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

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.

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Yogendra Kumar Srivastava, J., decided an issue with regard to the habeas corpus petition for custody of a minor.

Instant petition was filed to seek custody of petitioner 2 stated to be a minor of age about 5 years and 10 months by petitioner 1 who asserted to be his father.

Factual Background

It was stated that petitioner 2 was born in January 2014 and in May 2015 the mother of the corpus committed suicide at the petitioner’s home and thereafter an FIR was lodged against petitioner 1 and other family members under Section 498-A, 304-B of Penal Code, 1860 and 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act and petitioner 1 was sent to jail.

Respondent 4 filed a Habeas Corpus Writ Petition and this Court, upon taking notice of the fact that the father of the corpus and other family members were in jail, passed an order granting custody of the minor child to the maternal grandfather, who was respondent 4 in the present case.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court opined that lower courts were duty-bound to consider the allegations against the respondent and pendency of criminal case for an offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC.

Further, the Court added that the court of law should consider the matter with regard to the “character” of the proposed guardian.

Thus, a complaint against the father alleging and attributing the death of mother, and a case under Section 498-A IPC is indeed a relevant factor and a court of law must address the said circumstance while deciding the custody of the minor in favour of such a person.

In the case of Kirtikumar Maheshankar Joshi v. Pradipkumar Karunashanker Joshi, (1992) 3 SCC 573, where in almost similar circumstances the father was facing a charge under Section 498-A IPC, it was held that though the father being a natural guardian, has a preferential right to the custody of the children, but in the facts and circumstances of the case, it would not be in the interest of children to hand over their custody to the father.

In Rachit Pandey (minor) v. State of U.P., Habeas Corpus Writ Petition No. 193 of 2020 this Court held that in an application seeking a writ of habeas corpus for custody of a minor child, the principal consideration for the Court would be to ascertain whether the custody of the child can be said to be unlawful and illegal and whether the welfare of the child requires that the present custody should be changed and the child should be handed over in the care and custody of someone else other than in whose custody the child presently is. It was held that the prerogative writ of habeas corpus, is in the nature of the extraordinary remedy, which may not be used to examine the question of custody of a child except wherein the circumstances of a particular case, it can be held that the custody of the minor is illegal or unlawful.

Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioners did not point out as to how, the custody of petitioner 2 with his maternal grandfather can be said to be illegal or unlawful so as to persuade this Court to exercise its extraordinary prerogative jurisdiction for issuing a writ of habeas corpus. He has also not disputed that any rights with regard to guardianship or custody are to be agitated before the appropriate forum.

Therefore, the petition was dismissed. [Awanish Pandey v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 751, decided on 27-9-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Petitioner: Sanjay Mani Tripathi, Adeel Ahmad Khan, Na

Counsel for Respondent: G.A., Anupama Tripathi, Rakesh Kumar Tripathi

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where a 14-year-old had committed suicide after his PTI Teacher had allegedly “harassed and insulted him in the presence of everyone”, the bench of SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari*, JJ has held that the suicide note suggested that it was a rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind and that it was the hypersensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extraordinary step. The Court said that the action of the teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide.

The Court explained that,

“A simple act of reprimand of a student for his behaviour or indiscipline by a teacher, who is under moral obligations to inculcate the good qualities of a human being in a student would definitely not amount to instigation or intentionally aid to the commission of a suicide by a student.”

What was the case about?

