Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ has directed a de novo investigation into the suspicious death of National Law University (NLU)-Jodhpur student Vikrant Nagaich in 2017.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The third-year law student, Vikrant was found dead on August 14, 2017, under unnatural circumstances near a railway track opposite the university. As per the authorities, the student committed suicide due to alleged depression.

Neetu Kumar Nagaich, the mother of the deceased student, had sought transfer of the investigation in the case from the Rajasthan police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). She approached the court and accused the state police of “lackadaisical and callous manner of the probe” into the FIR lodged on June 29, 2018, with Jodhpur’s Mandore police station. She has sought an independent inquiry while complaining of a shoddy probe with probable collusion to shield some influentials.

She that the FIR in the case was not registered for a period of 10 months from the date when the incident occurred, and was reluctantly filed thereafter. Three years since, the investigation is at a standstill with no progress and no chargesheet filed in the case, stated the plea. In the plea, she added that the state was “criminally negligent in the investigation” or was “trying to cover” up for the perpetrators or had some malafide intention.

KEY FACTS TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION BY THE COURT

  • The occurrence took place in the intervening night of 13.08.2017 and 14.08.2017.
  • The inquest proceedings under Section 174 Cr.P.C. were registered on 14.08.2017 but remained inconclusive, and in view of the closure report deserves to be consigned. The death of the deceased was initially sought to be passed off as accidental by collision with a train or suicidal due to depression.
  • The F.I.R. under Section 302, IPC was registered very much belatedly on 29.06.2018, albeit reluctantly, only at the persistence of the petitioner and her husband after they repeatedly approached the higher authorities.
  • Even thereafter the investigation remained at a standstill till the filing of the counter affidavit before this Court as recent as 03.07.2020 with the respondents insisting that the death was accidental and that the nature of injuries could not attribute a homicidal death.
  • Earlier the husband of the petitioner had also petitioned the High Court where till 20.07.2019 the respondents insisted that the death was accidental in nature.
  • The Supreme Court had, on 08.07.2020, directed the completion of investigation within 2 months, after which a ‘very lengthy’ investigation closure report was placed before the Court us taking a stand that though the death was homicidal there was no clue.

COURT’S OBERVATIONS

The Court said that the High Court, despite noticing the long pendency of the investigation, took a misguided approach that the petitioner had not expressed suspicion against any one and neither had he alleged biased against the Investigating Officer, to pass an open ended order to investigate the case and file a report. Hence, the investigation remained inconclusive for nearly three long years with the investigating agency sanguine of passing it off as an accidental death without coming to a firm conclusion avoiding to complete the investigation.

The Court noticed that when, on 08.07.2020, it directed that the investigation be concluded within a period of two months and the final report be placed before it, suddenly a very lengthy investigation closure report was filed taking a stand that though the death was homicidal there was no clue. It, hence, said that

“The closure report is therefore, to our mind, a clear hasty action leaving much to be desired regarding the nature of investigation, because if a detailed investigation had already been done as is sought to be now suggested, there is no reason why a final report could not have been filed by the investigating agency in the normal course of events and needed an order to do so from this Court. The entire investigation and the closure report therefore lack bonafide.”

It was, hence, of the opinion that the interest of justice therefore requires a de novo investigation to be done, to sustain the confidence of the society in the rule of law irrespective of who the actors may be.

DIRECTIONS

  • closure report set aside and a de novo investigation by a fresh team of investigators to be headed by a senior police officer of the State consisting of efficient personnel well conversant with use of modern investigation technology also directed.
  • No officer who was part of the investigating team leading to the closure report shall be part of the team conducting de novo investigation.
  • fresh investigation must be concluded within a maximum period of two months and the police report be filed before the court concerned whereafter the matter shall proceed in accordance with law.

[Neetu Kumar Nagaich v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 741, decided on 16.09.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of V.M. Deshpande and Anil S. Kilor, JJ., held that if the prosecution fails prima facie to show that that accused had an intention to aid or instigate or abet deceased to commit suicide caused cannot be compelled to face trial for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The instant application was filed for quashing the FIR registered for offence punishable under Section 306 of Penal Code, 1860 along with a prayer to stay the investigation in the said matter.

The complainant had a Loan Account with the Bank of Maharashtra wherein the applicant was discharging his duties as Branch Manager, Bank of Maharashtra.

In the present matter, complainant’s real brother is the deceased who committed suicide in 2015 by hanging himself.

Complainant lodged his report against the present applicant a day after his brother committed suicide.

Though the applicant was granted pre-arrest bail, he filed for the present proceedings to quash the FIR.

Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860

“If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 107 of Penal Code, 1860: 

As per the First clause, “if a person instigates any person to do a particular thing, it can be said that he has abetted”.

High Court referred to the decision of Dilip v. State of Maharashtra, (2004) 11 SCC 401.

Ratio: It is incumbent upon the prosecution to at least show prima facie case that accused had an intention to aid or instigate or abet deceased to commit suicide. In the absence of availability of such material, the accused cannot be compelled to face trial for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the Penal Code.

In the present matter, it has been noted that the deceased was not having any loan outstanding in his name. According to the prosecution, the deceased went to the Bank of Maharashtra for a loan.

If previous loan amount is outstanding and if the applicant, who is Branch Manager of the said Bank, is refusing to grant any further loan, can be said as act of a vigilant and prudent banker and if he is not granting any further loan, it cannot be termed that by such act he instigated and/or abetted the person to commit suicide.

Hence, in view of the above, Court terminated the proceedings against the applicant. [Santoshkumar v. State of Maharashtra,  2020 SCC OnLine Bom 914, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after Life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate.”

Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has held the ongoing investigation by the CBI to be lawful and further directed that if any other case is registered on the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the surrounding circumstances of his unnatural death, the CBI is directed to investigate the new case as well. Such enabling order will make it possible for the CBI to investigate the new case, avoiding the rigors of Section 6 of the DSPE Act, requiring consent from the State of Maharashtra.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The order came on Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra. Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities. Bihar Police had, however, recommended for a CBI probe into death case of actor and the Centre has accepted the same.

DETAILED ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGMENT

TRANSFER POWER UNDER SECTION 406 CRPC

The scope of exercise of this power is for securing the ends of justice. The precedents suggest that transfer plea under Section 406 CrPC were granted in cases where the Court believed that the trial may be prejudiced and fair and impartial proceedings cannot be carried on, if the trial continues. The Court held that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred.

SCOPE OF SECTION 174 CRPC PROCEEDING AND MUMBAI POLICE’s EXERCISE OF POWER THEREOF

The Court noticed that the proceeding under Section 174 CrPC is limited to the inquiry carried out by the police to find out the apparent cause of unnatural death. These are not in the nature of investigation, undertaken after filing of FIR under Section 154 CrPC.

It further said that the Mumbai Police has attempted to stretch the purview of Section 174 without drawing up any FIR and therefore, as it appears, no investigation pursuant to commission of a cognizable offence is being carried out by the Mumbai police. They are yet to register a FIR. Nor they have made a suitable determination, in terms of Section 175(2) CrPC. Hence,

“The inquiry conducted under Section 174 CrPC by the Mumbai police is limited for a definite purpose but is not an investigation of a crime under Section 157 of the CrPC.”

JURISDICTION OF PATNA POLICE TO REGISTER COMPLAINT

The Court held that the Patna police committed no illegality in registering the Complaint. Looking at the nature of the allegations in the Complaint which also relate to misappropriation and breach of trust, the exercise of jurisdiction by the Bihar Police appears to be in order.

“Registration of FIR is mandated when information on cognizable offence is received by the police and at the stage of investigation, it cannot be said that the concerned police station does not have territorial jurisdiction to investigate the case.”

Moreover, the allegation relating to criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money which were to be eventually accounted for in Patna (where the Complainant resides), could prima facie indicate the lawful jurisdiction of the Patna police.

It has hence, been held that the stage of investigation, they were not required to transfer the FIR to Mumbai police. For the same reason, the Bihar government was competent to give consent for entrustment of investigation to the CBI and as such the ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful.

INVESTIGATION ENTRUSTMENT TO CBI

“While the CBI cannot conduct any investigation without the consent of the concerned state as mandated under section 6, the powers of the Constitutional Courts are not fettered by the statutory restriction of the DSPE Act.”

The Court noticed that the FIR at Patna was transferred to the CBI with consent of the Bihar government during pendency of this Transfer Petition. However, in future, if commission of cognizable offence under section 175(2) CrPC is determined, the possibility of parallel investigation by the Mumbai Police cannot be ruled out. Section 6 of the DSPE Act, 1946 read with Section 5 prescribe the requirement of consent from the State government, before entrustment of investigation to the CBI.

“As the CBI has already registered a case and commenced investigation at the instance of the Bihar government, uncertainty and confusion must be avoided in the event of Mumbai Police also deciding to simultaneously investigate the cognizable offence, based on their finding in the inquiry proceeding.”

The Court was hence of the opinion that a decision by this Court on the point would confer legitimacy to the investigation.

“… for the innocents, who might be the target of vilification campaign. Equally importantly, when integrity and credibility of the investigation is discernible, the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate.”

