. Pursuant to this, prosecution engaged in examination of witnesses and production of material evidence on record. After considering the same, the Trial Court verified the facts and concluded that this was an instance of the ‘Nalla Thangal Syndrome’ which is such a state of mind in which the mother kills her children before killing herself, because of the thought that there would be no one to look after them. The concept was founded by District Judge in the case In Re Sreerangayee v. Unknown,1972 SCC OnLine Mad 470 by considering the legend story of Nalla Thangal contained in Tamil literature.

Thus, condemning the pitiful view of society in regard to the birth of a girl child, and considering the above-mentioned relevant cases, the Bench upheld the decision of the Trial Court and disposed the appeal accordingly. The Court found it more appropriate to release the accused under and befitting to release the appellant/accused under Section 4, Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.

It is germane to mention that during Trial the appellant/accused begot one more female child, thus now having 4 children wherein two are dead and two are alive. Thus, the Court directed the appellant to execute a bond for good behavior for a period of two years and undertook to educate both the female children at least up to the under-graduate level and also to see their upbringing in the best possible way. She was also required to appear before the Trial Court every two years to confirm the same and finally, her husband also executed a bond, standing as a surety for the compliance of these directives.

[Sathiya v. State, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 3969, decided on 14-07-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

R. Jothi, Advocate, for the Appellant;

S. Vinoth Kumar, Advocate, for the Respondent.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Tripura High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Tripura High Court: The Division Bench of Amarnath Goud and Arindam Lodh, JJ. allowed an appeal which was filed against the judgment of Sessions Judge convicting the appellant under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

Marriage ceremony was solemnized in between the deceased Sima and the accused s. The complainant, father of the deceased alleged that since for the last ten years after marriage, the petitioner's daughter (wife of accused) was subjected to cruelty both physically and mentally. On 07-04-2017, the complainant came to know from his son that his daughter was no more alive. Accordingly, the complainant along with others visited the rented house of his deceased daughter and found his daughter in hanging condition with some blood stain on her face and nose. He alleged that the accused murdered his daughter and after murder, he hung her body and committed this heinous offence due to the abatement of his brother. On receipt of the said complaint, FIR under section 498-A, 302, 109 of IPC was registered.

The Trial Court had found that though the prosecution was able to prove their case against accused but the evidence on record was not sufficient to come to a conclusion that accused was instigated by the brother and thereby, committed any offence as charged against him. Thus, the instant appeal.

Senior counsel appearing for the appellant emphasized that it is a case of suicide but it is not the case of homicide. Addl. P.P. appearing for the state stated that the medical evidence is not a conclusive proof in the present case but it has been corroborated by the statement of the land lady and the minor daughter that the accused was present in the hut. He has further submitted that the corroboration, the last seen together, the special knowledge is the case of the prosecution.

The Court noted that PW-21 who had conducted the postmortem examination was inexperienced and had no special knowledge in forensic segments and even the medical evidence had not been categorically confirmed with regard to the death of the deceased. The Court thus observed that mere presence of the accused persons and the last seen of offence along with the child in the hut with the deceased woman (wife) in a hanging position cannot draw an inference and the circumstantial evidence cannot be connected that the husband had killed the wife.

The Court allowed the appeal holding that the prosecution failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused person.

[Akhil Das v. State of Tripura, CRL.A.(J)57 of 2020, decided on 20-07-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr P.K. Biswas, Advocate, for the Appellant(s);

Mr P. Majumder, Mr S. Ghosh, Addl. P.P., Mr J. Majumder, Advocate, for the Respondent(s).


*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Rahul Chaturvedi, J., noted that a lady soon after coming to know that her husband got married in clandestine way with some other lady, committed suicide.

The deceased during her lifetime, lodged an FIR against the husband and all his family members under Sections 323, 494, 504, 506, 379 of the Penal Code, 1860 with the allegation that her husband was already married with some other lady and having two children from her and without divorcing her, rather without disclosing the said fact, he got married with the deceased.

Further, after enticing the informant, who was married lady again solemnized marriage with the consent of both.

The family members after getting to know the above-stated started misbehaving, torturing and abusing her and made her life miserable, the atrocities crossed all the limits when her husband under the pressure of his family members virtually deserted her and kept a new lady.

After lodging the FIR, the deceased consumed some poisonous substance on the same day.

In view of the above circumstances, the deceased took the extreme step by consuming some poisonous substance and committed suicide.

Analysis and Decision

In the present matter, the husband of the deceased was going to marry third time.

