Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J. dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

H.S. Sharma, Advocate for the appellant, submitted that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 498-A as the trial court had found that there was no material to establish that the accused or his family members had demanded any dowry. Per contra, Amit Gupta, APP, supported the order of the trial court.

The High Court noted that though the allegations of demand of dowry against the appellant were not proved, the allegations that the appellant used to beat the deceased (his wife) were well substantiated by the evidence on record. It was noted further that a note written in the handwriting of the deceased was the principal piece of evidence on which the appellant’s conviction was based. A plain reading of the note indicated that the appellant was not happy with the deceased giving birth to a female child, and she feared for her and her daughter’s life.

Admittedly, the appellant was habitual of consuming ganja that led to quarrels between him and the deceased. It was also evident that the appellant used to beat the deceased. The High Court observed: “The contention that the appellant could not be convicted under Section 498-(a) IPC as the trial court had not accepted the allegation of demand of dowry, is unsustainable. Clause (a) of Section 498-A IPC refers to offensive conduct of nature so as to drive a woman to commit suicide. It is not necessary that such offensive conduct is in connection with the demanded dowry. The note was written by the deceased clearly indicates that the conduct of the appellant had led her to fear for her life and that of her girl child. She had eventually taken her own life.”

Further, it was held that the contention that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 306 IPC was also unmerited. Reference was made to Section 113-A (presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman) of the Evidence Act. The Court observed: “There is a statutory presumption that if an accused is found guilty of the offence of cruelty under Section 498-A IPC and the wife of the appellant has committed suicide within seven years of her marriage, it would be presumed that the appellant was guilty of abetting the commission of suicide. The presumption is a rebuttable presumption and it was open for the appellant to lead evidence to rebut the same. However, the appellant has failed to do so. The appellant led no evidence to dispel the said presumption.”

In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [Rohit Gupta v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10670, decided on 21-10-2018]

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

Kerala High Court: R. Narayana Pisharadi, J. allowed a petition filed by bank official praying for quashing proceedings initiated against him for abetting suicide of a student who had applied for an education loan to the bank where he was working, holding that there was no mens rea involved on his part.

In the present case, a student named Sruthi, from a financially backward family approached a bank several times for education loan. The bank rejected her applications for education loan and in despair, she committed suicide. Later, two bank officers (manager and the deputy manager of the bank) had to face prosecution for abetting her suicide by rejecting her application for loan and it was also stated by the father of the deceased that when the deceased was brought to the hospital she told him that she met the petitioner before the accident and the petitioner told her that if her loan was not sanctioned then she had no option other than dying. The brother (respondent) of the deceased gave the first information statement to the police and the case was registered under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). After investigation, a final report was filed by the police under Section 306 IPC read with Section 34 of IPC. The concerned Magistrate committed the case to the Court of Session. The petitioner approached this Court to quash all the proceedings in the instant case under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC).

Learned counsels on behalf of the petitioners, S. Sreekumar, P. Paulochan Antony, M.A. Mohammed Siraj, P. Martin Jose, P. Prijith and Thomas P. Kuruvill, submitted that even if allegations raised against the petitioner in the final report were true, no offence was committed under Section 306 IPC as there was no direct nexus between the rejection of the application of loan by the petitioner and the suicide committed by the deceased. There was no proximity of time between the alleged act committed and the act of the victim. Non-sanctioning of education loan by the petitioner to the deceased could not be considered as facilitation of commission of suicide on their part as there was no malicious intention or instigation. Further, according to the copy of norms, loan application had to be disposed of within fifteen days but the deceased committed suicide without even waiting for the fate of her loan application. Lastly, no material was produced by the prosecution to prove that the petitioner told the deceased to commit suicide

Learned counsel on behalf of the respondent S. Manu, and Public Prosecutor M.N. Maya, contented that allegations in the final report along with the materials produced by the prosecution showed that the petitioner had abetted the commission of suicide by the deceased.  