COURT’S DIRECTION ON INVESTIGATION

Noticing that as because both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the Court said that the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud. Accusing fingers are being pointed and people have taken the liberty to put out their own conjectures and theories.

“Such comments, responsible or otherwise, have led to speculative public discourse which have hogged media limelight. These developments unfortunately have the propensity to delay and misdirect the investigation.”

The Court was, hence, of the opinion that to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter, it is appropriate to invoke the powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution.

It further noticed that while the steps taken by the Mumbai police in the limited inquiry under Section 174 CrPC may not be faulted on the material available before this Court, considering the apprehension voiced by the stakeholders of unfair investigation, this Court must strive to ensure that search for the truth is undertaken by an independent agency, not controlled by either of the two state governments. Most importantly, the credibility of the investigation and the investigating authority, must be protected.

The Court, hence, noted that a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour. The expected outcome then would be, a measure of justice for the Complainant, who lost his only son. For the petitioner too, it will be the desired justice as she herself called for a CBI investigation. The dissemination of the real facts through unbiased investigation would certainly result in justice.

[Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 654, decided on 19.08.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has reserved verdict actor Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. The Court has, in the meantime, asked the parties to submit written submissions by Thursday i.e. August 13, 2020.

Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra. Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities.

Earlier, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Sushant Singh Rajput’s father, submitted that

“the Complainant is apprehensive about misdirection of the investigation by the Mumbai Police and, therefore, the Bihar Police Authorities should be permitted to carry on their investigation into the suspicious circumstances on the death of the son of the Complainant.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also informed the Court that Centre has accepted Bihar government’s recommendation for CBI probe into death case of actor. the Bihar Police

State of Maharashtra on the other hand, argued that Patna police has no jurisdiction to either lodge an FIR or investigate it and this has been made a political case. Senior advocate R. Basant submitted,

“the Bandra Police Authorities are conducting a professional investigation and he be given time to place on record the stage and nature of the investigation, conducted so far.”

Senior Advocate Shyam Devan, appearing for Chakraborty, argued that the case is registered at the instance of the deceased actor’s father by the Patna Police Authorities, without any jurisdiction.


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Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court:  A bench headed by SA Bobde, CJ dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

“Who are you. You are a total stranger who is unnecessarily interfering in the case. The victim’s father is pursuing the case. We are dismissing your petition. Dismissed,”

The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by law student DD Dubey seeking a CBI or NIA probe into the death of the actor.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the senior law officer of the Central government, submitted before the Supreme Court that the FIR registered in Patna in the case has already been transferred to the CBI for investigation.

CJI asked the petitioner,

“We are told CBI has filed an FIR. What is the locus standi of yours (petitioner), in the matter,”

Advocate Subhash Jha, appearing for the petitioner, had sought a CBI probe into the death case, to which the bench said, “don’t argue like this and make absurd statements”.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had earlier sent a recommendation to the Central government for CBI investigation in the case filed in Patna based on the complaint of Sushant’s father KK Singh against actor Rhea Chakraborty under sections including abetment of suicide on July 25.

Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty has also filed plea before Supreme Court  seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra.

Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities.

A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has directed Mumbai Police to to file status report on probe conducted so far in Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput death case. Asking the parties to file reply within 3 days, the Court has said that it would hear the matter next week. Read more

(Source: ANI)


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Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has directed Mumbai Police to to file status report on probe conducted so far in Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput death case. Asking the parties to file reply within 3 days, the Court has said that it would hear the matter next week.

The Court is hearing Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra.

Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Sushant Singh Rajput’s father, submitted that

“the Complainant is apprehensive about misdirection of the investigation by the Mumbai Police and, therefore, the Bihar Police Authorities should be permitted to carry on their investigation into the suspicious circumstances on the death of the son of the Complainant.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also informed the Court that Centre has accepted Bihar government’s recommendation for CBI probe into death case of actor. the Bihar Police

State of Maharashtra on the other hand, argued that Patna police has no jurisdiction to either lodge an FIR or investigate it and this has been made a political case. Senior advocate R. Basant submitted,

“the Bandra Police Authorities are conducting a professional investigation and he be given time to place on record the stage and nature of the investigation, conducted so far.”

Senior Advocate Shyam Devan, appearing for Chakraborty, argued that the case is registered at the instance of the deceased actor’s father by the Patna Police Authorities, without any
jurisdiction.

Observing that truth should come out so far as actor’s death is concerned, the Court placed the matter for hearing next week.

” three days time is granted to all parties to place on record their respective stand in the matter. The State of Maharashtra should apprise the Court on the stage of investigation by the Mumbai Police by the next date.”

[Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 625 , order dated 05.08.2020]


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Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench headed by RF Nariman, J has granted Rajasthan Police two months deadline to complete the investigation into the suspicious death of National Law University (NLU)-Jodhpur student Vikrant Nagaich in 2017.

The court was hearing a plea by the student’s mother seeking transfer of the investigation in the case from the Rajasthan police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Neetu Kumar Nagaich, the mother of the deceased student, had approached the court and accused the state police of “lackadaisical and callous manner of the probe” into the FIR lodged on June 29, 2018, with Jodhpur’s Mandore police station. She has sought an independent inquiry while complaining of a shoddy probe with probable collusion to shield some influentials.

The mother of 21-year-old NLU student claimed that the FIR in the case was not registered for a period of 10 months from the date when the incident occurred, and was reluctantly filed thereafter. Three years since, the investigation is at a standstill with no progress and no chargesheet filed in the case, stated the plea. In the plea, she added that the state was “criminally negligent in the investigation” or was “trying to cover” up for the perpetrators or had some malafide intention.

The third-year law student, Vikrant was found dead on August 14, 2017, under unnatural circumstances near a railway track opposite the university. The authorities tried to present the case as that of suicide due to alleged depression.

[Neetu Kumar Nagaich v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 561 , order dated 08.07.2020]

(With inputs from ANI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while upholding the decision of the trial court with regard to the acquittal of the accused, held that,

“There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of accused.”

The present appeal was filed impugning an order and Judgment by Vth Adhoc Sessions Judge, Pune, acquitting 6 accused of offences punishable under Sections 498A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Accused were charged with offences punishable under Sections 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 302 (punishment for murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender ) read with Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

Jayshree (Deceased) on visiting her parental home on several occasions had informed of the ill-treatment and harassment she was being received from her matrimonial home on account of demand of money for buying a Motorcycle.

On hearing the same, Complainant (Jayshree’s father) made the in-laws of Jayshree realise that they should not ill-treat or harass Jayshree.  After a few days, on one morning Complainant received the message of Jayshree being dead.

Thereafter, Complainant alleged the accused of having ill-treated Jayshree on account of demand of money for the purchase of Motor Cycle and made her life miserable and thereafter murdered her. Base on the same, offence was lodged under Sections 498A, 302, 201 and 34 of Penal Code.

Trial Court altered the charge from Section 302 to 306 IPC on receiving an application for the same as the medical report stated that the cause of death was by hanging, i.e., suicide not murder.

After hearing the parties and on receiving the evidence pertaining to the case, Court passed the order of acquittal, which is impugned in the present appeal.

APP submitted that the accused were harassing and ill-treating the deceased by unlawfully demanding Hero Honda Motor Cycle. Jayshree on not being able to bear with the harassment on the part of the accused, therefore, abetted the commission of suicide by Jayshree. Hence all the accused have to be convicted.

Senior Advocate, Rajiv Patil while defending the impugned Judgment submitted that none of the witnesses can be taken to have proved the offence under Sections 498A or 201 or 306 of IPC.

Decision

High Court agreed with the respondent’s counsel on considering the evidence placed on record.

With regard to the evidence in regard to the allegation of demand of money for motor cycle, documents showing that the accused had bought the same before his marriage on taking a loan from the bank which was also repaid before the marriage have been placed on record.

Regarding Section 306 IPC, Court noted that no evidence had been placed on record to speak off. There was no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that the deceased would commit suicide.

“Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

In reference to the above, decision of Kerala High Court was cited, Cyriac v. Sub-Inspector of Police, Kaduthuruthy, 2005 SCC OnLine Ker 346, wherein it was held that,

“…it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by her act which is more important.”

Thus, in Court’s opinion and on considering the evidence on record, prosecution failed to drive home the charge under Section 498A or Section 306 IPC.

Bench held that there is double presumption in favour of the accused,  firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, accused having secured their acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.

Hence, trial court’s decision cannot be held illegal or improper or contrary to law. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that an alleged victim of sexual assault committed suicide in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh as the police allegedly delayed proceedings on her complaint.

Reportedly, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Bareilly has placed the Sub-Inspector concerned under suspension and one Munshi, who had dismissed the application submitted by the victim, has also been attached. The FIR in the matter has now been registered and orders have been issued for a thorough probe.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the news report, if true, raise serious issue of violation of human rights. Accordingly, it has sent notices to the Chief Secretary and the DGP, Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report on the matter within four weeks.

The Commission has further observed that it is unfortunate that the public servants instead of taking timely action on her complaint, tried to delay the proceedings forcing the woman into frustration and mental agony due to which she took an extreme step of ending her life by hanging herself. If timely action had been taken by the police authorities to arrest the accused, a precious human life could have been saved.