High Court opined that the FIR for all the practical purposes could be considered as her dying declaration as the deceased herself was the author of the FIR. After lodging the FIR, she committed suicide just the next day after its lodging.

“No Indian lady is ready to share her husband at any cost. They are literally possessive about their husband.” 

“It would be biggest jolt for any married woman that her husband is being shared by some other lady or he is going to marry some other lady.”

In view of the above, Bench stated that it would be impossible to expect any sanity from them.

High Court found the husband to be the main culprit, and to be tried for the offence under Section 306 IPC.

Bench directed the trial Court to frame the charge as early as possible and initiate the trial of the accused persons. [Sushil Kumar v. State of U.P., 2022 SCC OnLine All 279, decided on 7-4-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Revisionist :- Shailesh Kumar Tripathi

Counsel for Opposite Party :- G.A.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Expressing that, Criminal prosecution followed by conviction and imposing substantive sentences and fines on those convicted of suicidal behaviours are believed to constitute an affront to human dignity, K. Haripal, J., pointed out that a large section of the society considers that suicidal behaviour is typically a symptom of psychiatric illness or an act of psychological distress, suggesting that the person requires assistance in his personal and psychological life, not punishment with imprisonment or fine.

It was alleged that, when the de facto complainant and others had demanded the issue of certificates to the applicants in connection with the Life Mission Scheme through manual mode, the petitioner insisted that she would issue certificates manually only on getting instruction from the official hierarchy, which led to altercation in the village office and out of mental turmoil, the petitioner attempted to commit suicide by cutting her veins and thus committed the offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Analysis and Discussion


Petitioner’s counsel stated that Section 115 of the Act saves criminal liability of the petitioner, an attempt to commit suicide shall be presumed unless proved otherwise, to have been done under severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the Code. Further, the counsel added that any person under stress can get the benefit of the said provision.

High Court expressed that the legality and correctness of the provision punishing attempt to commit suicide have always been the subject matter of hot discussion in the judicial circle for decades.

Bench cited the decisions of Orissa and Himachal Pradesh High Courts in which prosecutions initiated under Section 309 IPC were quashed by the High Courts.

In Pratibha Das v. State of Orissa, Orissa High Court had quashed the proceedings in light of Section 115 of the Act stating that proceedings cannot be continued for want of criminal intent. Similarly, the Himachal Pradesh High Court in Pratibha Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh, it was held that the proceedings are a sheer abuse of the process of law.

“…decriminalisation of attempt to commit suicide is the general view of Courts and legal luminaries.”

“Medical circles also believe that it is not an offence against the State, but, on the contrary, the State itself may be indirectly responsible for the plight of the victim who is left with no other alternative, except to end his life.”

Moving to the present facts, the petitioner had no malafides in delaying the issue of certificates and she had her own explanations, infact she was not expected to issue certificates in manual mode, when the applications were received online. Though the president of the panchayat and her lieutenants rounded up the petitioner and put her under severe mental stress. Petitioner was subjected to abuse and shouting.

High Court noted that there was a tense situation created in the office due to which police reached there and everything had to be faced by the petitioner single-handedly. The petitioner was being abused and pressurized to do an official act against the procedures to be followed in the office. It also appeared that she was illegally restrained and confined in her room.

Lastly, the Bench stated that under severe stress she lost balance and attempted to commit suicide by cutting her veins.

“…overwhelming reasons are made out to say that she had committed the said act under severe mental stress which stands saved from being tried and punished under the Penal Code.”

Hence, Section 115 of the Act saved the act of the petitioner from the penal provision.[Simi C.N. v. State of Kerala, Crl. MC No. 6522 of 2021, decided on 7-4-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

BY ADVS.RAJIT

                   RAMAKRISHNAN M.N.

                   MARY MANJU VINCENT

For the Respondent:

BY SMT. SREEJA V., SENIOR PUBLIC PROSECUTOR

Chhattisgarh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of Arvind Singh Chandel and Sanjay K. Agrawal, JJ. dismissed the acquittal appeal being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that marriage between the deceased and the son of the Respondent/accused was solemnised in the month of April, 2018. In November the same year, Mahima Kaushik committed suicide by hanging herself. FIR was registered and charges were framed and the Trial Court acquitted the accused. Assailing this acquittal order, instant appeal was filed.

Counsel for the Appellant/State submits that the Sessions Judge has committed manifest illegality in acquitting the Respondent/accused of the charge under Section 304B IPC as all the ingredients constituting the offence have been duly established by the prosecution and, therefore, the judgment of acquittal deserves to be set aside.

