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: In a case where a 14-year-old had committed suicide after his PTI Teacher had allegedly “harassed and insulted him in the presence of everyone”, the bench of SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari*, JJ has held that the suicide note suggested that it was a rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind and that it was the hypersensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extraordinary step. The Court said that the action of the teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide.

The Court explained that,

“A simple act of reprimand of a student for his behaviour or indiscipline by a teacher, who is under moral obligations to inculcate the good qualities of a human being in a student would definitely not amount to instigation or intentionally aid to the commission of a suicide by a student.”

What was the case about?

  • The FIR Stated that the boy, a class 9 student, was under deep mental pressure because the appellant (the GEO, PTI Sir) had harassed and insulted him in the presence of everyone and he was not willing to go to school on 25.04.2018 but was persuaded to go to school by his parents.
  • The boy was informed that the parents have been called to school next day and this brought him under further severe pressure and tension.
  • In the FIR and as also the statement of the complainant recorded by the police, no reasons or cause for the appellant to harass and insult the victim were spelled out nor there are any details with respect to any action on the part of the appellant by which the deceased boy might have felt being harassed and insulted.
  • The PT Teacher, apart from imparting Physical Training to the students, was also charged with the duty of maintaining discipline in the school which included keeping a watch upon students and oversee that they are attending the classes instead of bunking the same and moving around in the school premises without permission.
  • It was alleged that the boy generally used to bunk his classes and was warned by the appellant and other school staff a number of times.
  • On 14 19.04.2018, he was caught by the appellant bunking classes and moving around the school campus without any cause or permission and a warning was given to him.
  • On 25.04.2018, he was caught bunking classes and again the appellant issued him a warning and on account of persistent act of bunking classes, reported the same to the Principal of the School, who informed the parents of the boy to come to the school.
  • The boy committed suicide on 26.04.2018.

What did the Supreme Court say?

Abetment of suicide

What is required to constitute an alleged abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC is there must be an allegation of either direct or indirect act of incitement to the commission of offence of suicide and mere allegations of harassment of the deceased by another person would not be sufficient in itself, unless, there are allegations of such actions on the part of the accused which compelled the commission of suicide.

Further, if the person committing suicide is hypersensitive and the allegations attributed to the accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly situated person to take the extreme step of committing suicide, it would be unsafe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide. Thus, what is required is an examination of every case on its own facts and circumstances and keeping in consideration the surrounding circumstances as well, which may have bearing on the alleged action of the accused and the psyche of the deceased.

Can reprimand by teacher amount to abetment of suicide?

The disciplinary measures adopted by a teacher or other authorities of a school, reprimanding a student for his indiscipline would not tantamount to provoking a student to commit suicide, unless there are repeated specific allegations of harassment and insult deliberately without any justifiable cause or reason.

“‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ an old saying may have lost its relevance in present days and Corporal punishment to the child is not recognised by law but that does not mean that a teacher or school authorities have to shut their eyes to any indiscipline act of a student. It is not only a moral duty of a teacher but one of the legally assigned duty under Section 24 (e) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to hold regular meetings with the parents and guardians and apprise them about the regularity in attendance, ability to learn, progress made in learning and any other act or relevant information about the child.”

Hence, if, a student is simply reprimanded by a teacher for an act of indiscipline and bringing the continued act of indiscipline to the notice of Principal of the institution who conveyed to the parents of the student for the purposes of school discipline and correcting a child, any student who is very emotional or sentimental commits suicide, the said teacher cannot be held liable for the same and charged and tried for the offence of abetment of suicide under section 306 IPC.

Absence of any specific allegation or material on record

  • In the absence of any material on record even, prima-facie, in the FIR or statement of the complainant, pointing out any such circumstances showing any such act or intention that he intended to bring about the suicide of his student, it would be absurd to even think that the appellant had any intention to place the deceased in such circumstances that there was no option available to him except to commit suicide.
  • In the absence of any specific allegation and material of definite nature, not imaginary or inferential one, it would be travesty of justice, to ask the appellant-accused to face the trial. A criminal trial is not exactly a pleasant experience and the appellant who is a teacher would certainly suffer great prejudice, if he has to face prosecution on absurd allegations of irrelevant nature.