The Court opined that the prosecution had not made any prima facie case against the petitioner for committing an offence punishable under Section 306 IPC and continuance of the proceedings against the petitioners would be an abuse of process of the Court. The Court also observed that even according to the prosecution case, only when the deceased told the first petitioner that in case the loan was not sanctioned she would have no option other than to die, that the first petitioner told her to go and do so. Thus, the remark regarding death was initially made not by the first petitioner, but by the deceased. The fact that the first petitioner had retorted to the deceased in such a manner in such a situation, in a fit of anger or emotion or at the spur of the moment, did not lead to an inference that he had instigated the deceased to commit suicide. Reliance in this regard was placed on Pawan Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2017) 7 SCC 780. Thus, all proceedings against the petitioners were quashed.[Harikrishnan v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1767, decided on 10-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby charge under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC was framed against the petitioner.

Petitioner was married to the deceased who committed suicide on the very next day of their first marriage anniversary. FIR under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A was registered against the petitioner at the behest of the mother of the deceased. An alleged suicide note was found which was verified to be written in the handwriting of the deceased. The trial court discharged the petitioner of the offence under Section 306 holding that the said suicide note exonerated him as it states that the deceased was taking the steps voluntarily. However, it was found that the allegations levelled by the mother and brothers of the deceased that the petitioner maltreated the deceased and committed physical and mental cruelty were specific and therefore framed a charge under Section 498-A against him.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve contended that as the trial court found insufficient material to proceed under Section 306, on the same analogy, there was insufficient material to even frame a charge under Section 498-A.

Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 5 SCC 177 and Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, the High Court reiterated that charges under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC are independent of each other and acquittal of one does not lead to acquittal of the other. It was observed: “Though, there may be an overlap with regard to cruelty being meted out to the deceased in both the Sections, however, the degree of cruelty to constitute abetment under Section 306 IPC would be of higher than the degree of harassment and cruelty to constitute an offence under Section 498-A IPC. It cannot be held that because petitioner has been discharged of an offence under Section 306 IPC, it would automatically lead to a discharge of the offence under Section 498-A IPC.”

In the present case, it was found that there was sufficient material on record to give rise to grave suspicion against the petitioner for framing a charge under Section 498- IPC. Thus, finding no infirmity in the impugned order, the petition was accordingly dismissed.[Kaushal Kishore v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8713, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This Appeal was preferred before the Bench of S.K. Awasthi. J., under Section 14-A(1) of the SC/ST (PA) Act, 1989, read with Section 397 of Criminal Procedure Code assailing order passed by Special Judge (SC/ST Act) where charges against appellant were framed for commission of offence under Section 306 read with Section 34 of Penal Code,1860 and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act.

Facts of the case were such that appellant was alleged for abetting the suicide of deceased who in his dying declaration stated appellant to have harassed him and made him work overtime. Ajay Bagadiya, counsel on behalf of appellant contended that so as to allege for offence of abetment of suicide the instigation by accused should have some proximate link with the factum of suicide. Also, no other employee or the deceased had ever complaint against appellant and no evidence showing excessive work given to deceased was shown.

High Court was of the view that allegation of misbehaviour and giving of excessive work after the office hours could not be equated into abetting the deceased to commit suicide. Due to the fact that only one person was accused in this case charge framed with the aid of Section 34 was not required. Further, the Court observed that if the behaviour of higher officials was unbearable then the employee had other options rather than to commit suicide. Therefore, the appellant cannot be held liable for abetment to suicide and the impugned order was set aside. [Satendra Jha v. State of M.P., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 468, dated 06-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Bench of Arvind Singh Chandel, J., while addressing an instant revision being preferred against the charges framed under Sections 306 and 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 stated that, “The word “instigate” means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act.”

Factual matrix of the case is that, marriage between Applicant 1 (husband) and the deceased was solemnized on 06-12-2013 and on the intervening night, deceased committed suicide by consuming some poisonous substance. Allegations against the applicants (Applicant 1-Husband, Applicant 2 & 4- Elder brother and Sister-in-Law of Applicant 1 and Applicant 3-Mother-in-Law) were that they were harassing deceased physically and mentally. Trial Court had framed charges under Section 306 and 201/ read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 against the applicants.