According to the media reports, the FIR on the complaint of the victim was reportedly registered only after she met the senior officers. Still, the Sub-Inspector concerned who was investigating the matter allegedly asking her to go for medical examination and get her statements recorded. Now, two people, accused of the rape attempt have been arrested and two others have been nabbed for passing certain comments at the victim woman.


National Human Rights Commission

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the State against the order of acquittal by the trial court in respect to the matter pertaining to Sections 498-A and 306 of Penal Code, 1860.

State preferred the present appeal under Section 378(1) of CrPC, 1973 against the order of acquittal passed by Additional Sessions Judge.

In accordance with the prosecution case, the deceased suffered suicidal death due to acute cardiorespiratory arrest caused due to 100% burns at her matrimonial house. Deceased’s brother filed the complaint against deceased’s brother-in-law (accused 1) and wife of accused 1 (accused 2) along with sister-in-law of deceased (accused 3), for ill-treating the deceased and for abetting to commit suicide.

Thus, a crime under Section 498-A and 306 read with Section 24 of the Penal Code, 1860 was registered,

Deceased suffered unnatural death within a period of 7 years from the date of her marriage. Trial Court acquitted the accused, having found the prosecution could not establish that the accused ill-treated and caused cruelty to deceased within the meaning of Explanation Clause-a to Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860.

Settled Law:

“Cruelty for the purpose of Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 means any “willful conduct” which is of such a nature as is likely to drive a women to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman or harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

The question involved in the present case is,

“Whether prosecution has established that the “willful conduct” of the accused was of such a nature which drove Shaheeda (deceased) to commit suicide?”

On the date of the incident, a quarrel ensued between the deceased and accused 2, during the course of the same, deceased inflicted injury on the forehead of accused 2 by a stick. It is disclosed that when accused 1 had gone to the police station to report about the assault by deceased on his wife (accused 2), he was informed that the deceased had set herself on fire.

It was reported to the police that there were recurring disputes between the deceased and her in-laws on account of supply and electricity and water.

Thus upon assessing the evidence of deceased’s brother, it cannot be said that “willful conduct” of the accused amounts to cruelty and such alleged conduct drove her to commit suicide. There is no specification laid out as to what kind of ill-treatment or harassment was meted out to the deceased.

High Court on noting the facts and circumstances of the case, held that there is no evidence or rather, it is not the case of the prosecution that the deceased was physically harassed or tortured by the accused. Equally, there is no dependable evidence to hold that, accused were mentally torturing the deceased.

Therefore, by relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Pawan Kalyan v. State of Haryana, (1998) 3 SCC 309, Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 and  Mohd. Hoshan v. State of A.P., (2002) 7 SCC 414, Court held that the trial court is consistent with the evidence which cannot be faulted with and hence no interference is called for. The appeal, therefore, fails and is dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Ibrahim Ruknuddin Bagkari, Criminal Appeal No. 1267 of 2003, decided on 11-09-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo-moto cognizance of media reports that a woman committed suicide at Police Station Jathlana, Yamunanagar, Haryana alleging police inaction in her rape case. The Commission has issued notices to Chief Secretary and DGP, Haryana calling for a detailed report on the matter within six weeks.

The Commission has also directed to the DGP, Haryana to communicate the action taken against the delinquent police personnel. The Commission directed the Chief Secretary of the State of Haryana to look into vulnerability of the family of the deceased and the protection and financial help if not already carried out, be provided by the State to the victim family. The direction also issued about whether training has been provided to the police personnel at different levels to handle such sensitive cases with a more human touch.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that the contents of the news reports, if true, raised serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim and indicate gross negligence on part of the police personnel. The apparent insensitivity and lackasdical attitude on part of the police personnel is a grave concern.

According to the news reports carried today on 04-09-2019, the victim had got tired by visiting the police station again and again and in fact, justice was denied to her by the police authorities of Jathlana Police Station in Yamunanagar and she finally committed suicide. Her family members have made serious allegations against the Sub-Inspector and Police Station In-charge and demanded their suspension with the immediate effect.