Rhetoric Suicide note

It was a note consisting of three pages with following written on each separate paper :-

01st page – ‘MY ALL THINGS GOES TO MY DEAR BRO KAIRN EVEN MY LOVE BYE BUDDY & SORRY’

02nd page – ‘NEEDED JUSTICE’

03rd page – ‘THANKS GEO (PTI) OF MY SCHOOL’

The Court noticed that the suicide note was rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind.

“A reading of the same also suggests the hypersensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extraordinary step, as the alleged reprimand by the accused, who was his teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide.”

[Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan,  2021 SCC OnLine SC 873, decided on 05.10.2021]

____________________________________________________________________________________

Counsels:

For appellant: Advocate Abhishek Gupta

For respondents: Advocates Dr. Manish Singhvi and Aditya Kumar Chaudhary


*Judgment by: Justice Krishna Murari

Know Thy Judge| Justice Krishna Murari

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J. expressed that,

Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing.

Crux of the matter

Genesis of the case was in the transaction entered into between the petitioner and the deceased with respect to purchase of a vintage motorcycle; and in relation to which the petitioner on instructions of the deceased transferred a sum of USD 4,650 in the account of one Narender Verma, who acknowledged the receipt of the amount vide an email stating that he would be sending the bank transfer receipt.

Petitioner had submitted that even after the entire consideration been paid in the year 2012, the vintage motorcycle was never delivered.

Complainant’s case was that the delivery of the subject motorcycle had been made in the year 2012 itself, the petitioner had lodged a false complaint against the deceased for harassment solely for the purpose of getting his other motorcycles serviced by him free of cost.

Further, he stated that the delivery was made in the year 2012 to the petitioner’s authorized person but the requisite transfer documents were promised to be executed once he came to India.

Issue for Consideration

Whether issuance of a legal notice and filing of complaint case by the petitioner would amount to ‘abetment’ punishable under Section 306 of Penal Code, 1860?

Analysis, Law and Decision

 A person abets the doing of a thing if he firstly, instigates any person to do that thing; or secondly, engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or thirdly, intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.

 In the Supreme Court decision of Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2017) 1 SCC 433, Court observed that:

“21. It is thus manifest that the offence punishable is one of abetment of the commission of suicide by any person, predicating existence of a live link or nexus between the two, abetment being the propelling causative factor. The basic ingredients of this provision are suicidal death and the abetment thereof. To constitute abetment, the intention and involvement of the accused to aid or instigate the commission of suicide is imperative. Any severance or absence of any of these constituents would militate against this indictment. Remoteness of the culpable acts or omissions rooted in the intention of the accused to actualize the suicide would fall short as well of the offence of abetment essential to attract the punitive mandate of Section 306 IPC. Contiguity, continuity, culpability and complicity of the indictable acts or omission are the concomitant indices of abetment. Section 306 IPC, thus criminalizes the sustained incitement for suicide.”

It’s pertinent that the petitioner did an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option.

It is significant that the petitioner had the mens rea to commit the offence.

In M. Arjunan v. State, (2019) 3 SCC 315, the Supreme Court elucidated the essential ingredients of the offence under Section 306 IPC.

Recently, the Supreme Court in Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2020) 10 SCC 200, reiterated the exposition of law relating to the offence of abetment.

In the present matter, complainant (wife of the deceased) filed a criminal complaint under Section 156 (3) CrPC.

Petitioner with a view to harass the deceased had issued the legal notice and filed the criminal complaint so that the deceased would repair his other two motorcycles free of cost. It is stated that the deceased was harassed and mentally tortured by the police officers on the complaint lodged by the petitioner.

Deceased had told the complainant that he was called to the police station where he was made to sit on his knees for long period and was tortured/harassed. Deceased repeatedly tried to contact the petitioner on his phone but he avoided the phone calls.

Suicide note ran into 3 pages and on each page, the deceased had mentioned the date as 28-11-2014 and also appended his signatures but the whole suicide note was completed on a later date and on the said note he stated that he was mentally disturbed.

High Court stated that deceased had felt harassed, but the act of petitioner could not be held to have abetted the deceased in committing suicide.

Adding to the above, Bench stated that the filing of a criminal complaint by the petitioner was his legal recourse, as advised to him and the transaction between the petitioner and the deceased relating to purchase of a vintage motorcycle was an admitted fact. Whether the motorcycle was delivered to the petitioner or not, would have been established after inquiry, it cannot be said that by filing a criminal complaint against the deceased, petitioner had the mens rea to instigate or goad the deceased to commit suicide and further was left with no option but to commit suicide.

Conclusion

High Court held that neither any live link nor any proximity between the acts of petitioner and act of committing suicide by deceased was discernible.

In view of the above petition was disposed of. [Atul Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4107, decided on 23-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Sarojanand Jha, Suraj Malik and Megha Shawani, Advocates

For the Respondents: Neelam Sharma, APP for State with SI Sushil Sanwaria, DIU, Central Distt.

Amarjeet Singh Sahni, Advocate for R-2 with R-2 in person.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A.S. Supehia, J., addressed a bail application revolving around a matter concerning a 20-page suicide note.

Instant application was filed to seek bail in connection with FIR for the offences punishable under Sections 306, 465, 477, 120B and 114 of the Penal Code, 1860.

It was submitted that First Informant was a follower of Khodiyar Dham Ashram and the same was being run by Jayramdas Bapu. It was alleged that on 01-06-2021 he received a call that something happened to Jayramdas Bapu and on reaching the ashram it was noticed that he passed away.

It was alleged that a suicide note by Jayramdas Bapu was found from his room containing 20 pages in which deceased named three accused. It was stated in the note that the accused people caused mental and physical torture to bapu and had recorded the videos of bapu in compromising conditions with some ladies due to which bapu committed suicide.

Further, it was alleged that the death certificate certifying that the deceased passed away of natural death i.e. cardiac arrest with incorrect time of death issued by one Dr Kamlesh Kareliya of Dev Covid Care Center, was in fact issued at the behest of the applicant.

The role, which is sought to be alleged and played by the applicant, is that when he examined the dead body of the deceased, the applicant being a doctor, did not prescribe for the postmortem of the deceased and by issuing such certificate, he had tried to save or shield the main accused.

High Court while granting the bail to the applicant considered following:

(a) The role attributed to the applicants;

(b) The applicant is not named in the F.I.R.;

(c) The applicant is a doctor, who was treating the deceased since last several years;

(d) Prima facie, the F.I.R. reveals that there is no monetary ill-gain by the applicant;

(e) Prima facie, the ingredients of Sections 306, 107 as well as 465 of the IPC are not established in the case of the applicant;

(f) The suicide note, which is left by the deceased does not implicate the applicant in any manner and there are no allegations leveled against the applicant in this regard in the F.I.R.;

(g) Considering the facts of the case, the custodial interrogation of the applicant at this stage is not necessary.

Bench relied upon the following Supreme Court cases:

Sushila Aggarwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2020) 5 SCC 1 and

Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre v. State of Maharashtra, (2011) 1 SCC 694

In view of the above, the present application was allowed.[Nilesh Gopalbhai Nimavat v. State of Gujarat, 2021 SCC OnLine Guj 1056, decided on 16-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

MR YOGESH LAKHANI, SENIOR ADVOCATE WITH MR APURVA R KAPADIA(5012) for the Applicant(s) No. 1

MR MITESH AMIN, PUBLIC PROSECUTOR WITH MR HIMANSHU K PATEL, APP for the Respondent(s) No. 1

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where withing a couple of days of the alleged dowry death of a doctor in Agra, a suicide note was leaked to the newspapers of the city, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ has said that selective disclosures to the media affect the rights of the accused in some cases and the rights of victims families in others.

