In order to convict a person for abetment of suicide, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit an offence

Supreme Court: Dealing with the scope of Section 306 IPC, the Court said that in order to convict a person under Section 306 IPC, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit an offence and that there ought to be an active or direct act leading the deceased to commit suicide, being left with no option.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ said that the offence punishable under Section 306 IPC 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 this 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 criminalises the sustained incitement for suicide.

In the present case, where a woman and her 2 daughters committed suicide, the Court noticed the materials on record do not suggest even remotely any act of cruelty, oppression, harassment or inducement so as to persistently provoke or compel the deceased to resort to self-extinction being left with no other alternative. No such continuous and proximate conduct of the appellant or his family members with the required provocative culpability or lethal instigative content is discernible to even infer that the deceased and her daughters had been pushed to such a distressed state, physical or mental that they elected to liquidate themselves as if to seek a practical alleviation from their unbearable earthly miseries.

It was explained that the courts have to be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case to ascertain as to whether cruelty had been meted out to the victim and that the same had induced the person to end his/her life by committing suicide, with the caveat that if the victim committing suicide appears to be hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life, quite common to the society to which he or she belonged and such factors were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual to resort to such step, the accused charged with abetment could not be held guilty. [Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1415, decided on 02.12.2016]

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