  • The FIR Stated that the boy, a class 9 student, was under deep mental pressure because the appellant (the GEO, PTI Sir) had harassed and insulted him in the presence of everyone and he was not willing to go to school on 25.04.2018 but was persuaded to go to school by his parents.
  • The boy was informed that the parents have been called to school next day and this brought him under further severe pressure and tension.
  • In the FIR and as also the statement of the complainant recorded by the police, no reasons or cause for the appellant to harass and insult the victim were spelled out nor there are any details with respect to any action on the part of the appellant by which the deceased boy might have felt being harassed and insulted.
  • The PT Teacher, apart from imparting Physical Training to the students, was also charged with the duty of maintaining discipline in the school which included keeping a watch upon students and oversee that they are attending the classes instead of bunking the same and moving around in the school premises without permission.
  • It was alleged that the boy generally used to bunk his classes and was warned by the appellant and other school staff a number of times.
  • On 14 19.04.2018, he was caught by the appellant bunking classes and moving around the school campus without any cause or permission and a warning was given to him.
  • On 25.04.2018, he was caught bunking classes and again the appellant issued him a warning and on account of persistent act of bunking classes, reported the same to the Principal of the School, who informed the parents of the boy to come to the school.
  • The boy committed suicide on 26.04.2018.

What did the Supreme Court say?

Abetment of suicide

What is required to constitute an alleged abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC is there must be an allegation of either direct or indirect act of incitement to the commission of offence of suicide and mere allegations of harassment of the deceased by another person would not be sufficient in itself, unless, there are allegations of such actions on the part of the accused which compelled the commission of suicide.

Further, if the person committing suicide is hypersensitive and the allegations attributed to the accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly situated person to take the extreme step of committing suicide, it would be unsafe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide. Thus, what is required is an examination of every case on its own facts and circumstances and keeping in consideration the surrounding circumstances as well, which may have bearing on the alleged action of the accused and the psyche of the deceased.

Can reprimand by teacher amount to abetment of suicide?

The disciplinary measures adopted by a teacher or other authorities of a school, reprimanding a student for his indiscipline would not tantamount to provoking a student to commit suicide, unless there are repeated specific allegations of harassment and insult deliberately without any justifiable cause or reason.

“‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ an old saying may have lost its relevance in present days and Corporal punishment to the child is not recognised by law but that does not mean that a teacher or school authorities have to shut their eyes to any indiscipline act of a student. It is not only a moral duty of a teacher but one of the legally assigned duty under Section 24 (e) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to hold regular meetings with the parents and guardians and apprise them about the regularity in attendance, ability to learn, progress made in learning and any other act or relevant information about the child.”

Hence, if, a student is simply reprimanded by a teacher for an act of indiscipline and bringing the continued act of indiscipline to the notice of Principal of the institution who conveyed to the parents of the student for the purposes of school discipline and correcting a child, any student who is very emotional or sentimental commits suicide, the said teacher cannot be held liable for the same and charged and tried for the offence of abetment of suicide under section 306 IPC.

Absence of any specific allegation or material on record

  • In the absence of any material on record even, prima-facie, in the FIR or statement of the complainant, pointing out any such circumstances showing any such act or intention that he intended to bring about the suicide of his student, it would be absurd to even think that the appellant had any intention to place the deceased in such circumstances that there was no option available to him except to commit suicide.
  • In the absence of any specific allegation and material of definite nature, not imaginary or inferential one, it would be travesty of justice, to ask the appellant-accused to face the trial. A criminal trial is not exactly a pleasant experience and the appellant who is a teacher would certainly suffer great prejudice, if he has to face prosecution on absurd allegations of irrelevant nature.

Rhetoric Suicide note

It was a note consisting of three pages with following written on each separate paper :-

01st page – ‘MY ALL THINGS GOES TO MY DEAR BRO KAIRN EVEN MY LOVE BYE BUDDY & SORRY’

02nd page – ‘NEEDED JUSTICE’

03rd page – ‘THANKS GEO (PTI) OF MY SCHOOL’

The Court noticed that the suicide note was rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind.

“A reading of the same also suggests the hypersensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extraordinary step, as the alleged reprimand by the accused, who was his teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide.”

[Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan,  2021 SCC OnLine SC 873, decided on 05.10.2021]

____________________________________________________________________________________

Counsels:

For appellant: Advocate Abhishek Gupta

For respondents: Advocates Dr. Manish Singhvi and Aditya Kumar Chaudhary


*Judgment by: Justice Krishna Murari

Know Thy Judge| Justice Krishna Murari

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of R. Subhash Reddy* and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has held that without positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, no one can be convicted for offence under Section 306, IPC.