The Court relied on judgment Anjanappa v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 2 SCC 776, it has been held by the Supreme Court as follows:

“9. It is well settled that an order of acquittal is not to be set aside lightly. If the view taken by the trial Court is a reasonably possible view, it is not to be disturbed. If two views are possible and if the view taken by the trial Court is a reasonably possible view, then the appellate Court should not disturb it just because it feels that another view of the matter is possible. However, an order of acquittal will have to be disturbed if it is perverse. We have examined the trial Court’s order of acquittal in light of above principles. We are of the considered opinion that the High Court was justified in setting it aside as it is perverse.

The Court after perusing evidence and facts observed that the finding of the Trial Court that the prosecution has failed to prove that soon before the death of the deceased she was subjected to cruelty on account of demand of dowry is totally based on the evidence available on record. Furthermore, from perusal of the evidence, it also appears that the fact regarding demand of dowry itself is suspicious.

The Court thus held “there is no manifest legal error in the judgment of acquittal recorded by the Learned Additional Sessions Judge and we do not consider it a fit case where this Court should re-appreciate the entire evidence on record or it is not a case where the view taken by the Additional Sessions Judge is so arbitrary or bears manifest error requiring interference.”

[State of Chhattisgarh v. Chameli Kaushik, 2022 SCC OnLine Chh 691, decided on 11-04-2022]


Appearances

For Appellant/State: Shri Kapil Maini


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: Cheekati Manavendranath Roy J. partly allowed the petition by quashing FIR for the offence punishable under Section 306 r/w 116 IPC.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner is the sole accused in a case under Sections 323, 306 r/w 116 Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC was registered against him. The prosecution story is that on 15-05-2020 at about 5.30 A.M., when the de facto complainant was collecting aaseelu at the High School ground from the vegetable vendors, the petitioner questioned the de facto complainant as to why he is collecting excess rate of aaseelu and when the de facto complainant replied that he is collecting the aaseelu at the rate fixed by the concerned authorities, the petitioner beat the de facto complainant in front of the public in the market and insulted him. Therefore, having felt insult, the de facto complainant consumed the ant poison by mixing the same in water with an intention to commit suicide but was rescued and subsequently survived after medical treatment.  A case under Sections 323, 306 r/w 116 IPC was registered. Hence, instant criminal Petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 was filed seeking to quash F.I.R.

Counsel for petitioner Mr. P Rajesh Babu submitted that that the facts of the case do not constitute any offence punishable under Section 306 IPC as there is no allegation that the petitioner has instigated or abetted the de facto complainant to commit any suicide. So, he would submit the prosecution of the petitioner under Section 306 r/w 116 IPC is not maintainable and no such offence is constituted in the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Public Prosecutor submitted that when the de facto complainant has consumed ant poison with an intention to commit suicide on account of the fact the petitioner beat him in front of the public and insulted him and as he survived because of the medical treatment provided to him, an offence punishable under Section 306 r/w 116 IPC is made out from the facts of the case and the petitioner is liable for prosecution for the said offence. Therefore, he would pray for dismissal of the Criminal Petition.

The Court observed that it is a well settled law that in order to constitute an offence punishable under Section 306 IPC, the necessary ingredients contemplated under Section 107 IPC  regarding intentional instigation said to have been given by the petitioner to the de facto complainant to commit suicide or intentional aid said to have been given by the petitioner to him to commit suicide shall be established. There is absolutely no allegation as can be seen from the facts of the prosecution case that the petitioner has either instigated or aided him to commit suicide. Hence, prima facie no offence punishable under Section 306 IPC itself is made out from the facts of the case. Consequently, no offence punishable under Section 306 r/w 116 IPC is also made out from the facts of the case.

The Court further observed that if the de facto complainant feels insulted as he was beaten in front of the public in the market and if he takes any hasty decision to commit suicide, the petitioner cannot be held responsible for any such decision taken by the de facto complainant to commit suicide.

The Court stated that the facts of the case clearly show that the petitioner has beaten the de facto complainant. So, it prima facie constitutes an offence punishable under Section 323 IPC. So, the entire F.I.R cannot be quashed and it can be quashed only in respect of the offence registered under Section 306 r/w 116 IPC.

The Court held “the Criminal Petition is partly allowed quashing the F.I.R for the offence punishable under Section 306 r/w 116 IPC. As regards the offence punishable under Section 323 is concerned, the F.I.R holds good and the law has to take its own course in respect of the said offence.”[Vegulla Leela Krishna v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2022 SCC OnLine AP 393, decided on 01-02-2022]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sarang V. Kotwal, J., addressed a matter wherein an employer was accused of abetting the suicide of an employee.

