Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Rajnish Bhatnagar, J., while addressing petition in regard to matrimonial discord resulting into husband committing suicide held that,

“…deceased/husband appears to be a weak character who was not in a position to face the ups and downs of life and he adopted the short cut method in order to bring an end to his agony and worldly affairs.”

On the rise of matrimonial disputes between the husband and wife i.e. deceased and petitioner/accused, respectively, petitioner left and started residing with her parents at Sikkim.

Allegations such as — gold jewellery and cash all worth 18 Lakhs was taken by the petitioner which actually belonged to the deceased.

After the said allegations were made, a complaint was filed by the police and deceased filed two cases including a petition under Section 9 of Hindu Marriage Act for Restitution of Conjugal Right.

Deceased suffered with stress and depression due to the pertaining circumstances and faced continuous threats from the petitioner resulting into committing suicide.

Deceased left a suicide note stating that the petitioner and his family members were responsible for his death.

Ramesh Gupta, Senior Counsel, for the petitioner submitted that there was no direct and proximate link between cruelties allegedly inflicted by the petitioner.

The alleged Gold Jewellery was petitioner’s Stridhan and all the other allegations are vague and false.

“…court should not act as a mouthpiece of the prosecution.”

Further, the Senior Counsel adding the following to his submissions:

Court has undoubted power to sift and weigh the evidence for finding out whether or not a prima facie case is made out against the accused.

He further urged that for the invocation of Section 306 of Penal Code, 1860, ingredients of Section 107 of the IPC have to be satisfied and it has to be established that there was instigation, provocation, incitement, or encouragement from the side of the petitioner to the deceased who committed the act of such a desperate nature.

It is further urged that the deceased was of hypersensitive nature, who failed to cope up with the hardships of life.

Analysis and Decision of the Court

Scope of this Court

At the time of framing of charge, the Court is not supposed to look into the evidence of the case in detail and is only to consider whether there is a strong suspicion against the accused on the basis of the material that comes before it. The court has the power to sift the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out, whether or not a prima facie case is made out against the accused.

However, the Court is not supposed to delve deeply into the merits of the matter and start a roving expedition into the evidence.

There is no one fixed definition that may be ascribed to the term prima facie’ nor can the term strong suspicion have a singular meaning.

Trial Court charged the petitioner for the offence under Section 306 IPC for abetting the murder of her husband.

What did the suicide note contained?

“…I am unable to face the present circumstances for which my wife Reena Prasad is responsible. Due to her false allegations against me, I am committing suicide. I wish that after my death, my dead body be handed over to my in laws. I love my wife very much but she loves money.”

“… I do not have enough means to fight court cases against Reena. Whatever cases she has filed against me are all false.”

“… I can not think clearly ever since my wife has left me. It is my desire that after my death, the money which has been taken away by my wife be utilized to pay my debts.”

Bench on perusal of the facts and the suicide note placed stated that the ingredients of abetment are totally absent in the instant case for an offence under Section 306 IPC.

Taking the totality of material on record, tone and tenor of the suicide note and facts and circumstances of this case into consideration, it leads to the irresistible conclusion that it is the deceased and he alone and none else is responsible for his death.

Deceased appeared to be hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide.

In High Court’s opinion, Trial Court had failed to apply the law properly to the facts of the present case and committed an error in reading the suicide note which is shorn of ingredients of Section 306 IPC.

Reading of the suicide note clearly shows that the petitioner at no point of time instigated, goaded, incited and encouraged the deceased with such an intention that he should commit suicide.

Thus High Court found trial court’s Order to be of complete non application of the law in the right perspective and allowed the present revision petition. [Reena v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 630  , decided on 08-06-2020]

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: Brijesh Sethi, J. rejected a bail application filed under Section 348 read with Section 482 CrPC, in a very shocking and nerve-wracking incident and held that,

“Child of tender age should be handled very carefully and he/she needs to be protected from every kind of hurt whether physical or mental.”

The instant matter pertains to the fact that ‘X’ was the only daughter of the complainant who was studying in Class VII. Daughter of the complainant had been asking the complainant to change her school for last three months for which the complainant had asked her the reason and ‘X’ stated that “the atmosphere in the school is not good”, Complainant assured her daughter that she would change her school soon after the session ends.

