Search
  • LLC

Guest post by Adv. Ashwani Verma - on section 306

Law On Abetment of Suicide u/s 306 IPC :


Ude Singh vs State Of Haryana : 2019 : SC.


In this case hon'ble SC summarises the law on abetment to suicide


The case of prosecution in the present matter has been that the accused persons, Hem Karan alias Hemla, Ude Singh, Manoj and Daulat Ram, were taunting the unmarried daughter (the deceased girl) of the complainant by addressing her as "wife", "Chachi" (aunt) and "Bohoria" (younger brother's wife); and the deceased girl had been complaining to her family about the indecent behaviour of the accused.

It was alleged that on 15.04.1996, when the wife of complainant and other witnesses returned to the village after completing their evidence in the criminal case against Hem Karan and Ude Singh, Hem Karan caught hold of the daughter of the complainant; dragged her into his house; pushed her; and verbally abused her and her family members.

On returning home, daughter of the complainant narrated this incident to her mother and stated that she was unable to tolerate such continuous insults. It was also alleged that on the advice of village elders, no report of this incident was made, as it concerned the future and honour of an unmarried girl; however, the accused persons continued to taunt the girl on daily basis and, at all the times, the girl was only advised by her family to keep quiet. 2.3. It was further alleged that on 05.05.1996, on sighting the daughter of the complainant, who was returning after throwing garbage, Ude Singh said, "see my Bohoria is coming"; Daulat Ram and Manoj said, "she is our Chachi"; and Hem Karan alias Hemla exclaimed, "she is my wife". Having heard all these taunts, daughter of the complainant became very upset and entered into altercation with the men.

This incident was allegedly witnessed by Jai Narain (PW-2). The victim girl once again complained to her mother and the complainant's elder brother Raj Kumar about the incident and while crying, stated that she had no right to live and would end her life as and when she would get the opportunity to do so. Upon hearing this, the wife and the elder brother of the complainant tried to pacify the girl and also told her that they would inform the complainant (who was posted as Head Constable at Police Station Beri, District Rohtak).

They also advised her not to be troubled by such taunts as the prestige of the family was in her hands and she was to be married soon. However, the very next day, i.e., on 06.05.1996 at about 9:00 a.m., daughter of the complainant was found dead, hanging by her neck. Her mother was the first to see her dead. The complainant, who was on duty, was informed through his nephew about his daughter's demise.


Decision

The offence of abetment of suicide is specified in Section 306 IPC as under :

"306. Abetment of suicide.- 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."

"107. Abetment of a thing.- A person abets the doing of a thing, who First. – 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.

Explanation 1. – A person who, by wilful misrepresentation, or by wilful concealment of a material fact which he is bound to disclose, voluntarily causes or procures, or attempts to cause or procure, a thing to be done, is said to instigate the doing of that thing. Explanation 2. – Whoever, either prior to or at the time of the commission of an act, does anything in order to facilitate the commission of that act, and thereby facilitate the commission thereof, is said to aid the doing of that act."

"509. Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. – Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine."


The Supreme Court has observed that if the accused is found to have played in an active role in tarnishing the self-esteem and self-respect of the victim, which eventually draws the victim to commit suicide, he can be held guilty of abetment of suicide.


The court made some general observations about the offence of 'abetment of suicide' and the ingredients of the offence under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.


In cases of alleged abetment of suicide, there must be a proof of direct or indirect act/s of incitement to the commission of suicide. It could hardly be disputed that the question of cause of a suicide, particularly in the context of an offence of abetment of suicide, remains a vexed one, involving multifaceted and complex attributes of human behaviour and responses/reactions. In the case of accusation for abetment of suicide, the Court would be looking for cogent and convincing proof of the act/s of incitement to the commission of suicide.

In the case of suicide, mere allegation of harassment of the deceased by another person would not suffice unless there be such action on the part of the accused which compels the person to commit suicide; and such an offending action ought to be proximate to the time of occurrence. Whether a person has abetted in the commission of suicide by another or not, could only be gathered from the facts and circumstances of each case.

For the purpose of finding out if a person has abetted commission of suicide by another, the consideration would be if the accused is guilty of the act of instigation of the act of suicide. As explained and reiterated by this Court in the decisions above-referred, instigation means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act.

If the persons who committed suicide had been hypersensitive and the action of accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly circumstanced person to commit suicide, it may not be safe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide

If the accused by his acts and by his continuous course of conduct creates a situation which leads the deceased perceiving no other option except to commit suicide, the case may fall within the four-corners of Section 306 IPC.

If the accused plays an active role in tarnishing the self-esteem and self-respect of the victim, which eventually draws the victim to commit suicide, the accused may be held guilty of abetment of suicide.


The question of mens rea on the part of the accused in such cases would be examined with reference to the actual acts and deeds of the accused and if the acts and deeds are only of such nature where the accused intended nothing more than harassment or snap show of anger, a particular case may fall short of the offence of abetment of suicide.

However, if the accused kept on irritating or annoying the deceased by words or deeds until the deceased reacted or was provoked, a particular case may be that of abetment of suicide. Such being the matter of delicate analysis of human behaviour, each case is required to be examined on its own facts, while taking note of all the surrounding factors having bearing on the actions and psyche of the accused and the deceased.

Human mind could be affected and could react in myriad ways; and impact of one's action on the mind of another carries several imponderables. Similar actions are dealt with differently by different persons; and so far a particular person's reaction to any other human's action is concerned, there is no specific theorem or yardstick to estimate or assess the same.

Even in regard to the factors related with the question of harassment of a girl, many factors are to be considered like age, personality, upbringing, rural or urban set ups, education etc. Even the response to the ill-action of eve-teasing and its impact on a young girl could also vary for a variety of factors, including those of background, self-confidence and upbringing. Hence, each case is required to be dealt with on its own facts and circumstances.


Examining the facts of the case, the bench concluded that the accused persons had intentionally, with their incessant acts and utterances, goaded the victim girl to commit suicide. The present case indeed represents a sordid state of affairs in relation to the young girl in the rural setting, whose honour and self-esteem got brutally violated by none other but her own relatives, who found her to be the soft-target to settle their scores with her parents, the bench added.


The Court also ref the following cases :


Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh: (2001) 9 SCC 618, a three-Judge bench of this Court held that

The ingredients of Section 306 IPC were not satisfactorily proved so as to implicate and punish the accused for the same.

The facts of the case leading to the aforementioned decision had been that the deceased was married to the accused for about a year. The deceased committed suicide by pouring kerosene and setting herself on fire in the kitchen. On the day of incident, the accused had refused to take the deceased to her sister's house and in the quarrel that ensued, the accused-husband told the deceased-wife that she was free to do whatever she wished to and to go wherever she wanted to. The accused attempted to save her by putting a bedsheet around her body and himself suffered burns consequently. The deceased had written a letter to her husband-accused in her diary that he had made her free to go wherever she liked but she was not having any place to go and now she was free of her word not to commit suicide. In her dying declaration too, she stated that she had a quarrel with her husband who told her to go wherever she wanted to and thereafter, she set herself ablaze. The accused-appellant was convicted by the Trial Court for the offences under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC and his conviction was upheld by the High Court.

In further appeal, after examining the evidence led in by the parties and taking note of all the surrounding factors, this Court, while maintaining the conviction of the appellant under Section 498-A IPC, set aside his conviction for offence under Section 306. This Court observed and held inter alia, as under :

Presumably the accused may have said some such thing – you are free to do whatever you wish and go wherever you like. The deceased being a pious Hindu wife felt that having being given in marriage by her parents to her husband, she had no other place to go excepting the house of her husband and if the husband had "freed" her she thought impulsively that the only thing which she could do was to kill herself, die peacefully and thus free herself according to her understanding of the husband's wish.

Can this be called an abetment of suicide ? Unfortunately, the trial court misspelt out the meaning of the expression attributed by the deceased to her husband as suggesting that the accused had made her free to commit suicide. Making the deceased free – to go wherever she liked and to do whatever she wished, does not and cannot mean even by stretching that the accused had made the deceased free "to commit suicide" as held by the trial court and upheld by the High Court. 20. Instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do "an act".

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. The present one is not a case 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 an instigation may have been inferred.

A word uttered in the fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow cannot be said to be instigation.


In State of W.B. v. Orilal Jaiswal [(1994) 1 SCC 73] , this Court has cautioned that the court should be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case and the evidence adduced in the trial for the purpose of finding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim had in fact induced her to end the life by committing suicide.