The father of the deceased woman lodged a complaint that his daughter was married in the year 2016 and after marriage, she did not give birth to a child and there were regular altercations in the family. Some months ago, when the victim came to her maternal house in her village, where alleged fellow villagers on the pretext of getting her divorce and also job called her at a place and gave the victim lift in a car and took her to Jagadhar Bus stand where the victim was given juice having sedatives. The news report also reveals that the accused kept the victim in Delhi, Lucknow and Dehradun for 3-4 months and during the time, the victim was raped and obscene videos were also made. The victim somehow managed to get free from their captivity and after came back to the house revealed the ordeal to her family members.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 04-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court:  A Division Bench of Rakesh Kumar Jain and Harnaresh Singh Gill, JJ. heard an appeal that sought divorce under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The facts of the case at hand were that the couple got married in March, 2019 and later the respondent-wife left her matrimonial house in May 2015. In February 2016, the husband (appellant herein) filed for divorce on the grounds of blackmail, adultery and mental harassment of the husband as well as his family. The trial court rejected the relief of divorce on the ground that on the date of filing of the divorce petition, the statutory period of two years had not expired.

I.P.S Kohli, the counsel for the appellant, contended that since the very beginning of the marriage, the respondent quarrelled with her in-laws and threatened them to do everything under her command. He further claimed that she refused to do the household work and held that she would commit suicide if she was forced to do chores to create troubles for them. He further accused the respondent of adultery and for consuming alcohol and drugs. The counsel maintained that the respondent had a habit of leaving her matrimonial home without informing them and any inquiry of her whereabouts would be called as ‘interference on her personal life’. He alleged that the respondent refused to share a bed with the appellant which caused mental stress to him. He claimed that the respondent broke her mangalsutra in front of the Panchayat members and outrightly refused to live with the appellant as his wife and left her matrimonial home.

The respondent-wife, though agreed to the facts regarding the marriage, denied the accusation that she threatened to commit suicide. She also negated the facts that she refused to do household chores and in turn claimed that she would cook meals regularly and feed the family and the guests. She contended that she was pressurized to bring money from her parents and to influence them to sell their land. However, these demands were not acceded to by the respondent or her father. She added that the appellant and his parents harassed her physically and mentally. She further claimed that the appellant and his family never accepted her and turned her out of the house.

The Court observed that the allegations of cruelty remained unsubstantiated and there was no infirmity and illegality in the impugned judgment and decree passed by the trial Court. It relied on the case Rajni Goyal v. Amit Kumar, 2014 SCC OnLine P&H 24088, to rule that adultery on part of the respondent cannot be proved as there was no cogent evidence was presented by the appellant “Rather unsubstantiated and uncorroborated testimony associating the respondent with adulterer has caused mental cruelty to the respondent”. In addition to this, the Court was of the opinion that this case was of normal ‘wear and tear’ of the married life of the parties, which takes place on a daily basis in life. The Court further remarked that on the date of filing of the divorce petition, the statutory period of two years had not expired. Thus, the present divorce petition had rightly been rejected on this count by the trial court. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.[Ravinder Yadav v. Padmani, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1294, decided on 17-05-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has expressed its willingness to meet with the wife of former senior police officer Gaurav Dutt who allegedly committed suicide and blamed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the extreme step in his suicide note.

The Court said it will interact with Sreyashi Dutt in July to ascertain why she wants to withdraw her plea for an independent inquiry into the death of her husband. Sreyashi, the wife of the retired West Bengal cadre IPS officer from the 1986 batch, has sought to withdraw her petition, saying she was not in a proper mental condition when she agreed to file the case.

Dutt had accused Banerjee in his suicide note of pushing him to take the extreme step by “victimising” him for over 10 years. He was suspended and sent on compulsory waiting in 2010 following allegations of sexual assault of a male constable. He was found with a slit wrist at his home in Kolkata on February 19. Dutt had taken voluntary retirement last year.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., allowed a petition filed by in-laws of the deceased (wife) against the order of the trial court in pursuance of which charges were framed against them under Sections 304-B (dowry death) and 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC.

As per the prosecution, the deceased had died within seven years of her marriage. It was alleged that on the fateful, she was brought to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital where she was declared brought dead. On the MLC, the doctor opined: “alleged history of hanging and declared brought dead”. Parents of the deceased stated that she was harassed for dowry by her husband and in-laws (petitioner). A case was registered and the trial court was of the view that a prima facie case was established against the husband and the in-laws. Accordingly, the charges were framed against all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the in-laws filed the present petition.

Anunya Mehta and Akshay Deep Singhal, Advocates for the in-laws contended that the charges against them were based on omnibus allegations and the deceased was not residing with them for last several years as she was living separately in Rohini with her husband. They prayed for discharging the in-laws.

The High Court perused both the sections. It was noted that the allegations made by parents of the deceased were all against the husband. And there were a few very general allegations against the in-laws like that of ‘continuous bickering’. There was no allegation that they ever demanded dowry. It was stated, To constitute an offence under Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC, it not mere bickering which would amount to an offence but it should be harassment of such a nature that would drive a woman to commit suicide.” The Court held that allegations against the in-laws were not such a nature so as to qualify as an offence under the said sections. In such view of the matter, the petition was allowed and the in-laws were discharged.[Satbir Dalal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7006, dated 14-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Bench of Arvind Singh Sangwan, J. set aside an order framing charges under Sections 306 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against petitioner.

