Husband acquitted from charge of abetting wife’s suicide on absence of instigation or provocation

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Md. Mumtaz Khan and Jay Sengupta, JJ. partly allowed the appeal of the appellant-husband who was convicted under Sections 498-A and 306 IPC for cruelty and abetting the suicide of the deceased-wife by the trial court.

Prosecution’s case was that the appellant and the deceased were married 19 years ago. The wife lived in husband’s native village. Subsequently, she joined the husband in his dwelling home. There she came to know of the illicit relationship between the husband and the maid-servant who lived in the same house. She confronted the husband but to no avail. Instead, the husband started to abuse her and beat her. On the night of the incident, PW-1, brother of the wife, heard noise of her sister shouting from inside the appellant’s house. The door was locked from inside. PW-1 along with the local policeman forced-open the door of the house and found that the deceased was burning in flames. The appellant was not at home. The husband was charged, tried and convicted by the trial court for the offences mentioned above. Aggrieved by the same, the husband filed the present appeal.

The High Court perused the record. It was noted that the word cruelty mentioned in Section 498-A is any wilful conduct of the husband or his relative which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the women to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, health. In Court’s opinion, the evidence of PW-1 and PW-2, brothers of the deceased, unerringly pointed towards the guilt of the husband in inflicting cruelty to the wife after she confronted him about his illicit relationship. This drove her to commit suicide. No irregularity was found with husband’s conviction under Section 498-A. However, the Court was of the view that he could not be held guilty under Section 306 as there was no direct evidence that he has, by his act, instigated or provoked the deceased to commit suicide. The only allegation was that on a fateful night, the parties had quarreled and thereafter the husband went to his night duty and the wife committed suicide. There was no evidence about the issue of quarrel and how the wife got burned. There was no direct evidence to show that the husband abetted the suicide committed by the wife. In such circumstances, the husband deserved to be acquitted of the charge under Section 306. Hence, the appeal was partly allowed. Conviction of the husband under Section 306 was set aside, however, that under Section 498-A was upheld. [Md. Sarfulla v. State of W.B., 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 5946, dated 03-09-2018]

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