Bombay High Court: While deliberating upon the instant writ petitions for quashment of FIR registered in connection with the suicide of prominent tribal leader Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar,(MP, Dadra and Nagar Haveli), the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and Shrikant D. Kulkarni, JJ., exercised their powers under Section 482 of CrPC and quashed the FIR filed against Praful K. Patel (Administrator, Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and others by Mohan Delkar’s son Abhinav Delkar.
Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar (the deceased) was a prominent tribal leader and was representing Dadra and Nagar Haveli since 1989 as Member of Parliament. On 21-02-2021, Mohan Delkar along with driver Ashok Patel and private bodyguard Nandu Wankhede reached Mumbai for attending some Court matter. The deceased was staying at Sea Green South Hotel, Marine Drive. On 22-02-2021 the deceased committed suicide by hanging in his hotel room. The deceased’s son, Abhinav Delkar was intimated of the turn of events through driver Ashok Patel. A suicide note and minutes of Parliamentary Privilege Committee were recovered from the scene. Abhinav Delkar recorded his statement with the police and the same statement was treated as First Information Report.
In the FIR it was stated that the deceased was subjected to ill-treatment, harassment and defamation at the instance of certain persons. It was also stated that this ill-treatment and harassments were done under the orders of Praful Khoda Patel, Administrator, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Since the deceased was unable to bear this harassment, he committed suicide. It was stated in the FIR that the petitioners by hatching a conspiracy created such an atmosphere of pressure and depression which led the deceased to end his life.
The FIR against 9 persons was registered for offences punishable under Sections 306 (Abetment to suicide), 506, 389, 120-B of Penal Code, 1860 read with relevant provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The FIR further stated that the deceased was representing Dadra and Nagar Haveli since 2019 as an independent Member of Parliament (MP) and he belonged to a scheduled tribe community (Dhodia Patel). It was further stated that the deceased was continuously taking steps for the development of the area and in the past 1 year he was under tremendous pressure as the administration of Dadra and Nagar Haveli was continuously harassing and ill-treating him. The motive behind this harassment and ill-treatment was to take control over the college being run by the deceased and to prevent him from contesting the next elections.
Contentions of the Petitioners
The counsel of each petitioner made detailed submissions before the Court, the crux of which was-
- It was contended that taking the FIR as it stands would only reflect that deceased himself admitted that he was active in social and political life for a considerably long period; had faced many adversities, and, was bold enough to face these difficulties and proceed further in his active political career.
- It was submitted the deceased only made assumption and presumption that officers in the administration were acting under the orders of the Administrator and that the private individuals were hand in glove with the Administrator and were acting vindictively against the deceased.
- It was also contended that the copy of the suicide note was not made available to the Petitioners and it is only referred to in the FIR. Since this material itself is undisclosed and withheld, therefore the petitioners are left only to guess work.
- It was submitted that as far as the incidents quoted in the FIR are concerned, there is no proximity of these incidents and the act of committing suicide by deceased. Mere assumption and presumption are not sufficient enough to attract the provisions of the IPC. The FIR is silent on the aspect of the enmity or grudge being carried by the petitioners against the deceased; general and baseless statement that the petitioners joined together and hatched conspiracy under the direction of the Administrator is wholly unsustainable.
Contentions of the Respondent
Meanwhile the respondents contended that-
- Conspiracy was hatched under the directions of the Administrator and pursuant to the conspiracy the petitioners harassed the deceased. Submitting details about the various incidents as referred to in the FIR, the counsels stated that though they are different incidents, however, a common thread in all these incidents is that they lead to the humiliation and harassment of the deceased.
- It was submitted that FIR is not an encyclopedia as such, the investigating agency, upon lodging of FIR conducts the investigation and further material is collected or unearthed in the investigation.
- It was submitted that though commission of suicide is a final act, the process of abetment to suicide is a complex one. There are certain causes for commission of suicide and consideration of these causes can be set as dynamics of suicide. It was stated that broadly there are two reasons for commission of suicide i.e., internal or personal reason and secondly, external factors. The effect of these two factors depends upon the sensitivity of a person.
- It was contended that the investigation is still in progress, therefore, this is not a fit case for exercising powers under Section 482, CrPC.
Upon perusal of the contents of the FIR and noting the contentions raised by all the petitioners, the Court was of the opinion that that there are considerable merits in the submissions raised by the counsels appearing for Petitioners.
The Court agreed with the petitioners that the deceased was active in social and political life for a long period and faced many difficulties in life boldly and the alleged incidents of ill-treatment stated in the FIR were mere impressions carried out by the deceased. The Court noted that the petitioners presented sufficient material to show that the deceased was never disrespected in any of the public functions and proper protocols were followed considering the deceased’s stature.
Concerning the powers of the Court under Section 482, CrPC, it was observed by the Bench that while exercising powers under Section 482, the Court is not expected to undertake the exercise of detailed scrutiny or assessment of the material collected in the investigation, and it is expected from the Court to go through the contents of the FIR and material along with it.
The Court also agreed with the petitioners that the contents of the FIR fall short in order to attract Section 120-B of IPC. In order to attract Section 120 (B), there must be positive material to show that the petitioners came together to hatch a conspiracy and effect was given to that conspiracy. In the present case, except bare words that the petitioners were acting under the directions of Administrator, there is not a single incident to show that these petitioners came together and acted under the dictates of the Administrator.
Concerning offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Court pointed out that the FIR also falls short in attracting the charges under the 1989 Act.
Regarding Section 306 of IPC, the Court noted that there must be material of a positive act, as a pre-requisite for satisfying the word ‘abetment’, the contents of FIR and reference made to incidents falls too short to show any positive act committed by the petitioners so as to satisfy the term ‘abetment’.
[Sharad Darade v. State of Maharashtra, WP No. 1806/2021, decided on 08-09-2022]
For State: AS Pai, PP
*Sucheta Sarkar Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief