Case BriefsHigh Courts

“People from the past, have a tendency to walk back into present and run over the future.”

Orissa High Court: S.K. Panigrahi, J., while addressing a bail application observed that,

Tik Tok Mobile App which often demonstrates a degrading culture and encourage pornography besides causing pedophiles and explicit disturbing content, is required to be properly regulated so as to save the teens from its negative impact.

In the present petition and application has been filed under Section 439 of CrPC to seek bail. She is an accused for an offence under Sections 306 and 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Background

Allegation against the accused/petitioner is that she along with the co- accused have inflicted direct and indirect mental torture on the deceased (Padmalochan Barik) which resulted in the commission of suicide by the deceased.

With the statements recorded it was revealed that petitioner was alleged to have been in a love relationship with the co-accused before she got married with the deceased.

Co-accused had forwarded some of the intimate Tik Tok videos with petitioner to the deceased and the same were alleged to have been streamed on social media as well.

The underpinnings of familial shame made deceased suffer a lot internally in the form of tremendous mental pressure which invited a dangerous haste in ending his life by hanging himself.

Abetment of Suicide

From the investigation it was clear that the co-accused was responsible for the abetment of suicide.

Petitioner’s Counsel L.N. Patel

It was submitted that petitioner had no role in the abetment of suicide of her husband and the same has not yet been established. Hence she may be granted bail.

Decision 

On perusal of the above, bench stated that it is a prima facie view that the incident might have been perceived to be just a streaming of Tik Tok videos of the deceased’s wife and her former beau but it was morally and legally heinous as the same led to an ugly consequence.

Petitioner being wife should have the deceased’s emotional safety, instead she became the cause of his emotional insecurity.

Offence of abetment to suicide under Section 306 of IPC is endowed with twin essential ingredients:(i)a person commits suicide (ii) such suicide was abetted by the accused. The offence involves a mental process of instigating a person of intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing.

In Court’s opinion, the Tik Tok videos had escaped the investigation officer’s attention.

Tik Tok Videos 

Bench stated that the above-mentioned Tik Tok videos became the cause for tragic end of an innocent life. Transmitting Tik Tok videos with offensive content to harass victims are on prowl and are gradually on the rise.

Of late, Cyber bullying activity like the instant case, has reared its ugly head and swept away so many innocent lives through many of its ugly manifestations.

With regard to Information Technology Act, what the Court said?

Information Technology Act, 2000 does impose an obligation upon such companies to take down content and exercise due diligence before uploading any content, but India lacks a specialized law to address the crime like cyber bullying.

In the present matter, Court stated that,

Further digging up, the instant case might bring some surprises, but at the moment the role of the co-accused seems to be quite apparent in terms of preparing the Tik Tok videos having some inappropriate content and sending the same to the deceased. This aspect of the taint cannot be properly established sans a befitting trial process.

Even a positive role of the petitioner in the entire episode cannot be ruled out, however, at the moment, invoking Section 306 would be preposterous. Hence, without more ado petitioner is granted bail. [Shibani Barik v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 425, decided on 28-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while deciding the appeal filed impugning the order and judgment passed with regard to acquittal for offence punishable under Sections 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (Abetment of suicide) of Penal Code, 1860, observed that,

“Cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by the Section, i.e., it must be wilful conduct of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb and health of the woman.”

Prosecution case was that complainant’s daughter Sunita was married to the respondent (accused). Respondent used to ill-treat Sunita and under the influence of alcohol he used to beat her while insisting to bring cash amount of Rs 20,000 from her father (complainant) so that he could start a business.

After sometime respondent started to sell fruits and in the meanwhile Sunita conceived and gave birth to a daughter. On or about 18-09-2001, it was informed that Sunita had committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train.

In view of the above circumstances, PW-1 had lodged the complaint for offences punishable under Sections 498A and 306 IPC.

Supreme Court in its decision, Muralidhar v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 5 SCC 730, held that

“…unless the conclusions reached by the trial court are found to be palpably wrong or based on an erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice, Appellate Court should not interfere with the conclusions of the Trial Court.”

Citing the above, Court stated that, it must be kept in mind that there is a presumption of innocence in favour of respondent and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed by the trial court.

In Ramesh Babulal Doshi v. State of Gujarat, 1996 SCC (Cri) 972, Supreme Court held that,

“…If Appellate Court finds that there was nothing wrong or manifestly erroneous with the order of the trial court, the Appeal Court need not eve re-appraise the evidence and arrive at its own conclusions.”

Thus, High Court while analysing the present set of facts and circumstances stated that it does not find anything wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable in the impugned judgment.

Court noted that,

PW-1 (Complainant) stated that the accused was not doing any work and under the influence of liquor, used to beat Sunita and was insisting her to bring cash from parents for doing some business.

PW-1 admits that in his statement before the police, he has not mentioned that Sunita had gone to his house for delivery and after her delivery she resided with him for 15 days. He also admits that in his statement to the police, he has not mentioned that during that stay Sunita had informed him about the ill-treatment and demand for cash by accused.

DW-1 in whose quarters Sunita and accused were residing stated that in her presence no dispute took place between Sunita and accused, nobody used to visit their house and Sunita never complained about accused.

On perusal of the above, Court stated that apart from the general statements by PW-1, there was nothing on record to show that accused used to beat Sunita under the influence of alcohol.

