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 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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., while addressing a matter noted that,

Abetment by a person is when a person instigates another to do something. Instigation can be inferred where the accused had, by his acts or omission created such circumstances that the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide.

Aggrieved with the Madras High Court’s decision by which the Court had dismissed the appeal preferred by the appellant and confirmed the trial court’s decision convicting the accused of the offence under Section 306 Penal Code, 1860, appellant approached the Supreme Court.

Background

Appellant was married to the deceased 25 years prior to the occurrence. On the day of occurrence, there was some quarrel between the deceased–wife of the appellant. Thereafter both the appellant and the deceased consumed pesticide.

However, the appellant survived but his wife died.

A complaint was filed against the appellant stating that he was having intimacy with the other woman and therefore the couple used to quarrel.

It was alleged against the accused that he had committed the offence under Section 306 IPC and on the conclusion of the investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the appellant accused of the offence under Section 306 IPC.

High Court had confirmed the conviction for the offence under Section 306 IPC.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Appellant was convicted for the offence under Section 306 IPC.

Allegation that the appellant-accused was having an illicit relationship with another woman was not established and proved by the prosecution.

In light of the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench considered whether can it be said that the appellant accused had committed an offence under Section 306 IPC for which he had been convicted?

Abetment of Suicide

 “…in a case where if any person instigates other person to commit suicide and as a result of such instigation the other person commits suicide, the person causing the instigation is liable to be punished for the offence under Section 306 IPC for abetting the commission of suicide.”

 In view of the above, to bring a case within the provision 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 instigating or by doing a certain act to facilitate the commission of suicide.

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

In the present matter, no material was recorded that indicated abetment or appellant’s active role to instigate the deceased to facilitate the commission of suicide. On the contrary, in the instant case, the appellant himself tried to commit suicide and consumed pesticide.

Hence, in Court’s opinion, both the High Court and Trial Court committed an error in convicting the accused for the offence under Section 306 IPC.

Therefore, in view of the above discussion, the present appeal succeeded and the appellant was released on bail. [Velladurai v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 715, decided on 14-09-2021]

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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case relating to dowry death, the bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Aniruddha Bose, J has said that judges need to be extra careful while conducting criminal trials relating to Section 304-B, IPC. The Court went on to summarise the law under Section 304­B, IPC read with Section 113­B, Evidence Act and the guidelines to be followed by the Courts while conducting trials in such cases.

The Court noticed that, often, Trial Courts record the statement of an accused under Section 313, CrPC in a very casual and cursory manner, without specifically questioning the accused as to his defense.

“It ought to be noted that the examination of an accused under Section 313, CrPC cannot be treated as a mere procedural formality, as it is based on the fundamental principle of fairness.”

Hence, the Court must put incriminating circumstances before the accused and seek his response. A duty is also cast on the counsel of the accused to prepare his defense, since the inception of the trial, with due caution, keeping in consideration the peculiarities of Section 304¬B, IPC read with Section 113-B, Evidence Act.

Dowry deaths – Facts and Figures

A study titled “Global study on Homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls”, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, highlighted that in 2018 female dowry deaths account for 40 to 50 percent of all female homicides recorded annually in India. The dismal truth is that from the period 1999 to 2016, these figures have remained constant.

The latest data furnished by the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that in 2019 itself, 7115 cases were registered under Section 304-B, IPC alone.

Law on dowry death – The trajectory

Section 304¬B, IPC is one among many legislative initiatives undertaken by Parliament to remedy a long-standing social evil of dowry death. The pestiferous nature of dowry harassment, wherein married women   are   being   subjected   to   cruelty   because   of   covetous demands by husband and his relatives has not gone unnoticed. The Parliament enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 as a first step to eradicate this social evil. Further, as the measures were   found   to   be   insufficient,   the   Criminal   Law   (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983) was passed wherein Chapter XX-A was introduced in the IPC, containing Section 498¬A.

The need for a stringent law to curb dowry deaths was suo motu taken up by the Law Commission in its 91st Law Commission Report. The Law Commission recognized that the IPC, as it existed at that relevant time, was insufficient to tackle the issue of dowry deaths due to the nature and modus of the crime.

The Parliament, then, introduced amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act, as well as the IPC by enacting Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986 (Act 43 of 1986). By way of this amendment, Section 304-B, IPC was specifically introduced in the IPC, as a stringent provision to curb the menace of dowry death in India.