The applicant sought anticipatory bail for offence registered under Sections 306 read with 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

First Information Report was lodged by the wife of the deceased, whose suicide was the subject matter of the investigation. The applicant was the director of the company, for which the deceased was working.

In 2011, the applicant’s children joined the company as directors, but they were unhappy with the performance of the deceased, and they started humiliating the deceased. The FIR also mentioned that recently the company had implemented unfair rules.

It was added that due to the humiliation the deceased was disturbed as the company did not provide him with leaves and basic facilities like a driver for his vehicle.

In view of the above, the deceased started suffering from weakness and other medical ailments.

In addition to the above, it was stated that the informant had advised the deceased to leave the company. At that time, the deceased had told her that, those who had left the company had to face different cases. The company had not given gratuity to them. Therefore, the deceased was reluctant to leave the job.

Later, the deceased approached the applicant with a resignation letter, but the applicant did not entertain him and told him that he was free to do whatever he wanted to. Also, the applicant told the deceased that he would see that the deceased would not get any other job and the deceased was threatened regarding the future of his career.

On 30th September, 2021 the deceased went to the office and there were allegations that during the lunch hours he was sitting with the applicant and applicant’s son and within a short time after that, he jumped from the office building.

In view of the above, FIR was lodged.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court observed that while it is true that the deceased had written in the Notebook that the applicant was the main cause, the reason for this grudge is elaborated in the F.I.R.

Bench remarked that the acts as mentioned like not providing a driver for vehicle, deceased being asked to stand for a meeting daily, etc. were not things that could be covered under the meaning of Sections 107 read with 306 IPC.

Court observed noted that,

The F.I.R. itself shows that the deceased was taking treatment for his stress management. He was disturbed and in the disturbed state of mind he had committed suicide. So, there is possibility that his commission of suicide was a result of his mental state. Though, there are allegations that he was disturbed because of stress in the company, the company was entitled to carry its business in the manner that was in the best interest of the company. That by itself would not mean that the bigger targets were given and meeting was arranged, so that the deceased would commit suicide. The only serious allegation in the F.I.R. is about the applicant threatening the deceased about his prospects in career.

Whether the applicant’s custodial interrogation in this background is necessary?

High Court held that it was doubtful whether the offence, under Sections 306 read with 107 of IPC was made out.

The main allegations are about the company setting big targets, not granting leave and not accepting the resignation. These acts would be in the normal course of business. The deceased was earning Rs.1,35,000/-p.m. He was working with the company since the year 2001. The company had not stopped his salary, even during the period of lockdown.

Therefore, in Court’s opinion applicant was granted anticipatory bail. [Dr Surendra Manjrekar v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 287, decided on 28-1-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr Ashok Mundargi, Sr. Advocate i/b. Jayant J. Bardeskar for Applicant.
Mr Rajesh More, for Intervenor.
Smt. A. A. Takalkar, APP for State/Respondent.

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: In a case alleging dowry death, Rajnesh Oswal, J., clarified the scope and applicability of Jammu and Kashmir Dowry Restraint Act 1960. Observing that the Trial Court had conducted mini trial at the stage of framing of charge, the Bench expressed,

 “The trial court was considering issue with regard to framing of charge under section 304-B RPC but the trial court got swayed by the definition of dowry as defined under the Act of 1960 forgetting the legislative intent behind making the amendment, more when the definition was elastic even for the purpose of Act of 1960 by the use of expression “In this Act unless the context otherwise requires”.

The instant petition had been filed by the mother of the deceased against the impugned order of the Trial Court by which the respondents were discharged of offence under section 304-B RPC and instead charges were framed for offences under sections 306 and 498-A/34 RPC.

Background

The allegations against the respondents were that they used to demand dowry and a car from the deceased and although the amount of two lakhs was paid by the petitioner, neither the atrocities against the deceased came to an end nor the demand for dowry. The allegation was levelled that the husband, father in law, mother in law and brother in law had started beating the deceased and they also snatched her phone which had compelled the deceased to take her own life and she committed suicide.

The grievance of the petitioner was that the Trial Court had altered the charge from 304-B RPC to 306 and 498-A/34 RPC despite the fact that there was abundant evidence on record for framing of charge under section 304-B RPC.

Question of Law

Whether the definition of the dowry as defined under the J&K Dowry Restraint Act 1960 is entirely different vis-a-vis dowry as defined under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 that is applicable to the whole of the India excluding the then State of Jammu and Kashmir?

