Assignment of work, by itself, is not a ground to make superior officer liable under Section 306 IPC

Supreme Court: Uday U. Lalit, J. speaking for himself and Arun Mishra, J., delivered the judgment of the vacation bench holding that ‘workload’ or ‘work stress’, by itself, is not a ground to prove a charge of abetment to suicide against the employer/superior officer.

The Hon’ble bench was deciding a criminal appeal directed against the judgment of the Bombay High Court, whereby the appellant’s application under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of FIR was dismissed. The deceased was serving in the Office of Deputy Director, Education. He committed suicide. The wife of the deceased alleged that the deceased was suffering mental torture as his senior officers were getting heavy work done from him; he was called at odd hours and even on holidays; his salary for one month was not given; he was threatened that his increment would be stopped; due to work pressure, the deceased used to remain silent; she alleged that the senior officers were responsible for abetting the suicide of the deceased.

Hon’ble Bench of the Supreme Court referred to its earlier decision in Madan Mohan Singh v. State of Gujarat, (2010) 8 SCC 628, wherein it was held that there must be allegations to the effect that the accused had either instigated the deceased in some way to commit suicide or had engaged with some other person in conspiracy to do so or that the accused has in some way aided any act or illegal omission to bring about the suicide. In the instant case, the Court went through the record and did not find any such material which would show that the appellant abetted the commission of suicide. It was observed, as a superior officer, if some work was assigned by the appellant to the deceased, merely on that count, it cannot be said that there was any guilty mind or criminal intent. The exigencies of work may call for certain action on part of a superior including stopping of salary for a month. The action simplicitor could not be said to be a pointer against any such superior officer. Holding that the allegations in the FIR were inadequate and did not satisfy requirements of Section 306 IPC, the Hon’ble Court allowed the appeal and quashed the criminal case lodged against the appellant. [Vaijnath Kondiba Khandke v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 545, decided on 17-05-2018]

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