“To proceed against any person for the offence under Section 306 IPC it requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide, seeing no option and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.”

The ruling came in a case where the deceased had consumed poison in from of the house of the appellant. Except the statement that the deceased was in relation with the appellant, there was no material at all to show that appellant was maintaining any relation with the deceased.

In fact, the statement of the SI disclosed that the deceased was stalking the appellant and was continuously calling her and proposing that she should marry him with a threat that he will die otherwise. The appellant, along with her father, had made a complaint about the same.

Having regard to such material placed on record and in absence of any material within the meaning of Section 107 of IPC, the Court held that there was absolutely no basis to proceed against the appellant for the alleged offence under Section 306 IPC.

“It would be travesty of justice to compel the appellant to face a criminal trial without any credible material whatsoever.”

Some important rulings

Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi), (2009) 16 SCC 605

There should be an intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the accused. Each person’s suicidability pattern is different from the other and each person has his own idea of self-esteem and self-respect. Further, is impossible to lay down any straightjacket formula dealing with the cases of suicide and each case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.

Amalendu Pal @ Jhantu v. State of West Bengal, (2010) 1 SCC 707

In cases of alleged abetment of suicide there must be proof of direct or indirect acts of incitement to the commission of suicide. Merely on the allegation of harassment without there being any positive action proximate to the time of occurrence on the part of the accused which led or compelled the person to commit suicide, conviction in terms of Section 306 IPC is not sustainable.

In order to bring a case within the purview of Section 306 IPC there must be a case of suicide and in the commission of the said offence, the person who is said to have abetted the commission of suicide must have played an active role by an act of instigation or by doing certain act to facilitate the commission of suicide.

[Kanchan Sharma v. State of UP, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 737, decided on 17.09.2021]

__________________________________________________

Counsels:

Advocate Sanchit Garga, for the appellant

Advocate Aviral Saxena, for the State


*Judgment by: Justice R. Subhash Reddy

Know Thy Judge| Justice R. Subhash Reddy

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Mukta Gupta, J., decided a bail matter wherein the husband suspicioned to have instigated the wife to commit suicide.

In the instant petition, the petitioner sought bail under Sections 304B, 498A, 34 Penal Code, 1860 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Petitioner’s counsel contended that in the FIR and even in the statements recorded under Sections 161 CrPC and 164, of the father of the deceased, who was the complainant and maker of the FIR, allegations if any have been levelled against the mother and sister of the petitioner and not against the petitioner.

Both the mother and sister were granted anticipatory bail.

Further, merely because just before the death, the petitioner and the deceased spoke on the mobile phone, it cannot be said to raise a suspicion that the petitioner instigated the deceased to commit suicide.

There was no material to show that soon before the death of the deceased, the petitioner subjected the deceased to cruelty for the demand of dowry.

APP for the State submitted that, the conduct of the petitioner by making a phone call to the deceased soon before she committed suicide itself shows the conflict going on between the petitioner and the deceased which instigated the deceased to commit suicide.

On perusal of the Complainant’s allegations even in the statement under Section 161 CrPC which was recorded after 17 days of the death of the deceased noted the demand of dowry at the time of marriage, however thereafter the principal allegations were that in-laws retained jewellry and articles given in shagun and did not return the same, that brother-in law of the deceased used to ask the deceased to vacate the house and the mother-in law used to ask for the rent from the deceased.

Prosecution claimed that the last call from the petitioner to the deceased instigated her to commit suicide, for which there was no evidence. It could be to persuade not to take any extreme step, because immediately thereafter the petitioner made a call to the complainant informing him that she has locked from inside.