The controversy had arisen because the definition of the dowry as contained in the Dowry Restraint Act, 1960 as was applicable in the erstwhile State of J&K, was very restrictive in its application whereas the definition of a dowry as contained in the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 as applicable in rest of the India except the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was of wider amplitude.

Observations of the Trial Court

As per definition of dowry as defined under the Dowry Restraint Act, 1960, dowry means any property transferred or agreed to be transferred as a part of any betrothal, marriage, pre-betrothal, post-marriage ceremony and other ceremonies such as Thaka, Rophera, Duphera, Phirsal, Phersuzen and like ceremonies.

The section contemplates the transfer of a property or agreement for transfer of a property as a part of contract in connection with the ceremonies. The Trial Court discharged the respondents on the premise that there was no such contract between the parties as such offence under section 304-B RPC was not made out and further that there was no evidence that the deceased was subjected to cruelty by the accused in relation to the demand of the dowry or a car soon before her death.

Analysis and Findings

Opining that the reasons furnished by the Trial Court for non-applicability of section 304-B RPC just because there was no contract within the meaning of section 2 of Dowry Restraint Act, 1960 were not convincing, the Bench clarified, the section 2 of the Dowry Restraint Act, 1960 begins with expression “In this Act unless the context otherwise requires” meaning thereby that the definition of “Dowry” used in the Act 1960, cannot be put in to straight jacket formula and if the Act of 1960 necessitates or requires, then the word “dowry” can contemplate other situations/persons as well.

If the interpretation of the trial court is accepted, then none other than the husband, his father and mother can be proceeded against under section 304-B RPC and it would do violence not only to the statue but also the legislative intent behind it.

Section 304-B RPC contemplates the death of woman with in the period of 7 years and also the persons who can be proceeded against under section 304-B i.e. husband and his relatives where as the section 2 of the Act 1960 contemplates persons to be proceeded against as party to the marriage or betrothal and father, mother and guardian of the party. The Bench expressed,

“Section 2 of the Dowry Restraint Act, 1960 begins with expression “In this Act unless the context otherwise requires” meaning thereby that the definition of “Dowry” used in the Act 1960, cannot be put in to straight jacket formula and if the Act of 1960 necessitates or requires, then the word ‘dowry’ can contemplate other situations/persons as well.”

Therefore, the Bench concluded that the definition of dowry under the Act, 1960 cannot be given stricter meaning so as to defeat the very purpose of the statute. On the issue, whether there was any evidence on record to justify framing of charge under section 304-B RPC with regard to the demand of dowry, the Bench cautioned that the court is not supposed to hold mini trial at this stage (framing of charges).

Considering that the deceased died because of suicide within the seven years of marriage and the presumption of dowry death was wrongly rejected by the Trial Court on the ground that there was no evidence that the deceased was subjected to cruelty by the accused in relation to the demand of the dowry or a car “soon before her death”, the Bench cited Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, (2021) 6 SCC 1, to remind the Court that when the legislature used the words, “soon before” they did not mean “immediately before”.

Conclusion

In the light of above, the petition was allowed and the impugned order was set aside with the direction to the Trial Court to frame the charges for commission of offences under Section 304-B, 498-A/34 RPC against the respondent 2 to 4. [Shakuntla Devi v. Union Territory of J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 1002, decided on 10-12-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: Ajay Bakshi, Advocate

For the UT of J&K: Aseem Sawhney, AAG

For Respondents: Satinder Gupta, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Mukta Gupta, J., decided whether a settlement of parties wherein an accused and his family members who subjected his wife to harassment due to which the wife committed suicide can be accepted or not?

By the present petition, 5 petitioners sought quashing of an FIR under Sections 498A, 304B, 34 Penal Code, 1860 on the ground that the parties have settled.

In the above-noted FIR, respondent 2 had stated that his daughter got married to petitioner 1 who was unemployed and this his parents used to bear the expenses. After the marriage, the in-laws of his daughter started demanding dowry though nothing was demanded at the time of the marriage and respondent 2 had performed the marriage as per his capacity.

Later the daughter was harassed by her husband, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two nieces.

One day, respondent 2 got a phone call that his daughter had committed suicide.

During the pendency of the investigation, petitioners and respondent 2 entered into a memorandum of understanding and as per the terms of the settlement, the parties entered into a settlement without any coercion and without any transfer of money.

Even respondent 2 agreed that he had no claim and grievance against the petitioners and will cooperate in the quashing petition preferred before this Court as also make sincere efforts in getting the petitioners released on bail and that no grudges were left between the parties.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court cited the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641, wherein it was clearly held that where serious and grave offences are involved, the quashing of FIR cannot be allowed on the basis of the compromise. Broad principles were also laid down in respect of the inherent power of the High Court to quash the first information report or the criminal proceedings.