If it transpires to the Court that a victim committing suicide was 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, the conscience of the Court should not be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide should be found guilty."


In Pawan Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh: (2017) 7 SCC 780 : 3 Judges the allegation against the accused was that as he had eloped with the deceased girl, he thought that she was responsible for the criminal proceedings against him by her family and hence, subjected her to abject teasing despite she standing with him and having him acquitted of the offences imputed.

On one occasion, while the deceased was staying at her parent's home, he threatened to kidnap her and this led to her pouring kerosene over herself and setting herself ablaze. In her dying declaration, she wrote a letter narrating that the accused was responsible for the step that she had taken.

Though the Trial Court had acquitted the accused of all charges, on appeal, the order of acquittal was set aside by the High Court and the accused was convicted under Section 306 IPC and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a period of seven years together with fine. In further appeal, another three-Judge Bench of this Court upheld the order of the High Court with reference to the principles relating to the offence of abetment of suicide. This Court referred to several decisions, including that in the case Ramesh Kumar (supra), and observed, inter alia, as under: "34. The word ‘‘abetment’’ has not been explained in Section 306 IPC. In this context, the definition of abetment as provided under Section 107 IPC is pertinent.

Section 306 IPC seeks to punish those who abet the commission of suicide of other. Whether the person has abetted the commission of suicide of another or not is to be gathered from facts and circumstances of each case and to be found out by continuous conduct of the accused, involving his mental element……. xxx xxx xxx 36.

The word "instigate" literally means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act. A person is said to instigate another person when he actively suggests or stimulates him to an act by any means or language, direct or indirect, whether it takes the form of express solicitation or of hints, insinuation or encouragement.

Instigation may be in (express) words or maybe by (implied) conduct. 37. The word "urge forwards" means to advise or try hard to persuade somebody to do something, to make a person to move more quickly in the particular direction, specially by pushing or forcing such person. Therefore, a person instigating another has to "goad" or "urge forward" the latter with the intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter. In order to prove abetment, it must be shown that the accused kept on urging or annoying the deceased by words, taunts until the deceased reacted.

A casual remark or something said in routine or usual conversation should not be construed or misunderstood as "abetment". xxx xxx xxx 43. Keeping in view the aforesaid legal position, we are required to address whether there has been abetment in committing suicide. Be it clearly stated that mere allegation of harassment without any positive action in proximity to the time of occurrence on the part of the accused that led a person to commit suicide, a conviction in terms of Section 306 IPC is not sustainable. A casual remark that is likely to cause harassment in ordinary course of things will not come within the purview of instigation. A mere reprimand or a word in a fit of anger will not earn the status of abetment. There has to be positive action that creates a situation for the victim to put an end to life. 44. In the instant case, the accused had by his acts and by his continuous course of conduct created such a situation as a consequence of which the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide. The active acts of the accused have led the deceased to put an end to her life. That apart, we do not find any material on record which compels the Court to conclude that the victim committing suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and difference in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged. On the other hand, the accused has played active role in tarnishing the self-esteem and self-respect of the victim which drove the victim girl to commit suicide. The cruelty meted out to her has, in fact, induced her to extinguish her life spark. 45. As is demonstrable, the High Court has not reversed the judgment of acquittal solely on the basis of the dying declaration. It has placed reliance on the evidence of the parents and also other witnesses. It has also treated the version of the Pradhan of the Gram Panchayat as credible. All these witnesses have deposed that the accused after his acquittal engaged himself in threatening and teasing the girl. He did not allow her to live in peace. 46. The harassment caused to her had become intolerable and unbearable. The father had deposed that the girl had told him on number of occasions and he had complained to the Pradhan. All these amount to active part played by the accused. It is not a situation where a person is insulted on being asked to pay back a loan. It is not a situation where someone feels humiliated on a singular act. It is a different situation altogether. The young girl living in a village was threatened and teased constantly. She could not bear it any longer. There is evidence that the parents belong to the poor strata of the society. As the materials on record would reflect, the father could not afford her treatment when case of his daughter was referred to the hospital at Chandigarh. The impecuniosity of the family is manifest. It is clearly evident from the materials brought on record that the conduct of the accused was absolutely proactive." (Underling supplied for emphasis) 14.3 In the case of Pawan Kumar (supra), this Court also expressed serious concern over the menace of eve-teasing and its adverse impact on the civilized society while indicating the affirmative rights of a woman with reference to Articles 14, 15 and 21 of Constitution of India. This Court referred to an earlier decision and observed as under: - "47. …..We are at pains to state that in a civilised society eve teasing is causing harassment to women in educational institutions, public places, parks, railway stations and other public places which only go to show that requisite sense of respect for women has not been socially cultivated. A woman has her own space as a man has. She enjoys as much equality under Article 14 of the Constitutions as a man does. The right to live with dignity as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be violated by indulging in obnoxious act of eve teasing. It affects the fundamental concept of gender sensitivity and justice and the rights of a woman under Article 14 of the Constitution. That apart creates an incurable dent in the right of a woman which she has under Article 15 of the Constitution. One is compelled to think and constrained to deliberate why the women in this country cannot be allowed to live in peace and lead a life that is empowered with dignity and freedom……. 48.