In respect of the allegation that the petitioner and his family members used to harass her for dowry due to which, she was compelled to commit suicide, no specific allegation has been stated as to what was the demand of dowry after marriage except what was demanded at the time of marriage.

In view of the evidence collected against the petitioner, Court granted bail to the petitioner.

Hence, the petition was disposed of. [Amit Sharma v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi), 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4120, decided on 24-8-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the petitioner: Pradeep Teotia, Advocate

For the Respondent: Tarang Srivastava, APP for the State.

Ravi Shankar Kumar, Advocate for the complainant.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: S. K Panigrahi, J., allowed the bail application and remarked

“There is no answer as to why suicides occur because it is impossible to ever fully comprehend or analyze what goes on inside a person’s mind. Suicidal ideation and behaviors in human beings are complex and multifaceted.”

The present petitioner, who is in custody, filed the instant bail application under Section 439 Criminal Procedure Code i.e. CrPC. as the complainant Artatrana Sahu lodged an FIR stating that his daughter Puspanjali (now deceased) had left her home on 14-06-2020 for nature’s call at a nearby river but did not return. The body of the deceased was found hanging from a tree on the said river bank. On investigation, the death was opined to be suicidal in nature and three numbers were found on the phone to be frequently contacted one of them being the petitioner. Acting purely on suspicion and in the light of uncovering of facts from a few people of the area, it was suspected that the petitioner and the deceased had probably shared a relationship. Thereafter, the present petitioner was arrested and forwarded to judicial custody on 06-07-2020 for allegedly abetting the suicide of the deceased.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that there is no prima facie case made out against the present petitioner and in the absence of any direct evidence to the contrary the petitioner is liable to be released on bail.

The Court observed that the grant or denial of bail is entirely the discretion of the judge considering a case but even so, the exercise of judicial discretion has been circumscribed by a large number of decisions rendered by the Supreme Court and by every High Court in the country. Yet, occasionally there is necessity to introspect whether denying bail to an accused person is the right thing to do on the facts and in the circumstances of a case.

The Court further observed that the offence of abetment to suicide under Section 306 of IPC has twin essential ingredients:

  • a person commits suicide
  • Such suicide was abetted by the accused.

This offence involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. To hold a person liable for abetting suicide, active role is required which can be described as instigating or aiding in doing thing. A person can be said to have abetted in doing of a thing, who “instigates” any person to do that thing. The word “instigate” is not defined in IPC.

In Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 instigation was held as to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do “an act”. It was further observed that to satisfy the requirement of “instigation”, though it is not necessary that actual words must be used to that effect or what constitutes “instigation” must necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the consequence. Yet a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. Where the accused had, by his acts or omission or by a continued course of conduct, created such circumstances that the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide, in which case, “instigation” may have to be inferred.

A word uttered in a fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow, cannot be said to be instigation. It is only where the accused by his acts or by a continued course of conduct creates such circumstances that the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide, “instigation” may be inferred.

The Court thus held “although some witnesses seem to suggest a love relationship between the petitioner and deceased, the nature of evidence that has been forthcoming does not meet the standards required to prove that the petitioner abetted the suicide of the accused. The fact as to what the degree of intimacy and affinity of the petitioner and deceased shared is a matter that can only be unearthed at the stage of trial. At this stage, for the purpose of this application, the same does not need to be gone into.” 

In view of the above, bail was allowed.[Safi v. State of Orissa, BLAPL No.3623 of 2021, decided on 11-08-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearances

For Petitioner: Ms. R.L. Patnaik, S.K. Panda, K. Panda, A.K. Jena, R.C. Patnaik & A. Biswal

For Opposite Party: Mr Manoj Kumar Mohanty

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Dinesh Singh (Presiding Member) addresses matter regarding claiming of insurance cover.

Instant appeal was filed under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 challenging the decision of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Factual Matrix

Late Jai Prakash, husband/father of the Complainant met an unnatural death, had obtained four insurance policies from the Insurance Company. It was stated that the Insurance Company did not query three of the four policies.

In respect of the 4th policy, it was objected that the claim was on the ground that the death was not accidental but a case of suicide, falling under the exceptions to the policy, and the claim was declined.

Insurance Company argued that the three policies were concealed while taking the fourth policy i.e. the subject policy.

Commission agreed with the appraisal and reasoning of the State Commission’s findings that in the instant case non-disclosure of the previous policies by the life assured was not fatal to the claim.

Another argument made by the Insurance Company was that the life assured had committed suicide which fell under the exception clause of the policy, that it was not a case of accidental death. Further, the insurance company reported that the injuries on the deceased were only possible in cases of a suicide death.

Police in its Inquiry Report had concluded that the cause of the accident due to rail accident could not be ruled out.

The insurance company had raised the objection of suicide based on the “medico-legal” report of a private agency, prepared on perusal of the documents on record, after about one year of the incident.

Inquest is conducted as mandated under the Cr.P.C., Post Mortem is conducted by the concerned government Medical Officer, Investigation is conducted by the Police (a private agency engaged by the Insurance Co. does not substitute for the Police).

 It was further noted that there was no evidence on record that the Insurance Company made a police complaint or filed a complaint before the competent judicial magistrate that a false case of accidental death had been made out for a wrongful gain when the death was by suicide, or that any remedial action in case of the other three policies settled earlier was subsequently undertaken, or any disciplinary action against its functionaries responsible for settling the earlier three policies was taken.

Commission stated that weighing the evidence in its totality, the eventuality of the death being accidental cannot be ruled out and the benefit of preponderance of probability goes to the complainants.

Hence, State Commission erred in placing reliance on the report of a private agency engaged by the Insurance Company while ignoring the complete spectrum of evidence in the matter.

Therefore, the Insurance Company wrongly withheld the claim in respect of the subject policy.

Bench directed the Insurance Company to settle the claim of the subject policy with interest at 9% per annum.

For the undue harassment and the loss and injury caused to the Complainants and for the inconsistency and arbitrariness in decision making, a cost of Rs. 1 lakh is imposed on the Insurance Co. through its chief executive, of which Rs. 50 thousand shall be paid to the Complainants and Rs. 50 thousand shall be deposited in the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the State Commission.

“…advised to inculcate and imbibe systemic improvements for future, in that there is no inconsistency or arbitrariness in decision-making in identical facts and same points of law.”

[Kamla Devi v. Tata AIG Life Insurance Corporation, 2021 SCC OnLine NCDRC 182, decided on 10-06-2021]


For the Appellant: Mr. Praveen Kumar Aggarwal, Advocate

For the Respondents No. 1 &2: Mr. S. Hari Haran, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and N.K. Chandravanshi, JJ., while finding error in trial court’s decision held that wife attempting to commit suicide and consistently showing abnormality in her behaviour by pressing neck of daughter and husband, jumping to neighbour’s roof will amount to mental cruelty forming ground of dissolution of marriage.

Appellant was aggrieved by the impugned judgment and decree passed by the Family Court dismissing his application under Section 13(1)(i—a) of the Hindu Marriage Act for grant of divorce.

Factual Matrix

Parties were married and their daughter was now residing with the respondent/wife.

It was submitted that from the very next day of the marriage respondent insisted to leave the matrimonial house, but on persuasion stayed for 5-6 days and called her mother to return to her parental house and did not come back for 15-20 days.

Later respondent’s mother informed the elderly persons of the society that she is a schizophrenic, which was not informed to the appellant before the marriage.

Incidents of abnormal behaviour

She used to call elderly persons in the in-laws’ family by their name and on one night she jumped to the neighbour’s house from the roof of appellant’s house. She used to leave her matrimonial house every now and then without any rhyme or reason. When the appellant and other family members objected to her behaviour she used to filthily abuse them and locked the door from inside.