Margaret Alva, who presented the Amendment Bill before Rajya Sabha observed:

“You have never really heard of a girl being burnt while cooking in her mother’s  house or her husband’s  house. It is always in the mother-in-law’s house that she catches fire and is burnt in the kitchen. Therefore, getting evidence immediately becomes a great bit problem. Therefore, we have brought in a couple of amendments which give certain presumptions where the burden of proof shifts to the husband and to his people to show that it was not a dowry death or that it was not deliberately done.”

Dowry Death and Criminal Trial – Law Summarised

  1. Section 304¬B, IPC must be interpreted keeping in mind the legislative intent to curb the social evil of bride burning and dowry demand.
  2. The prosecution must at first establish the existence of the necessary ingredients for constituting an offence under Section 304-B, IPC. Once these ingredients are satisfied, the rebuttable presumption of causality, provided under Section 113¬B, Evidence Act operates against the accused.
  3. The phrase “soon before” as appearing in Section 304¬B, IPC cannot be construed to mean ‘immediately before’. The prosecution must establish existence of “proximate and live link” between the dowry death and cruelty or harassment for dowry demand by the husband or his relatives.
  4. Section 304-B, IPC does not take a pigeonhole approach in categorizing death as homicidal or suicidal or accidental. The reason for such non categorization is due to the fact that death occurring “otherwise than under normal circumstances” can, in cases, be homicidal or suicidal or accidental.
  5. Due to the precarious nature of Section 304-B, IPC read with 113¬B, Evidence Act, Judges, prosecution and defence should be careful during conduction of trial.
  6. It is a matter of grave concern that, often, Trial Courts record the statement under Section 313, CrPC in a very casual and cursory manner, without specifically questioning the accused as to his defense. It ought to be noted that the examination of an accused under Section 313, CrPC cannot be treated as a mere procedural formality, as it based on the fundamental principle of fairness. This aforesaid provision incorporates the valuable principle of natural justice “audi alteram partem” as it enables the accused to offer an explanation for the incriminatory material appearing against him. Therefore, it imposes an obligation on the court to question the accused fairly, with care and caution.
  7. The Court must put incriminating circumstances before the accused and seek his response. A duty is also cast on the counsel of the accused to prepare his defense since the inception of the Trial with due caution, keeping   in consideration the peculiarities of Section 304-B, IPC read with Section 113¬B, Evidence Act.
  8. Section 232, CrPC provides that, “If, after taking the evidence for the prosecution, examining   the accused and hearing the prosecution and the defence on the point, the Judge considers that there is no evidence that the accused committed the offence, the Judge shall record an order of acquittal”. Such discretion must be utilized by the Trial Courts as an obligation of best efforts.
  9. Once the Trial Court decides that the accused is not eligible to be acquitted as per the provisions of Section 232, CrPC, it must move on and fix hearings specifically for ‘defence evidence’, calling upon the accused to present his defense as per the procedure provided under Section 233, CrPC, which is also an invaluable right provided to the accused.
  10. In the same breath, Trial Courts need to balance other important considerations such as the right to a speedy trial.
  11. The presiding Judge should follow the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court while sentencing and imposing appropriate punishment.
  12. Undoubtedly, the menace of dowry death is increasing day by day, however, sometimes family members of the husband are roped in, even though they have no active role in commission of the offence and are residing at distant places. In these cases, the Court need to be cautious in its approach.

[Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 404, decided on 28.05.2021]


Judgment by: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana 

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where a woman died of burn injuries one year into her marriage, the bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Aniruddha Bose, J has held that Courts should use their discretion to determine if the period between the cruelty or harassment and the death of the victim   would come within the term “soon before” as the factum of cruelty or harassment differs from case to case.

“When the legislature used the words, “soon before” they did not mean “immediately before”. Rather, they left its determination in the hands of the courts.”

Background

A woman got married to a man in July, 1994. As fate would have it, she died exactly after year after receiving burn injuries, allegedly after she set herself ablaze due to being subjected to cruelty and dowry demand at the hands of her husband and in-laws. The appellants were convicted by the Trial Court in December, 1997 for the offences under Sections 304¬B and 306, IPC and were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for the offence punishable under Section 304-B, IPC and to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years for the offence punishable under Section 306, IPC.

In November, 2008, the Punjab and Haryana High Court also  upheld the order of the Trial Court and dismissed the appeal filed by the appellants.

Analysis

Was the offence under Section 304-B IPC made out?

“Soon before” – Interpretation

When the legislature used the words, “soon before” they did not mean “immediately before”. Rather, they left its determination in the hands of the courts. The factum of cruelty or harassment differs from case to case. Even the spectrum of cruelty is quite varied, as it can range from physical, verbal or even emotional. This list is certainly not exhaustive. Therefore, Courts should use their discretion to determine if the period between the cruelty or harassment and the death of the victim   would come within the term “soon before”.

“What is pivotal to the above determination, is the establishment of a “proximate and live link” between the cruelty and the consequential death of the victim.”

When the prosecution shows that ‘soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry’, a presumption of causation arises against the accused under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act. Thereafter, the accused has to rebut this statutory presumption.

Further, Section 304-B, IPC does not take a pigeonhole approach in categorizing death as homicidal   or suicidal or accidental, as was done earlier. The reason for such non categorization is due to the fact that death occurring “otherwise than under normal circumstances” can, in cases, be homicidal or suicidal or accidental. However, the Section 304-B, IPC endeavors to also address those situations wherein murders or suicide are masqueraded as accidents.

“Therefore, if all the other ingredients of Section 304¬B IPC are fulfilled, any death whether caused by burns or by bodily injury or occurring otherwise than under normal circumstances shall, as per the legislative mandate, be called a “dowry death” and the woman’s husband or his relative “shall be deemed to have caused her death” unless proved otherwise.”

Chain of circumstances  – Where did it lead?

  • The deceased and accused were married on 01.07.1994, and the death of the lady occurred on 31.07.1995.
  • According to the evidence of the doctor, the entire body of the deceased was doused with kerosene oil. Therefore, the possibility of an accident was ruled out.
  • The Deceased had disclosed to her brother, within a month after her marriage that the accused, husband and mother-in-law, used to physically harass her on the account of bringing insufficient dowry. Furthermore, the accused persons had made a specific demand of a scooter. Pursuant to this disclosure, she was brought back to her paternal house.
  • Only a month prior to her death, the deceased had returned to her matrimonial house. However, the accused still used to harass the deceased for dowry. The aforesaid fact was revealed by the deceased to her father, when she had come to visit him.
  • Just a week before the death, on the occasion of Teej festival, another brother of the deceased had visited her while she was in her matrimonial home. The deceased had reiterated her plight to her
  • On 31.07.1995, the father of the deceased was informed by some villagers that his daughter has been admitted in the hospital. Upon reaching, the father discovered that the deceased succumbed to burn injuries.

“The aforesaid chain of circumstances proves that there existed a live and proximate link between the instances of demand of dowry and the death of the deceased.”

The court noticed that since the ingredients of Section 304¬B, IPC stoodsatisfied, the presumption under 113¬B, Evidence Act operated against the appellants, who are deemed to have caused the offence specified under Section 304-B of IPC. The burden therefore shifted on the accused to rebut the aforesaid presumption, who in turn, failed to make out a case for acquittal.

Was the offence under Section 306 IPC made out?

A bare reading of the provision indicates that for the offence under Section 306, IPC the prosecution needs to first establish that a suicide has been committed. Secondly, the prosecution must also prove that the person who is said to have abetted the commission of suicide, has played an active role in the same.

With respect to this latter requirement, Section 113¬A, Evidence Act creates a presumption against the husband and/or his relative with respect to the abetment of suicide of a married woman, under certain conditions. Not going into the other conditions, a perusal of the provision indicates that such presumption shall be attracted only if the factum of suicide has been established by the prosecution first.

However, in the present case, the conclusion reached by the Courts below was based on assumptions, as there is no evidence on record to support the same.

The reasoning of the Trial Court in this regard was:

“Further, there is no direct evidence having been adduced by the prosecution the (sic) any of the accused caused death by sprinkling kerosene on the body of the deceased, the only possibility is that Meena Kumari put an end to her life by sprinkling kerosene on her body.”

Hence, since there was insufficient evidence to prove the factum of suicide beyond reasonable doubt, the presumption under Section 113-A, Evidence Act, is not of much help for the prosecution. The essential ingredient of deceased committing suicide has not been proved by the prosecution by adducing sufficient evidence.