The facts of the case were that one Amandeep Singh committed suicide after two years of marriage with the petitioner’s daughter. Pursuant to the dispute between the two families, the deceased’s wife left her matrimonial home. Thereafter, the deceased left his house and told his sister on the phone that he was disturbed because of his wife and was going to take his life by jumping in a canal. Later, his car and other belongings along with a gift bag were found near the canal with a note stating “I love U Aman Best Wishes for ours next life. This is last gift for you by me. Muhha Putt love you.”

A First Information Report was registered by father of the deceased – Ranjit Singh – under Sections 306, 506 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 against the petitioner and his daughter – Amanpreet Kaur. After completion of the investigation, the trial Court passed an order framing charges under Sections 306 and 506 of IPC, against petitioners. Aggrieved thereby, the instant revision petition was filed.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that there was no direct allegation of abetment against them. Further, the deceased’s suicide note did not suggest that he had leveled any allegations against the petitioners, rather, he had shown his affection towards his wife. It was further argued that nothing on record to show that the petitioners have ever abetted the deceased to commit suicide.

The Court, opined that before holding an accused guilty of an offence under Section 306 IPC, the Court must scrupulously examine facts and circumstances of the case to find out whether the cruelty and harassment meted out to the victim had left him with no other alternative but to put an end to his life. 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 actions to facilitate the commission of suicide. Reliance was placed on Apex Court’s dictum in Bhagwan Das v. Kartar Singh, (2007) 11 SCC 205 and Madan Mohan Singh v. State of Gujarat, (2010) 8 SCC 628.

It was held that there was nothing on record to show that by way of willful conduct of the petitioners, the deceased was compelled to commit suicide. Allegations in the FIR, as well as the material collected during the investigation, did not prima facie constitute offence under Section 306 IPC as no material has come on record to support the allegations/charge against the petitioners. The alleged suicide note only reflected deceased’s love towards his wife and there was no indication of any harassment. Thus, the impugned order was set aside.[Balwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 11, decided on 09-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of G.S. Sistani and Jyoti Singh, JJ. dismissed an appeal against the judgment of Family Court whereby it had decreed a divorce petition filed by the husband on grounds of cruelty by the wife.

The parties got married in 2006. A divorce petition was filed by the husband in 2009 alleging various instances of cruelty by the wife along with allegations that she was ill-tempered, stubborn, quarrelsome and insensitive towards the husband and his parents. On the basis of the evidence adduced by the parties, the Family Court granted a decree of divorce in favour of the husband on grounds of cruelty by the wife. Aggrieved thereby, the wife preferred the instant appeal.

While adjudicating, the High Court referred to a Supreme Court decision in Narendra v. K. Meena, (2016) 9 SCC 455. It was noted that the Family Court reached a conclusion that wife tied a dupatta around her neck and threatened him to commit suicide as the husband refused to seek separation from his parents. She also wrote a suicide note which was proved. In view of the Court, repeated attempts to commit suicide by the wife amounted to extreme cruelty especially when she tried to implicate the husband guilty of abatement. Finding no infirmity in the judgment passed by the Family Court, the High Court dismissed the appeal. [Kusum v. Gurcharan  Singh,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12576, decided on 15-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Md. Mumtaz Khan and Jay Sengupta, JJ. partly allowed the appeal of the appellant-husband who was convicted under Sections 498-A and 306 IPC for cruelty and abetting the suicide of the deceased-wife by the trial court.

Prosecution’s case was that the appellant and the deceased were married 19 years ago. The wife lived in husband’s native village. Subsequently, she joined the husband in his dwelling home. There she came to know of the illicit relationship between the husband and the maid-servant who lived in the same house. She confronted the husband but to no avail. Instead, the husband started to abuse her and beat her. On the night of the incident, PW-1, brother of the wife, heard noise of her sister shouting from inside the appellant’s house. The door was locked from inside. PW-1 along with the local policeman forced-open the door of the house and found that the deceased was burning in flames. The appellant was not at home. The husband was charged, tried and convicted by the trial court for the offences mentioned above. Aggrieved by the same, the husband filed the present appeal.

The High Court perused the record. It was noted that the word cruelty mentioned in Section 498-A is any wilful conduct of the husband or his relative which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the women to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, health. In Court’s opinion, the evidence of PW-1 and PW-2, brothers of the deceased, unerringly pointed towards the guilt of the husband in inflicting cruelty to the wife after she confronted him about his illicit relationship. This drove her to commit suicide. No irregularity was found with husband’s conviction under Section 498-A. However, the Court was of the view that he could not be held guilty under Section 306 as there was no direct evidence that he has, by his act, instigated or provoked the deceased to commit suicide. The only allegation was that on a fateful night, the parties had quarreled and thereafter the husband went to his night duty and the wife committed suicide. There was no evidence about the issue of quarrel and how the wife got burned. There was no direct evidence to show that the husband abetted the suicide committed by the wife. In such circumstances, the husband deserved to be acquitted of the charge under Section 306. Hence, the appeal was partly allowed. Conviction of the husband under Section 306 was set aside, however, that under Section 498-A was upheld. [Md. Sarfulla v. State of W.B., 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 5946, dated 03-09-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar and Dr DY Chandrachud, JJ., sought centre’s response on the plea seeking court-monitored CBI probe into the alleged suicide of BK Bansal, Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ official.

BK Bansal was the former Director General Corporate Affairs, who had hanged himself along with his son with a suicide note stating the reason to be “harassment” by CBI. Bansal was on bail when he committed suicide.

Further, a notice was issued to Centre in the same regard after the PIL was mentioned.

[Source: PTI]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Manish Pitale, J., acquitted the appellant-husband who was convicted by the trial court Section 498-A and other sections of IPC.

The appellant was married to the deceased and within one year of marriage she set herself on fire and committed suicide. It was alleged that the appellant and other co-accused demanded Rs 20,000 from her for treatment of appellant’s father. The trial court convicted the appellant but acquitted the co-accused.

The High Court observed, inter alia, that there were no separate or specific allegations made against the appellant. The trial court had found that the evidence on record was not sufficient to prove that case against the co-accused persons but the same evidence, the appellant was convicted. Moreover, the said demand of Rs 20,000 for treatment of his father such as to bring it under cruelty mentioned in Section 498-A IPC. In such circumstances, the High Court was of the view that conviction of the appellant, even when the co-accused were acquitted on the same evidence, was liable to be set aside. Therefore, the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted of the charges framed against him. [Balaji v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1955, dated 02-08-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission: NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that the Government of Maharashtra in the State Assembly has informed that 639 farmers committed suicide in the State between March and May, 2018. The reported reasons were crop failure, debt and inability to repay bank loans.

The Commission has issued notices to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra calling for the detailed reports in the matter, specifically mentioning the status of implementation of the schemes for the farmers and relief to the aggrieved families. The response is expected within four weeks. The Union Government is expected to inform the Commission, if they have any specific plan or mechanism in their mind to effectively address the situation.

The Commission has observed that it is not for the first time that such news has come to its notice. It has been receiving complaints regarding the deaths of farmers across the country, including the State of Maharashtra. It has also taken suo motu cognizance of such matters. Committing suicide by the farmers in such a large number is a serious matter as it involves the right to life of the victims. Their families also come under tremendous pressure due to sudden demise of an earning member.

It has further observed that in spite of announcement of several schemes including crop insurance and loan waiver by the Central and State Governments, the forlorn story of poor farmers generally remains the same. The farmers are still choosing to end their lives, understandably, if not being able to cope up with the stress, financial crunch and social stigma due to crop failure. There is a need for the Central and State Governments to see that the schemes announced by them are implemented in true spirit, to achieve the target so that such tragic deaths of the farmers could be averted.

According to the media report, carried on 15th July, 2018, a total 639 farmers had committed suicide in Maharashtra between March 1 and May 31, 2018. The information had been provided by the State Revenue Minister in the State Assembly in response to the questions of the opposition members. They had, reportedly, alleged that all the schemes of the government, including the loan waiver, compensation to farmers in case of loss of crops and minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural goods, had failed, due to which the cases of suicide by the farmers have increased.

The news reports further say that as claimed by the opposition, in the last four years, as many as 13,000 farmers had ended life, of which 1500 committed suicide in the last one year alone. The Revenue Minister had reportedly stated that according to the parameters set by the State Government in October last year for declaration of drought, 8 talukas of Yavatmal, Washim and Jalgaon Districts were declared affected by medium intensity drought in April this year and the compensation along with other assistance has been provided to the affected farmers, accordingly.

It is further mentioned that on 29th May, 2018, the Union Government made amendments in the rules for declaration of drought-hit areas, based on the suggestions made by the states and accordingly the state revenue and forest departments have made the changes on 28.6.2018. The Chief Minister of the State has reportedly stated that appropriate action will be taken to recover the mortgaged lands of the farmers from the respective lenders.

National Human Rights Commission