Respondent denied all the allegations.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Decisions pertaining to the concept of mental cruelty were referred to. In the Supreme Court decision of Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511, illustrative cases where inference of mental cruelty could be drawn was indicated.

Supreme Court decision in V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 SCC 337, held that mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(i—a) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other.

Mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.

In Naveen Kohli v Neelu Kohli, (2006) 4 SCC 558, the Supreme Court held that the word “cruelty” has to be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in matrimonial affairs. If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case.

In view of the above decisions, Court in the present matter stated that in light of the facts of the case, it can be seen that the respondent-wife admitted to attempting to commit suicide and assaulting her mother-in-law.

As per the evidence placed, it was stated that the respondent once jumped from the roof to fall in the neighbour’s house and tried to strangulate her daughter and husband. There have also been instances of respondent-wife leaving the house during the night hours wearing white saree without putting bangles and vermilion on the forehead.

Hence, considering the instance as stated above along with the psychiatrist treatment, Bench held that it was sufficient to prove that her conduct amounted to sustained reprehensible unjustifiable conduct affecting physical and mental health of the appellant.

When she attempts to commit suicide, this singular act by itself amounts to causing such mental cruelty, which is beyond repair.

Bench noted that in the present case there was consistent irresponsible or abnormal behaviour of the respondent, therefore, when the entire married life is reviewed as a whole, inference was that the relationship was being deteriorated and it was extremely difficult for the appellant-husband to live with respondent-wife.

While concluding the decision High Court expressed that the wife was guilty of committing mental cruelty, furnishing a ground for dissolution of marriage.

Trial Court committed an error in not appreciating the evidence, hence the impugned judgment and decree was set aside. [Rajeshwar Prasad Kaushal v. Gayatri Kaushal, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 799, decided on 31-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant Mr D.N. Prajapati, Advocate

For Respondent Mr C.K. Sahu, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., expressed that:

“Courts must not close its eyes to the fact that it is the victim who knocks the doors of the Court and seeks justice must not left high and dry with the feeling that the accused have escaped due to the perfunctory/faulty/defective investigation.”

Instant petition as directed against the decision of Additional Sessions Judge that discharged the respondent 4 and 5 for the offences under Sections 306/34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Petitioners are the parents of the deceased who was married to respondent 3. The deceased was found hanging by the neck from the ceiling fan in her matrimonial house within two and a half years of her marriage.

Statements before the SDM

Petitioner 1 i.e. the mother of the deceased stated that the deceased was not happy in her marriage and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law were responsible for the suicide. Though the deceased’s father said that he did not have any grievances or any complaints against any persons and that no one was responsible for the death of the deceased.

No FIR was registered against respondent 4 and 5.

After about 10 months of the death of the deceased, an FIR was registered under Sections 306/34 IPC.

Additional Sessions Judge found that the statements of parents before the SDM did not bear any stamp and that they were also not signed by the petitioners. Prima Facie no material was found to proceed against the accused persons for charges under Sections 306/34 IPC, hence the accused were discharged.

Though the Additional Sessions Judge found investigational lapses that required due probe and further directed for a copy of the order to be sent to the Screening Committee for appropriate action.

The above-said order has been challenged in the present petition.

Analysis, Law and Decision

“…charge-sheet in the instant case bleeds of wounds inflicted by the Police.”

No explanation on why FIR was registered after 10 months of the death

Bench noted that the investigation was oriented in order to give a closure report. And filing of FIR after ten months of the incident was contrary to law.

Petitioner 1 stated that the respondent 4 and 5 demanded dowry, hence there was no reason, whatsoever, not to lodge an FIR for an offence under Section 304B IPC.

It was also stated that IO told the petitioners to give statements as per his will and suggestions and threatened her. Petitioner 1’s letter to the Commissioner of police revealed that IO was forcing the parents of the deceased to enter into a compromise with the respondents.

To construe an offence under Section 304 B i.e. dowry death, the death of the women could have been caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband in connection with, any demand for dowry.