Stating the above, bench gave another point of significance in such cases that,

“.. It is to be kept in mind that it is easy to accuse somebody of ill-treatment after someone dies, but it will not be wise to convict somebody based on such general statements.”

“It is settled law that under Section 498A of IPC, every cruelty is not an offence.”

With regard to abetment, Court stated that, in order to amount abetment, there must be mens rea or community of intention. Without knowledge or intention, there can be no abetment and the knowledge and intention must relate to the act said to be abetted, i.e. suicide, in this case. To constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.

Thus, in Court view, no evidence is found to suggest that Sunita committed suicide because of ill-treatment or cruelty by the accused. There is also no evidence whatsoever that the accused by their acts intended Sunita to commit suicide.

In view of the above, order of acquittal need not be interfered with. [State of Maharashtra v. Shri Balu Ravji Abhang, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 307, decided on 20-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: V.M. Deshpande, J. allowed an appeal against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 305 (abetment of suicide of child or insane person) of the Penal Code, 1860.

The appellant’s son had committed suicide by hanging himself. He left behind a suicide note wherein he had mentioned that his father, the appellant, was habitual to drinking. According to the prosecution, the deceased was under great stress due to the appellant’s behavior and, therefore, committed suicide. The appellant faced trial and was convicted as aforesaid. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the instant appeal.

The High Court referred to Section 107 (abetment of a thing) as well as Sections 305 and 306 and noted that the law on abetment to commit suicide is well crystallised by numerous decisions of the Supreme Court. It was also stated that the only difference between Sections 305 and 306 IPC is that Section 305 is a punishing section for abetting the suicide of an insane or a child, whereas Section 306 is a punishing section for the accused who abetted any other person to commit suicide. However, said the Court: “The parameters for deciding the fact under Section 305 and 306 IPC are identical.”

The Court noted various admitted facts on record and observed: “The admitted position also speaks that the mother of the deceased was a psychic patient having nothing to do with the drinking of the appellant. Therefore, he used to be always under depressing conditions. Different persons may react differently to the same situation. Therefore, merely because the deceased by writing a note mentioning about the drinking habit of his father and committed suicide, in my view, it cannot be treated as an abetment, especially when the prosecution evidence falls short to show that there used to be ill-treatment at the hands of the appellant under the influence of liquor to the deceased so as to drive the deceased to take the extreme step of his life.”

The Court was of the view that the trial court had swayed away with the fact that the deceased boy committed suicide for an admitted position that the appellant was a drunkard. However, according to the Court: “Merely drinking can never be an abetment for a person to commit suicide.”

Accordingly, on the representation of the entire prosecution case, the Court allowed the instant appeal and set aside the conviction of the appellant as recorded by the trial court. [Ramrao Kisan Rathod v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 29, decided on 04-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. discharged the petitioner-wife of the offence under Section 306 IPC for allegedly abetting suicide of her husband.

Petitioner was wife of the deceased who committed suicide in 2015. It was alleged that on 31-7-2015, petitioner had slapped the deceased in front of other family members. On 02-08-2015, the deceased attempted to commit suicide and expired on the next day. Alleged suicide note was also discovered from his bed. An FIR was registered as per which deceased committed suicide as he was upset about petitioner slapping him. According to the trial court, there was prima facie material against petitioner to frame a charged under Section 306. Petitioner impugned trial court’s order in the present petition.

Lohit Ganguly, Advocate for the petitioner submitted that the trial court failed to appreciate that the material did not suggest that petitioner instigated the deceased to commit suicide.

The High Court referred to Section 107 (abetment of a thing); and decisions in Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 where Supreme Court laid down as to what conduct amounts to incitement or instigation; and Pawan Kumar v. State of H.P., (2017) 7 SCC 780 where expression “abetment” was elaborated upon. In the present case, Court did not find any material suggest that petitioner instigated, conspired or aided in the commission of suicide by the deceased. Mere act of wife slapping the husband would not instigate him to commit suicide by the deceased. Furthermore, the alleged suicide did not refer to any incident of slapping. In such circumstances, it was held that no charge under Section 306 could be made against the petitioner. Thus, the petition was allowed and the petitioner was discharged. [Shikha Gupta v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6394, decided on 08-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of P.N. Deshmukh and M.G. Giratkar, JJ. allowed an application for quashing an FIR lodged for the offence punishable under Section 306 read with Section 34 IPC.

One Rupchand Sirsat, 54, working as Group Secretary in Kherda-Mozari Coop. Society committed suicide and left a suicide note making allegations against the applicant and other MPs and MLAs. The wife of the deceased informed the police, pursuant to which the FIR came to be registered for the offence as mentioned above. The applicants had filed the instant application for quashing of the said FIR.

The High Court, while considering the issue, referred to its previous decisions wherein it was held that for bringing an offence under Section 306, specific abetment as contemplated by Section 107 on the part of the accused, with an intention to bring about the suicide of the person concerned, is required. Further, in order to convict a person under Section 306, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence. However, on the facts of the present case, the Court was of the view that the applicant cannot be said to have abetted the deceased to commit suicide. From the contents of FIR, the Court gathered that the deceased was mentally disturbed due to the death of his son. The concerned death note was written two months prior to the commission of suicide. After writing the said note, the deceased had proceeded on leave. In view of such facts and circumstances, the Court quashed the FIR registered against the applicants. [Pramod Shriram Telgote v. State of Maharashtra,  2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1456, dated 04-07-2018]