In a civilised society male chauvinism has no room. The Constitution of India confers the affirmative rights on women and the said rights are perceptible from Article 15 of the Constitution. When the right is conferred under the Constitution, it has to be understood that there is no condescension.

A man should not put his ego or, for that matter, masculinity on a pedestal and abandon the concept of civiliaty. Egoism must succumb to law. Equality has to be regarded as the summum bonum of the constitutional principle in this context. The instant case portrays the deplorable depravity of the appellant that has led to a heart-breaking situation for a young girl who has been compelled to put an end to her life. Therefore, the High Court has absolutely correctly reversed the judgment of acquittal and imposed the sentence. It has appositely exercised the jurisdiction and we concur with the same."


In Madan Mohan Singh v. State of Gujarat & Another: (2010) 8 SCC 628 the driver of the accused had alleged in his suicide note that the accused had driven him to the extent of committing suicide. However, on evidence, it was found that the deceased had a grudge against his superior and even though the deceased felt that he was wronged at some point in time, there was nothing available on record to prove that the accused had done anything to instigate the deceased to commit suicide.

Hence, this Court observed as under: "10. We are convinced that there is absolutely nothing in this suicide note or the FIR which would even distantly be viewed as an offence much less under Section 306 IPC. We could not find anything in the FIR or in the so-called suicide note which could be suggested as abetment to commit suicide. In such matters there must be an allegation that the accused had instigated the deceased to commit suicide or secondly, had engaged with some other person in a conspiracy and lastly, that the accused had in any way aided any act or illegal omission to bring about the suicide. "

In Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi): (2009) 16 SCC 605, this Court referred to the decision in Ramesh Kumar (supra) and, while pointing out the complexities related with the determination of the question as to the cause of suicide, expounded on the relevant principles in the following :- "19. As observed in Ramesh Kumar (supra), 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, an "instigation" may be inferred. In other words, in order to prove that the accused abetted commission of suicide by a person, it has to be established that :

(i) the accused kept on irritating or annoying the deceased by words, deeds or wilful omission or conduct which may even be a wilful silence until the deceased reacted or pushed or forced the deceased by his deeds, words or wilful omission or conduct to make the deceased move forward more quickly in a forward direction; and

(ii) that the accused had the intention to provoke, urge or encourage the deceased to commit suicide while acting in the manner noted above. Undoubtedly, presence of mens rea is the necessary concomitant of instigation.

20. ………….The question as to what is the cause of a suicide has no easy answers because suicidal ideation and behaviours in human beings are complex and multifaceted. Different individuals in the same situation react and behave differently because of the personal meaning they add to each event, thus accounting for individual vulnerability to suicide.

Each individual's suicidability pattern depends on his inner subjective experience of mental pain, fear and loss or self-respect. Each of these factors are crucial and exacerbating contributor to an individual's vulnerability to end his own life, which may either be an attempt for self-protection or an escapism from intolerable self."


In the case Amalendu Pal v. State of W.B.: (2010) 1 SCC 707, this Court, after reference to several past decisions, held as follows:- "12. Thus, this Court has consistently taken the view that before holding an accused guilty of an offence under Section 306 IPC, the court must scrupulously examine the facts and circumstances of the case and also assess the evidence adduced before it in order to find out whether the cruelty and harassment meted out to the victim had left the victim with no other alternative but to put an end to her life. It is also to be borne in mind that 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."