 Ingredients for constituting Section 304 B were made out but surprisingly no FIR was registered.

In the instant matter, the death occurred within 7 years of marriage and allegations of dowry death were also present against the respondent 4 and 5. Deceased died by committing suicide.

Bench expressed that unfortunately neither the Magistrate nor the ASJ orders a further investigation after commenting on glaring loopholes with the investigation.

Sufficient material on record was placed stating that the deceased was subjected to cruelty/harassment with the demand of dowry by respondent 4 and 5 and hence presumption under Section 113(b) of the Indian Evidence Act will apply.

Defective Investigation

 It is well settled that where there has been negligence on the part of the investigating agencies or omissions either negligently or with a design to favour the accused, then it becomes the obligation of the Court to ensure that proper investigation is carried out.

Supreme Court’s decision in Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya v. State of Gujarat, (2019) 17 SCC 1, Vinay Tyagi v. Irshad Ali, (2013) 5 SCC 762 were relied upon by the Court.

In the present matter, investigation was conducted in an extremely shoddy manner. 

High Court elaborating more on the present matter stated that the ASJ while passing the impugned judgment on noticing the glaring inconsistencies should have ordered for further investigation.

Hence, impugned Judgment was set aside. High Court directed police to conduct an investigation on the basis of petitioners’ statements and the same to be conducted by a different investigation officer. [Saroj Bhola v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1497, decided on 05-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioners: Chanan Parwani, Advocate

For the Respondents: Kusum Dhalla, APP for the State and respondent 2

Charanjeet Singh, Advocate for respondents 3 to 6

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and N.J. Jamadar, JJ., while addressing the present matter, expressed that:

Where the prosecution succeeds in discharging its primary burden and brings evidence on record which indicates that the facts, thereby proved, rest within the special knowledge of the accused, Section 106 of the Evidence Act comes into play.

Suspicion, however strong, cannot take the place of proof.

Factual Matrix

Accused-Appellant has challenged the decision of the Additional Sessions Judge, wherein he was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 for having committed the murder of his wife Sunita (the deceased).

The accused harassed and ill-treated the deceased on suspecting fidelity of the deceased. The deceased and accused shifted to Beghar Vasti wherein they erected a temporary shed adjacent to the house of the first informant. Later the accused and deceased desired to erect a shed with a thatched roof.

To erect the shed with a thatched roof, both the accused and deceased went to the field in order to collect a wooden log. The first informant also went to the fieLd to graze the goats, wherein he saw that the deceased was lying near a mango tree and her clothes were stained with blood. However, first informant did not find the accused in the vicinity of the said spot. Thus, he suspected that the accused to have done so, after which he lodged a report.

 During the investigation, it was found that the deceased was carrying six months pregnancy and the said occurrence resulted in the death of quick unborn child as well. The accused came to be arrested.

Additional Sessions Judge framed charge against the accused of the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 316 of the IPC.

After the trial, offence for Section 316 IPC was not established against the accused, though he came to be convicted under Section 302 IPC.

Aggrieved with the above, present appeal was preferred.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the fact that the accused did not offer any explanation regarding the circumstances in which he parted the company with the deceased and how the deceased sustained those fatal injuries weighed with the Additional Sessions, Judge.

In the context of the marital relationship between the deceased and the accused and the indisputable fact that they were residing at Khatgun along with the first informant, the “last seen theory” constitutes the linchpin of the prosecution case. 

Court added that the fact that the deceased was found beneath the mango tree in the said field, within a couple of hours of the accused and the deceased having left the house, can also be said to have been proved beyond the shadow of doubt.

Further, since there has been ample evidence to indicate that the first informant found the deceased lying in a motionless state with fatal injuries and when she raised alarm, the prosecution witnesses, Dharam Pawar (PW-6) and Sushila Pawar (PW-9) went to the scene of occurrence and found the deceased lying beneath the mango tree.