“In the present case, the prosecution has failed to establish that the death occurred due to suicide. Therefore, we are of the opinion that the finding of the Courts below convicting the appellants under Section 306, IPC merits interference by this Court.”

Conclusion

Conviction under Section 304-B IPC was upheld and conviction and sentence under Section 306, IPC was set aside.

[Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 404, decided on 28.05.2021]


Judgment by: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dinesh Kumar Singh-I, J., while discussing abetment of suicide, stated that:

“…if some act either of omission or commission results in instigation to the victim to commit suicide, that act would also be treated to be an abetment.”

Factual Background of a Woman Subjected to Torture in demand of Dowry

Informant stated that his daughter was married with accused-applicant 1 in accordance with the Hindu rites and as per demands, dowry was provided. At the time of marriage, the applicant 1 (husband), applicant 2, Om Prakash Mishra (father-in-law), applicant 3, Rakesh Mishra, (brother-in-law) started demanding four-wheeler as additional dowry because of which ‘Bidai’ of his daughter could be done.

After a lot of persuasion, the Gauna was performed and when her daughter (deceased) went to her matrimonial home, all the accused-applicants started making taunts that marriage was performed for very cheap, further it was made clear to the deceased that unless the amount asked for is fulfilled, it would be difficult for her to live in matrimonial home peacefully.

Mental and Physical Harassment

Victim was harassed mentally and physically on various occasions, she was pressurized to give her jewellery to which she refused and was beaten up by banging her head against the wall and subjected to filthy language and threat of divorce.

Victim’s husband used to increase the volume of the T.V and close the door of the house so that screaming or weeping of the deceased would not go out, even the family members of the accused-applicant 1 used to call the victim and harass her on the phone.

Accused-Applicant 1 later, dropped the deceased near the house of the informant retaining the jewellery at his home and further filed for divorce.

Suicide

Later it was stated that, since the informant’s daughter used stay disturbed mentally because of the case having been filed against her and having received notices from the Court, she used to say that despite having been tortured, she could not get any case registered against the persons of her sasural and was passing time with her child in her parents’ home and even then, she was not being allowed to remain peacefully and in these circumstances after getting fed-up, on 23-10-2017 she committed suicide by hanging herself by a stole from the ceiling fan, for which the accused- applicants are responsible.

Analysis of the Bench

The above-stated circumstances could be treated to have been driven the deceased to commit suicide which could have taken to fall in the category of abetting the commission of suicide by the deceased.

Court expressed that:

Merely because the deceased died at the parent’s house, is being hammered as the main argument on the part of the applicant, to be the reason why abetment to commit suicide should not be taken to be established in this case even prima-facie.

Bench relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Guru Charan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2020) 10 SCC 200, wherein it was held that in order to give finding of abetment under Section 107, which is necessary to sustain the conviction of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC, it must be established that the accused instigated a person either by an act of omission or commission or by persistent cruelty or harassment.

Circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home without the instigation of suicide being established in someway are not enough to sustain the conviction on abetment of suicide.

 Conclusion

In the instant case, Court noted that it came on record that various litigations had been thrust upon the deceased from the side of the accused-applicants which might have generated a situation in which deceased found no way out but to commit suicide.

Bench stated that it may tour out to be not finally proved that the applicants were involved in the commission of this offence but in proceedings under Section 482 CrPC:

this Court cannot give finding in this regard as the evidence, which is likely to be recorded before the trial court, the said evidence would be appreciated by the said court then only finding can be returned on this point.

While dismissing the application, Court held that if the applicants appear and surrender before the Court below within 30 days and apply for bail, then the bail application would be considered and decided in view of the law laid down by this Court in Amrawati v. State of U.P.,2004 (57) ALR 290, as well as a judgment passed by Supreme Court in Lal Kamlendra Pratap Singh v State of U.P., (2009) 4 SCC 437.

In case, the applicants do not appear before the Court below within 30 days period, coercive action shall be taken against them. [Kranti Mishra v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 81, decided on 22-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Counsel for Applicant: Shailesh Kumar Shukla, Rajiv Lochan Shukla

Counsel for Opposite Party: G.A., Akhilesh Kumar

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 BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: Gita Gopi, J., while addressing an issue with regard to abetment to suicide held that in accordance with the ingredients of Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860 the act of demanding the repayment of money would not bring a case within the meaning of Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for quashing and setting aside the first information under Sections 306, 384, 385, 387 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 40 of the Gujarat Money Lenders Act and proceedings initiated in pursuance thereof.