“The media does have a legitimate stake in fair reporting. But events such as what has happened in this case show how the selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice.”

Background

The deceased, a doctor by profession, married the accused, also a doctor, in 2014. Over Rs.1.50 crores were spent by the deceased’s father for conducting the marriage. It was alleged that even thereafter, deceased’s husband, his parents, brother-in-law and sister-in-law misbehaved with the deceased on account of dowry. Deceased’s father alleges to have paid money on several occasions by cheque to her in-laws. Also, she was severely assaulted in 2017. In the meantime, the deceased suffered miscarriages on two occasions and ultimately, adopted a daughter. The FIR states,

“… dowry greedy people killed Dipti in [xxx] for non-receipt of dowry and non-fulfilment of the demands, and admitted Dipti in their hospital itself in the almost dead condition, in order to save themselves, but she was not allowed any treatment with the intention of killing her. In order to save the life of Dipti, the applicant took her away to the Sarvodaya hospital Faridabad for treatment, at the earlies.” (sic)

While the Sessions Judge denied anticipatory bail on 21 August 2020, the single judge of Allahabad High Court held that

(a) the FIR prima facie appears to be engineered to implicate the applicants;

(b) there is no corelation in between the various allegations leveled in the FIR; and

(c) the allegations “are general in nature” with no specific role being assigned to the accused.

Analysis

On FIR being “engineered” to implicate the spouse of the deceased and his family

Finding the judgment of the Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad unsustainable, the Court held that the FIR contained a recital of allegations bearing on the role of the accused in demanding dowry, of the prior incidents of assault and the payment of moneys by cheque to the in-laws of the deceased. It aslo referred to the telephone calls which were received both from the father-in-law of the deceased on the morning of 3 August 2020 and from the deceased on two occasions on the same day- a few hours before her body was found.

“The grant of anticipatory bail in such a serious offence would operate to obstruct the investigation. The FIR by a father who has suffered the death of his daughter in these circumstances cannot be regarded as “engineered” to falsely implicate the spouse of the deceased and his family.”

On publicity of the alleged suicide by media

“This is not fair to the accused because it pulls the rug below the presumption of innocence. It is not fair to the victims of crime, if they have survived the crime, and where they have not, to their families.”

The investigating officer has a duty to investigate when information about the commission of a cognizable offence is brought to their attention. Unfortunately, this role is being compromised by the manner in which selective leaks take place in the public realm. Neither the victims nor their families have a platform to answer the publication of lurid details about their lives and circumstances.

“The daughter of the appellant had died in mysterious circumstances. The family had completed the last rites. To expect that they should be scouring the pages of the print and electronic media before reporting the crime is a mockery of the human condition.”

Further, the apprehension of the appellant that the deceased’s husband and his family have a prominent social status in Agra and may have used their position in society to thwart a proper investigation cannot be regarded to be unjustified.

On transfer of investigation to CBI

“The investigation by the UP Police in the present case leaves much to be desired.”

The Court said that it would be a travesty if it were to ignore the glaring deficiencies in the investigation conducted so far. Further,

“The status of the accused as propertied and wealthy persons of influence in Agra and the conduct of the investigation thus far diminishes this Court’s faith in directing a further investigation by the same authorities. The cause of justice would not be served if the Court were to confine the scope of its examination to the wisdom of granting anticipatory bail and ignore the possibility of a trial being concluded on the basis of a deficient investigation at best or a biased one at worst.”

Hence, it is necessary to entrust a further investigation of the case to the CBI in exercise of the powers of this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Directions

(i) The order passed by the Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad allowing the applications for anticipatory bail by the respondents-accused set aside and the bail granted to them stands cancelled; and

(ii) The CBI is directed to conduct a further investigation in the matter.

[Dr. Naresh Kumar Mangla v. Anita Agarwal,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 1031, decided on 17.12.2020]

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]