Adding to the above, Court also stated that in any event, the interval of time between the accused and the deceased leaving together their home and the deceased having been found dead in the field ‘Kolki’, did not exceed three hours.

It is trite law that the ‘last seen’ theory comes into play when the time gap between the point of time when the accused and the deceased were last seen alive and when the deceased is found dead, is so small that the possibility of any person other than the accused being the perpetrator of the offence, is inconceivable.

In view of the above law and facts of the case, Court held that the prosecution succeeded in establishing that the accused and the deceased were “last seen together”.

Nature of the death

The nature of the injuries found on the person of the deceased and the attendant circumstances are of determinative significance. Bench stated that the injuries found on the person of the deceased were on accessible and elective parts i.e. wrist and neck.

It is true that the accused did not endeavour to offer an explanation as regards the circumstances in which the deceased suffered the aforesaid injuries, when confronted with the incriminating material.

The question that triggers in the above circumstances is whether the failure to offer the explanation is sufficient to fasten the liability on the accused?

In the circumstances of the present case, in the absence of any positive evidence, motive to eliminate the deceased cannot be attributed to the accused on the premise that, before the accused and the deceased shifted to Khatgaun, their marital life was afflicted with discord.

Accused having changed the clothes with a view to conceal the fact that the clothes which he wore at the time of occurrence were stained with blood, is not of conclusive tendency and incriminating nature. Admittedly, the accused was found in an injured condition. Wounds were found on both the wrists and neck of the accused.

Adding to the above, Court expressed that the accused had visible injuries, on his person, when he was apprehended. The presence of bloodstains on the clothes of the accused, which he wore on the day of occurrence, therefore, cannot be construed as an incriminating circumstance.

Though prosecution made an endeavour to draw home the point that the accused had self-inflicted the above-stated injuries overcome by the feeling of guilt. Bench found it hazardous to draw an inference that the said attempt on the part of the accused to cause injuries to himself was due to the fact that the accused was overcome by the guilt, as held by the Additional Sessions Judge.

What emerges from the above discussion?

From all the above discussion, Court observed that there has been clear evidence of ‘last seen’ and the death of the deceased within a couple of hours of the deceased and the accused having been last seen together.

The wounds found on the person of the deceased especially the situs, elective parts, and nature were suggestive of suicidal infliction.

As the fundamental fact of the deceased having met a homicidal death itself is in the corridor of uncertainty.

In Court’s opinion, the circumstance of ‘last seen’, and the failure of the accused to offer a plausible explanation, on their own, were not sufficient to sustain the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Section 106 of the Evidence Act does not relieve the prosecution of its general or  primary burden of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

 Supreme Court’s decision in Sawal Das v. State of Bihar, (1974) 4 SCC 193 was also referred for the above purpose.

Propositions that emerged from the above discussion:

  • If an accused is last seen with the deceased, he must offer an explanation as to how and when he parted company with the deceased.
  • The failure of the accused to offer a reasonable explanation in discharge of the said burden provides an additional link in the chain of circumstances proved against the accused.

In the present matter, homicidal nature of the death was not established and the prosecution case rested upon the circumstance of “last seen” to a great extent.

With regard to the legal position in respect to sustaining the guilt on the only circumstances of “last seen”, Court referred to the decision of Supreme Court in Dharam Deo v. State of U.P., (2007) 3 SCC 755.

Hence, Bench held that circumstance of ‘last seen’, in the totality of circumstances, cannot sustain the burden of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when the fact of homicidal death is in the realm of uncertainty.

High Court concluded its decision by referring to the decision in Navaneethakrishnan v. State, (2018) 16 SCC 161, wherein the legal position in the context of sustaining conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence was expounded.

Conviction under Section 302 IPC could not sustained in view of the above discussion. [Krishna Mahadev Chavan v. State of  Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 191, decided on 12-02-2021]


Advocates who represented the parties:

Aashish Satpute, Advocate appointed by Court for appellant.

S.R. Agarkar, APP for respondent-State.