Allegation

Deceased had borrowed money from the present applicant and the applicant was often demanding repayment along with interest and the husband of the complainant could not make arrangements of the money and remained under tension.

Further, it was alleged that the applicant used to often threaten him on phone for the money and had instigated the complainant husband to commit suicide.

Appearance: Rathin P Raval for applicant 1, Nirali Gajjar for respondent 2 and Pranav Trivedi for respondent 1.

Decision

Bench referred the Supreme Court decision in M. Mohan v. State, (2011) 3 SCC 626, with regard to the ingredients of Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Court stated that the act of demanding the repayment of money would not bring a case within the meaning of Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860. There would not be any mens rea of the applicant as he would not be benefitted from the act of suicide of the deceased and thus prima facie the allegation in the FIR taken at its face value do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.

Hence, the High Court allowed the present petition in the above-view. [Jorubhai Amrubhai Varu v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1189, decided on 19-08-2020]

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: 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 BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.K. Sonawane, J., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC and for abetment of suicide punishable under Section 306 IPC. 

The appellant was the sister-in-law of the deceased. The prosecution case was that the deceased was tortured by her for the demand of dowry. One fateful day, the deceased was rushed to the Government Hospital with severe burn injuries. The deceased ultimately succumbed to her injuries. It was alleged that the deceased was abused and beaten up by the appellant for not fulfilling the dowry demand. It was alleged further that on the day of the incident, the appellant had poured kerosene on the deceased and set her ablaze. 

Notably, in her initial statements, including the one given to the Special Executive Magistrate, the deceased stated that she sustained the burns accidentally due to a sudden blaze of the stove. However, later, the deceased changed her statement and said that the appellant poured kerosene on her and put her on fire. 

At the commencement of the trial, the trial court framed charges against the appellant for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A and for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC. In the alternative, the charge was also framed for the commission of the offence of abetment of suicide punishable under Section 306 and for the offence of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC. At the conclusion of the trial, the appellant was acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 304-B. However, the trial court convicted her for the offence punishable under Section 498-A and Section 306. 

The High Court gave anxious consideration to the arguments advanced by P.F. Patni, Advocate representing the appellant, and A.A. Jagatkar, APP appearing for the State. 

Delving into the oral and circumstantial evidence adduced on record and the factual score of the matter, the Court found it painful to subscribe to the findings of conviction of the appellant recorded by the trial court. The Court noted that there were no allegations on behalf of the prosecution that owing to maltreatment/cruelty, the deceased committed suicide. In contrast, the prosecution came forward with specific allegations that the death of the deceased was homicidal and the appellant was responsible for her death. In the alternative, the prosecution alleged that it was an offense of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC. But, the trial Court acquitted the appellant on both these counts and proceeded to convict her under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. 

Albeit, the trial Court held the appellant guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 on the allegation that the deceased committed suicide by pouring kerosene and set herself ablaze. The trial court drew the adverse inference of self-immolation of deceased on the basis of attending circumstances found prevailing over on the scene of occurrence. 

The High Court was of the opinion that the observations of the trial court for the conclusion of suicidal death appear to be rest on a figment of imagination, surmises and conjuncture. It was noted that the trial court on its own proceeded to substitute a new story of suicidal death, totally different from one propounded on behalf of the prosecution in this matter. 

Placing reliance on Bhagirath v. State of M.P., (1976) 1 SCC 20 and Sohrab v. State of M.P., (1972) 3 SCC 751, the Court observed: “It is to be born in mind that law does not permit such endeavour on the part of learned trial Court to reconstruct a new theory of its own from the residual part of evidence of prosecution and convict the accused on that basis.”

In such circumstances, the opinion of the Court was that it would be fallacious to fasten the guilt on the accused for offence under Section 306 IPC under the pretext of the suicidal death of the deceased. Resultantly, the conviction of the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 306 was set aside and quashed.

Also, considering the entire record, the High Court held that the conclusion drawn by the trial court about the cruelty meted out to the deceased were erroneous, imperfect and perverse. Therefore, the appellant’s conviction under Section 498-A IPC was also set aside. [Rekha v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 7218, decided on 19-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby it had acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 Penal Code, 1860.

The accused were the in-laws of the deceased. The complainant (father of the deceased)and harassed her due to the non-fulfilment of their demand. Further, it was alleged that subsequent to the harassment, the accused persons murder the deceased. However, during the trial, the charge of murder against the accused persons was altered to that of the abetment of suicide. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court acquitted all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the State approached the High Court in the instant appeal.

The High Court considered the findings of the trial court and held that the offence under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) was not established as the demand of money, such as alleged by the complainant, could not be proved by the prosecution.

Coming to the charge under Section 306 (abetment of suicide), the High Court, relying on Sanju v. State of M.P., (2002) 5 SCC 371, explained: “Here is the case of abetment by instigation. The word ‘instigate’ means to goad or urge or forward or to provoke, incite, or encourage to do an untoward act which that person would have otherwise not done. It is also well settled that in order to amount to abetment, there must be mens rea. 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. In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act. The word ‘instigate’ denotes incitement or urging to do some drastic or unadvisable action or to stimulate or incite. Presence of mens rea, therefore, is the necessary concomitant of instigation.”

It was noted that in the instant case, “There is no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that 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.”

The offence under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) was also held to be not proved. Therefore, the order of the trial court was upheld and the instant appeal was dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: K.N. Phaneendra, J. allowed the criminal petition filed under Section 438 of The Code for Criminal Procedure, 1973, seeking bail in the event of his arrest for the offence punishable under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’).

In the present case, the complainant’s father’s dead body was found near Byappanahalli Railway Bridge. Upon examination of the dead body, a piece of paper was found wherein the deceased had mentioned the people (including the petitioner) responsible for his death. It was stated in the complaint that some people owed a total sum of Rs 14, 00,000 to the deceased. A case for the offence punishable under Section 306 of IPC was registered by the police based on the above allegations.

The Court, upon perusal of the facts and evidences, opined that mere allegations in a note did not amount to substantial evidence to convict the petitioner, unless any overt act or any conduct of the petitioner proves so. Therefore, due to lack of concrete evidence, two out of the three petitioners were granted anticipatory bail upon certain conditions. [Noushad Ahmed v. State of Karnataka, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 2096, decided on 23-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: R. Narayana Pisharadi, J. allowed a petition filed by bank official praying for quashing proceedings initiated against him for abetting suicide of a student who had applied for an education loan to the bank where he was working, holding that there was no mens rea involved on his part.

In the present case, a student named Sruthi, from a financially backward family approached a bank several times for education loan. The bank rejected her applications for education loan and in despair, she committed suicide. Later, two bank officers (manager and the deputy manager of the bank) had to face prosecution for abetting her suicide by rejecting her application for loan and it was also stated by the father of the deceased that when the deceased was brought to the hospital she told him that she met the petitioner before the accident and the petitioner told her that if her loan was not sanctioned then she had no option other than dying. The brother (respondent) of the deceased gave the first information statement to the police and the case was registered under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). After investigation, a final report was filed by the police under Section 306 IPC read with Section 34 of IPC. The concerned Magistrate committed the case to the Court of Session. The petitioner approached this Court to quash all the proceedings in the instant case under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC).

Learned counsels on behalf of the petitioners, S. Sreekumar, P. Paulochan Antony, M.A. Mohammed Siraj, P. Martin Jose, P. Prijith and Thomas P. Kuruvill, submitted that even if allegations raised against the petitioner in the final report were true, no offence was committed under Section 306 IPC as there was no direct nexus between the rejection of the application of loan by the petitioner and the suicide committed by the deceased. There was no proximity of time between the alleged act committed and the act of the victim. Non-sanctioning of education loan by the petitioner to the deceased could not be considered as facilitation of commission of suicide on their part as there was no malicious intention or instigation. Further, according to the copy of norms, loan application had to be disposed of within fifteen days but the deceased committed suicide without even waiting for the fate of her loan application. Lastly, no material was produced by the prosecution to prove that the petitioner told the deceased to commit suicide

Learned counsel on behalf of the respondent S. Manu, and Public Prosecutor M.N. Maya, contented that allegations in the final report along with the materials produced by the prosecution showed that the petitioner had abetted the commission of suicide by the deceased.  