On 30-11-2018, the daughter of the complainant came weeping from school and in the evening told the complainant that she will not go to school the next day, therefore she stayed home on 1-12-2018. Complainant being an Advocate by profession went to the Court around 1 p.m. on that day and asked ‘X’ to take help from her grandmother who lived nearby.

In the evening of the same day, as stated above, Complainant came early from work and knocked on the door repeatedly but the same was not opened after which she took the help of her neighbours and saw that her daughter (‘X’) was hanging with the ceiling fan.

In the above view of facts, Investigation Officer recorded the complainant’s statement. Case of the prosecution is that, at the time when the dead body was being moved, the doctor at the hospital noticed something written by pen on both hands and palms of the deceased. Following was written on one palm of the deceased:

“meri maut ki khabar school tak jarur pahuchana”.

Some persons and children from the neighbourhood told the petitioner that her daughter was being abused and tortured by class teacher Arti Singh and Biology Teacher Ritika. The daughter of the complainant was found running to the toilet to commit suicide but was stopped by classmates. She had said goodbye to all and also told that she would not come to this school again and she would commit suicide at home. These facts were told to the complainant by classmates of her daughter and neighbourhood children.

At the place of suicide, one notebook was also found lying on the bed which contained a suicide note and the same runs as follows:-

“Vo teachers app ko ja bhi Bola di vo sab jhute ha, mujhe pata ha app sab unki hi batt mano ja, that is why am committing sueside, please rona mat pls bye. That is why maa ajj school nahi gauya buye, mujha 6 class ka batcho na fasaya ha, ya mari pouri class to pata ha, because of my class teacher Arti Ma’am and Ritika Ma’am, bye I love you all last time for me 3:30 bye”

“Mummy and Nani I hate tears bye app jasi family har kisiko mila, mummy rona mat or nahi ko bhi mat rona dena app donoka eyes ma asu acha nahi lagaga, bye mummy bye bye nani I am going to die bye”

Apart from the above suicide note, some words were also written on right and left palms and left hand of the deceased which are as follows:-

On the right palm, the following sentence was written:-

“I love U Mummy and Nani”

On the left hand, the following sentence was written:-

“Jai Shri Krishna I am coming, Last 4:00 Bye”

On the left palm, following words were written:-

“mara suside ki khabar school tak zarur pahuchana, bye word.”

Counsel for the petitioner, Rashid Azam, submitted that the complainant has concocted a false story to falsely implicate the petitioner. The only thing, the petitioner can remember is that one of the students from her class namely Parth Uttam has been in a lot of indulgence with the deceased child to which the applicant had scolded Parth Uttam to concentrate on his studies.

He further submitted that, the act of abetment of suicide cannot be read in isolation and has to be read with Section 107 of Penal Code, 1860 which carries the wisdom to distinguish what constitutes instigation and what does not. It is further submitted that the suicide note was planted later on by the complainant in order to implicate the petitioner.

Neelam Sharma, APP for the State, submitted that, photographs and suicide note of deceased clearly indicate that the school teachers particularly the petitioner abetted in committing suicide by the deceased. Deceased has categorically mentioned the name of the petitioner in the suicide note and there is no reason to disbelieve the version of the deceased it being a dying declaration. In order to elicit the truth, custodial interrogation of the petitioner would be necessary.

Decision of the Court

On careful perusal of the suicide note, photographs pertaining to the words written on the right and left palms and left hand of the deceased child and statement of witnesses recorded under Section 161 CrPC, the bench dismissed the anticipatory bail application.

Court noted that, deceased child specifically mentioned the words in her suicide note “because of my class teacher Arti Ma’am and Ritika Ma’am”. This clearly indicates that something wrong must have happened with the deceased in the school/class.

Mental condition of the deceased child and her frustration due to the behaviour of the teachers can also be judged from the message wherein she has written that “mara suside ki khabar school tak zarur pahuchana, bye word”.