Bench held that in the present case, a woman committed suicide within five months of her marriage due to harassment caused by the husband and his family members and the offences punishable under Section 304-B IPC were not only grave and heinous but an offence against the society actuated by the social evil of demand od dowry, therefore needs deterrence nad cannot be quashed on the basis of settlement arrived between the accused and complainant.

In view of the above discussion, the petition was dismissed. [Dalbir Singh v. State GNCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5449, decided on 17-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Vikrant Chowdhary, Pradeep Chowdhary, Advocates (through VC)

For the Respondent: Kamna Vohra, ASC for the State with Inspector Hari Singh, P.S. Tilak Nagar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, J., dismissed a writ petition filed by the State seeking a writ for setting aside the show cause notice and orders passed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) relating to the suicide of an under trial prisoner (UTP) Roshan Chettri in District Jail, Namchi, as being arbitrary and illegal.

NHRC had issued a show cause notice to the Chief Secretary of the petitioner in this relation further adding that the Investigation Division of NHRC after collecting/analyzing relevant reports/records has submitted that the deceased UTP was a covid-19 positive patient and was in quarantine along with another UTP. On 04.04.2020, at 11 a.m., the deceased made an attempt to commit suicide by hanging on the door of his cell with the help of cloth of the blanket provided to him but that act was noticed by his cell mate who caught hold his body and called out for help. Subsequently, jail authorities arrived and brought him down by cutting the blanket cloth. He was immediately shifted to hospital wherein he died during the treatment. The inquest and the Post Mortem Examination (PME) revealed no injury on the body of the deceased other than ligature marks, the cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging. The notice required the petitioner to show cause as to why monetary compensation of Rs.3,75,000/- should not be recommended under section 18(a)(i) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to be paid to the next of kin of the deceased Roshan Chettri.

The petitioner responded to the show cause notice stating that no case of negligence on the part of jail administration was found during the judicial enquiry by the Judicial Magistrate, South Sikkim at Namchi. In the meanwhile, Dilip Chettri, father of the deceased filed a writ petition praying for a direction upon the state respondents to pay compensation to the tune of Rs.20,00,000/- as well as for an independent investigation of the incident of the alleged suicide by a retired judge or a government officer or any other person as deemed fit. The writ petition was taken up by the Single Bench of this court and was dismissed in limine.

The petitioner claimed to be aggrieved on counts :

  • that inspite of the dismissal of W.P.(C) No. 02 of 2021 (supra) by this court, the NHRC has passed the impugned orders which was barred by the principle of res judicata;
  • that the show cause notice and the impugned orders did not disclose the commission of violation of human rights by the police authorities or the negligence of the police authorities in prevention of violation of human rights;
  • that the NHRC could not have entertained the complaint under Regulation 9(xi) and 9(xii) of the National Human Rights Commission (Procedure) Regulations, 1994; and
  • that the NHRC did not consider the final inquiry report dated 20-5-2021 of the learned Judicial Magistrate and the final report of the Namchi Police Station.
  • It is further argued that merely because suicide took place during the day, it does not in any manner corroborate or substantiate that there was any negligence on the part of the police authorities.

The Court relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Dario v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1961 SC 1457 and reiterated that if the petition is dismissed in limine without passing a speaking order then such dismissal cannot be treated as creating a bar of res judicata and although, prima facie, dismissal in limine even without passing a speaking order in that behalf may strongly suggest that the court took the view that there was no substance in the petition at all, but in the absence of the speaking order it would not be easy to decide what factors weighed in the mind of the court and that makes it difficult and unsafe to hold that such a summary dismissal is a dismissal on merits and as such constitutes a bar of res judicata.

The Court further held that the State is vicariously liable to compensate the next of kin of the deceased UTP. It is not the case of the petitioner that the jail was not under its control when the incident happened in the manner described and admittedly inside the jail.

The petition was finally dismissed holding it as misconceived.[State of Sikkim v. NHRC, 2021 SCC OnLine Sikk 183, decided on 03-12-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Mr Hissey Gyaltsen, Assistant Government Advocate for the petitioner.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: V Bharathidasan, J., held that,

Mere harassment without any mens rea which lead to the suicide would not amount to an offence under Section 306 Penal Code, 1860.

Petitioner, sole accused was charged for an offence under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860 sought to quash criminal proceedings.

Deceased, son of the second respondent was working in a private courier company with the petitioner/accused. Deceased borrowed the petitioner’s car and went to Puducherry, while he was returning back, the car met with an accident. Later, the deceased got the car repaired and handed it over to the petitioner/accused.

On not being satisfied with the repair, the petitioner/accused insisted the deceased get the car properly repaired.

In view of the above, the deceased committed suicide by hanging in his friend’s house and left two suicide notes alleging that due to the harassment of the petitioner he was committing suicide. Subsequently, the mother of the deceased filed a complaint.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court noted that the allegation against the petitioner was that, the deceased borrowed the petitioner’s car to go to Puducherry and on his way back, the car met with an accident, which was not properly repaired, which ultimately led the deceased committing suicide.

Bench on perusal of the suicide notes found no offence, much less an offence under Section 306 IPC was made out. In the suicide notes, there was nothing to suggest that the petitioner instigated the deceased to commit suicide. To bring the case within the ambit of Section 306 IPC, there must be materials to show that, the persons who is stated to have abetted the commission of suicide played an active role in instigating and facilitating the commission of suicide.

In the present matter, materials on record do not indicate that the petitioner intentionally abetted the deceased to commit suicide, and no prima facie offence under Section 306 IPC was made out.

Therefore, the criminal proceedings were liable to be quashed. [M. Maryson v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 5993, decided on 25-11-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: Mr. R. Rajarathinam

For Respondent 1: Mr. C.E. Pratap, Government Advocate (Crl. Side)

For Respondent 2: No appearance

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Single Judge of Karnataka High Court had termed person committing suicide a ‘weakling’ and also made observations on how the behavior of the deceased before he committed suicide was not that of a person who is depressed and suffering from mental health issues, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that such observations describing the manner in which a depressed person ought to have behaved deeply diminishes the gravity of mental health issues and that,

“The mental health of a person cannot be compressed into a one size fits all approach.”

Factual Background

Deceased, who was working as a driver for the accused-second respondent, was found dead on 6 December 2016, with a 12 pages long suicide note next to him. The suicide note was uploaded by the deceased on his Facebook account through his mobile.

The suicide note has referred to the illegal activities of the accused in amassing wealth in excess of Rs. 100 crores, converting black money into white and transferring funds from the bank account of the deceased through his mobile to the accounts of the relatives of the accused. The complaint alleged that the accused had threatened the deceased with death and harassed him as a result of which the deceased, having suffered mental stress, committed suicide by consuming poison. Both the second respondent and his “house driver” were specifically named as responsible for this death.

Details highlighted in the note:

  • The transfer of funds in several lakhs of rupees by the accused to his relatives by using the cell phone and bank account of the deceased;
  • The conversion of approximately Rs. 100 crores into currency notes of Rs. 2,000/-, Rs. 100/- and Rs. 50/-;
  • The knowledge of the deceased in regard to the transactions of the accused as a result of which he had been threatened to be killed “by rowdies”;
  • A raid conducted against the accused by the establishment of the Lokayukta of Karnataka while he was posted in the Housing Board;
  • The involvement of judges to whom presents or gifts were made;
  • The payment of salary to the deceased having been stopped at the behest of the accused;
  • The accused having used the deceased for changing currency worth over Rs. 75 crores; and
  • The deceased being in knowledge of “all the information”, and when a shortage of an amount of Rs. 8 lakh was found, the deceased had been directed to make good the deficiency, failing which he was threatened to be killed by rowdies.

Analysis

The Court noticed that the High Court has evidently travelled far beyond the limits of its inherent power under Section 482 CrPC since instead of determining whether on a perusal of the complaint, a prima facie case is made out, it has analysed the sufficiency of the evidence with reference to the suicide note.

While adjudicating on an application under Section 482 CrPC, the High Court in the present case travelled far away from the parameters for the exercise of the jurisdiction. Essentially, the task before the High Court was to determine whether the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety did or did not prima facie constitute an offence or make out a case against the accused. Instead of applying this settled principle, the High Court has proceeded to analyze from its own perspective the veracity of the allegations.

“The entire judgment of the High Court consists of a litany of surmises and conjectures and such an exercise is beyond the domain of proceeding under section 482 of the CrPC. The High Court has proceeded to scrutinize what has been disclosed during the investigation, ignoring that the investigation had been stayed by an interim order of the High Court, during the pendency of the proceedings under section 482.”