The Court opined that the prosecution had not made any prima facie case against the petitioner for committing an offence punishable under Section 306 IPC and continuance of the proceedings against the petitioners would be an abuse of process of the Court. The Court also observed that even according to the prosecution case, only when the deceased told the first petitioner that in case the loan was not sanctioned she would have no option other than to die, that the first petitioner told her to go and do so. Thus, the remark regarding death was initially made not by the first petitioner, but by the deceased. The fact that the first petitioner had retorted to the deceased in such a manner in such a situation, in a fit of anger or emotion or at the spur of the moment, did not lead to an inference that he had instigated the deceased to commit suicide. Reliance in this regard was placed on Pawan Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2017) 7 SCC 780. Thus, all proceedings against the petitioners were quashed.[Harikrishnan v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1767, decided on 10-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby charge under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC was framed against the petitioner.

Petitioner was married to the deceased who committed suicide on the very next day of their first marriage anniversary. FIR under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A was registered against the petitioner at the behest of the mother of the deceased. An alleged suicide note was found which was verified to be written in the handwriting of the deceased. The trial court discharged the petitioner of the offence under Section 306 holding that the said suicide note exonerated him as it states that the deceased was taking the steps voluntarily. However, it was found that the allegations levelled by the mother and brothers of the deceased that the petitioner maltreated the deceased and committed physical and mental cruelty were specific and therefore framed a charge under Section 498-A against him.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve contended that as the trial court found insufficient material to proceed under Section 306, on the same analogy, there was insufficient material to even frame a charge under Section 498-A.

Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 5 SCC 177 and Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, the High Court reiterated that charges under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC are independent of each other and acquittal of one does not lead to acquittal of the other. It was observed: “Though, there may be an overlap with regard to cruelty being meted out to the deceased in both the Sections, however, the degree of cruelty to constitute abetment under Section 306 IPC would be of higher than the degree of harassment and cruelty to constitute an offence under Section 498-A IPC. It cannot be held that because petitioner has been discharged of an offence under Section 306 IPC, it would automatically lead to a discharge of the offence under Section 498-A IPC.”

In the present case, it was found that there was sufficient material on record to give rise to grave suspicion against the petitioner for framing a charge under Section 498- IPC. Thus, finding no infirmity in the impugned order, the petition was accordingly dismissed.[Kaushal Kishore v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8713, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Bench of Arvind Singh Chandel, J., while addressing an instant revision being preferred against the charges framed under Sections 306 and 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 stated that, “The word “instigate” means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act.”

Factual matrix of the case is that, marriage between Applicant 1 (husband) and the deceased was solemnized on 06-12-2013 and on the intervening night, deceased committed suicide by consuming some poisonous substance. Allegations against the applicants (Applicant 1-Husband, Applicant 2 & 4- Elder brother and Sister-in-Law of Applicant 1 and Applicant 3-Mother-in-Law) were that they were harassing deceased physically and mentally. Trial Court had framed charges under Section 306 and 201/ read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 against the applicants.

S.C. Verma and Harshvardhan Parganiha, Advocates representing the applicants submitted that the Additional Sessions Judge committed manifest illegality in framing charges against the applicants. As per the prosecution story, deceased committed suicide due to excess sexual act by her husband with her and there was an illicit relationship of Applicant 1 with Applicant 4. On the basis of the stated facts no offence is made out under Sections 306 and 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Sangharsh Pandey, Deputy Government Advocate, submitted that there is sufficient material available for presuming that applicants have committed the offence and there is no illegality on the impugned order.

The Court on considering the facts and circumstances of the case, stated that “for making liable for an offence punishable under Section 306 of Penal Code, 1860 it is the duty of prosecution to establish that such person has committed “abetment of suicide”, it is necessary for the determination of the act of the accused to see that his act falls under any of the three ingredients mentioned under Section 107 of Penal Code, 1860.

Reference was made to several decisions of the Supreme Court in, Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, Gangula Mohan Reddy v. State of A.P., (2010) 1 SCC 750; in which it was stated that “Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing.”

Therefore, the High Court while concluding its decision stated that the spot map shows that the deceased was living separately along with her husband/Applicant 1 in a room situated on the first floor of her matrimonial house, which negates the allegation of her not being allowed to talk at her maternal house without the phone on being speaker. Along with the stated the other allegations against the applicant also if considered for the sake of arguments to be true, they do not stand to be covered under the word “instigation” as defined under Section 107 of Penal Code, 1860.

The revision was allowed by the High Court and accordingly on no material being available for framing of charge against the applicant they were discharged from the charges. [Devanand Chandwani v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 19, Order dated 01-03-2019]

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: 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]