The material recorded, prima facie reveals that the deceased was compelled to take such a drastic step because of deep mental pain/ hurt caused by the alleged misbehaviour and hostile treatment extended to the deceased by the petitioner. It is highly improbable that a child of tender age would implicate her teacher falsely and without any reason.

In the opinion of the Court prima facie, there are serious and direct allegations of abetment of suicide against the petitioner which are difficult to ignore.

Thus, keeping in mind the nature of offence, statement of witnesses appearing on record and particularly, the apprehension expressed by the State about the likelihood of the witnesses being influenced and evidence being tampered with, this Court is not inclined to grant anticipatory bail to the petitioner. [Ritika v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10573, decided on 16-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sunil Gaur, J., dismissed a set of petitions filed by the husband and in-laws of the deceased impugning the order whereby they were put on trial for the offence inter alia under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC.

As per the prosecution, the deceased had made a call to Police Control Room regarding she being beaten by her in-laws. When the police reached her house, she said that she would make a complaint to the Crime Against Women Cell on the next day. Next day, when the police again reached the spot, they found broken bangles and blood on the floor. The TV was switched on with full volume. The petitioners were absconding. the deceased was found hanging from the ceiling fan.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra assailed the impugned order and drew the Court’s attention to the alleged suicide note. It was pointed out that the deceased’s father had affirmed that the note was in the handwriting of the deceased. It was submitted that it was a case of suicide and there was no basis to frame a charge of murder.

The High Court was of the opinion, “No doubt, it is recorded in the post-mortem report that the cause of death, in this case, was asphyxia due to ante mortem hanging and the suicide note is in the handwriting of deceased, but this by itself cannot rule out the possibility of murder being committed by petitioners. It is so said because the suicide note is undated and the aspect of ante-mortem hanging cannot be considered in abstract…”

Noting that at the initial stage, only prima facie opinion is to be formed, the Court stated, “Whether death of deceased was homicidal or suicidal is an aspect which cannot be pre-judged at this initial stage. In any case, the presence of lividity over the back and other areas prima facie justifies framing of charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC.”

In such view of the matter, the Court found no merit in the petitions and therefore the same were dismissed. [Sukhbir Kataria v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7603, Order dated 12-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The Bench of S.H. Vora, J., allowed an appeal made for granting of bail.

The facts of the case are that the appellant was booked for offences committed under Sections 306, 385 and 114 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3(2), 5(a) and 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The Sessions Judge had rejected the application moved for bail in reference to this. Present appeal was filed under Section 14-A(2) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The Court, considering the fact that the complaint filed by the complainant did not disclose any role against the appellant, the suicide note was silent and the FIR was registered after 27 days of delay, allowed the current appeal and the appellant was ordered to be released on bail. [Chintan Kaushikbhai Patel v. State Of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 23, Order dated 10-01-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of Uday U. Lalit and Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the judgment of Bombay High Court whereby it had quashed criminal proceedings instituted against the respondent.

According to the FIR for offence under Section 306 IPC, the daughter and son-in-law of the appellant were teachers in a village Zila Parishad School where the respondent was also a teacher. He used to call appellant’s daughter on mobile and harass her. Despite efforts of his son-in-law, the respondent continued to call and harass the appellant’s daughter. There was a verbal altercation between his son-in-law and the respondent after which the son-in-law committed suicide leaving behind a suicide note naming the respondent. The respondent approached the High Court under Section 482 CrPC seeking quashing of the FIR. Observing that prima facie the respondent did not have the intention to aid or instigate the deceased to commit suicide, the High Court quashed the FIR. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the present appeal by special leave.

The Supreme Court noted that there were definite allegations against the respondent which were supported by statement of witnesses as well as the suicide note written by the deceased. The Court was of the opinion that the High Court was not justified in entering into question whether the respondent had requisite intent to aid, instigate or abate the commission of suicide at the stage where the investigation was yet to be completed. The Court found merit in submissions of the appellant and set aside the judgment impugned. The appeal was allowed and the authorities concerned were directed to complete the investigation.[Narayan Malhari Thorat v. Vinayak Deorao Bhagat,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2571, decided on 28-11-2018]