The High Court observed that a prima facie case for the commission of offence under Section 306 of the IPC is not made out since:

  1. the suicide note does not describe the specific threats;
  2. details of the alleged demand of Rs. 8 lacs from the deceased by the respondent-accused are not set out in the suicide note; and
  3. no material to corroborate the allegations detailed in the suicide note has been unearthed by the investigating agency.

The High Court observed that since the deceased took considerable time to write a twelve page suicide note, “it would have been but natural for the author to set out the details”.

Not only this but the High Court had commented upon and made strong observations on the suicide note itself, diminishing the importance of mental health.

The Single Judge had observed:

37. It is not the case of the deceased that the accused had deprived him of his wealth or have committed acts that have shattered his hopes in life or separated him from his family and friends.

[..]

    1. [..] It is not the case of the prosecution that the deceased was running away from or escaping the petitioner or his henchmen, but as is his habit, to visit his parents and to spend time with his friends. If the deceased had really felt threatened, he would have definitely approached the police. It is not that he was naive or not worldly-wise. If his employment with the petitioner was true, then the Police Commissionerate was only a stone’s throw away. It is not that the deceased was a weakling. The deceased by profession, is a driver. A profession where, accidents causing loss of life and limb are a daily occurrence and every driver is aware that he could be involved in an accident at any time.

[..]

    1. His act of attending a relatives marriage in a different town and his interacting with friends and relatives are all actions of a normal person and not of a person under severe duress. The contention that this criminal case would jeopardize his career progression also cannot be brushed aside. It is also not forthcoming as to how he sourced the poison.”

The Court held that the above mentioned observations describing the manner in which a depressed person ought to have behaved deeply diminishes the gravity of mental health issues.

“Behavioural scientists have initiated the discourse on the heterogeneity of every individual and have challenged the traditional notion of ‘all humans behave alike’. Individual personality differences manifest as a variation in the behavior of people. Therefore, how an individual copes up with a threat- both physical and emotional, expressing (or refraining to express) love, loss, sorrow and happiness, varies greatly in view of the multi-faceted nature of the human mind and emotions.”

[Mahendra KC v. State of Karnataka, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1021, decided on 29.10.2021]


Counsels

For Complainant: Mahesh Thakur

For State of Karnataka: V.N. Raghupathy

For respondent-accused: Sharan Thakur


*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Administrative Tribunal: The Division Bench of Justice R.N. Singh and A. K. Bishnoi, Member (A), settled a case of family pension and retirement dues in favour of widow of the deceased ASI who had committed suicide while in judicial custody. The Bench held,

“When subjective satisfaction of dispensing with the inquiry is not supported by any independent material, dispensing with holding the inquiry would be illegal and if a preliminary inquiry could be conducted, there may not be any reason as to why formal departmental inquiry could not have been initiated against the delinquent.”

The applicant – widow of deceased Satbir Singh, ASI (Exe.) in Delhi Police, had challenged the impugned order whereby the deceased was dismissed from service by the respondents without conducting the regular departmental inquiry.

The deceased was implicated in case under Sections 302 of Penal Code, 1860 read with Sections 25/54/59 of Arms Act, pursuant to which he was placed under suspension w.e.f. 21-01-2019. A preliminary inquiry was conducted by the respondents and taking into account the allegations levelled against the deceased the respondents had dismissed him from service by dispensing with the departmental inquiry by invoking the provisions of Article 311 (2) (b) of the Constitution. Consequently, the deceased committed suicide while in judicial custody.

The applicant contended that though the respondents had heavily relied upon the report of the preliminary inquiry as well as the allegations levelled against the her husband, no copy of the said report was ever served to the deceased and so her husband was deprived of an opportunity to refute the said report, findings in the said preliminary inquiry report and/or the allegations levelled against him in the said FIR, therefore, the impugned order was illegal, bad in the eyes of law and not sustainable.

The Bench noticed that the deceased had 37 years of unblemished service under the respondents and was to retire on attaining the age of superannuation on 31-05-2021. Moreover, keeping in view the facts noted hereinabove, he committed suicide while in judicial custody on 08-06-2019 and whatever the applicant would have got as retirement/terminal benefits had also been taken away in view of the orders passed by the respondents.

Hence, the application was allowed and the impugned orders were set aside. The respondents were directed to grant and release death-cum-retirement dues, viz., family pension, DCRG, leave encashment etc. with all consequential benefits family pension, arrears of family pension and interest on family pension, gratuity, etc. [Santra Devi v. GNCT of Delhi, O.A. No.3170 of 2019, decided on 07-10-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 


Appearance by:

For the Applicant: Advocate Sourabh Ahuja

For the GNCT of Delhi: Advocate Sameer Sharma