S.C. Verma and Harshvardhan Parganiha, Advocates representing the applicants submitted that the Additional Sessions Judge committed manifest illegality in framing charges against the applicants. As per the prosecution story, deceased committed suicide due to excess sexual act by her husband with her and there was an illicit relationship of Applicant 1 with Applicant 4. On the basis of the stated facts no offence is made out under Sections 306 and 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Sangharsh Pandey, Deputy Government Advocate, submitted that there is sufficient material available for presuming that applicants have committed the offence and there is no illegality on the impugned order.

The Court on considering the facts and circumstances of the case, stated that “for making liable for an offence punishable under Section 306 of Penal Code, 1860 it is the duty of prosecution to establish that such person has committed “abetment of suicide”, it is necessary for the determination of the act of the accused to see that his act falls under any of the three ingredients mentioned under Section 107 of Penal Code, 1860.

Reference was made to several decisions of the Supreme Court in, Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, Gangula Mohan Reddy v. State of A.P., (2010) 1 SCC 750; in which it was stated that “Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing.”

Therefore, the High Court while concluding its decision stated that the spot map shows that the deceased was living separately along with her husband/Applicant 1 in a room situated on the first floor of her matrimonial house, which negates the allegation of her not being allowed to talk at her maternal house without the phone on being speaker. Along with the stated the other allegations against the applicant also if considered for the sake of arguments to be true, they do not stand to be covered under the word “instigation” as defined under Section 107 of Penal Code, 1860.

The revision was allowed by the High Court and accordingly on no material being available for framing of charge against the applicant they were discharged from the charges. [Devanand Chandwani v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 19, Order dated 01-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Dr G. Jayachandran, J., dismissed a criminal appeal filed by the accused who was convicted by the trial court for the offence of ‘abetment of suicide’ punishable under Section 306 IPC.

As per the prosecution, the accused, a married man was very close to the deceased who committed suicide. He lived opposite to the house of the deceased and had close intimacy with her. He made sexual relations with the deceased and impregnated her. On coming to know about the pregnancy, the deceased went to the accused and asked her to marry him. After this, as per the mother of the deceased (a prosecution witness), the accused refused to marry her while blaming her character for the pregnancy and also scolded her to die. Subsequently, the deceased consumed Vasmol 33 hair oil which resulted in her death.

The appellant contended that the conviction against him was not proper as there was no evidence against him to prove abetment and attract ingredients of Section 306. It was also contended that there was no independent witness to prove the alleged intimacy between him and the deceased. It was also submitted that two of the independent witnesses turned hostile.

On perusal of the record and totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court was of the view that the judgment of conviction passed by the trial court could not be interfered with. As per the Court, in the case at hand, the sequence of events placed by the prosecution were cogent and corroborate to each other. In such a case, the Court held, the hostility of two of the prosecution witnesses (PWs 8 and 9) in no way dent the prosecution case, nor the close relationship between other prosecution witnesses throw any doubt upon its case. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed. [Dravidamani v. State (UT of Puducherry), 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 557, decided on 21-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Himachal Pradesh: While deciding a criminal appeal preferred by the appellant-State challenging the judgment of the Trial Court, whereby the accused were acquitted for the offence punishable under Sections 498-A, 306 and 404 read with Section 34 of IPC, a two-Judge Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J. and Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J. held that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond shadow of reasonable doubt and declined to interfere with the impugned judgment.

The respondents were accused of abetting the suicide of the deceased. Learned Additional Advocate General argued that the proof required under Section 498-A is not strict proof, but only preponderance of probabilities are required to be established. He further argued that the statements of the witnesses clearly established the guilt of the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court, after perusing the arguments and the evidence, held that the prosecution failed to prove that cruel treatment was given to the deceased and under these circumstances the presumption that it was a dowry death within seven years of marriage does not arise at all. The fact of deceased’s being taken to hospital by the accused immediately on consuming medicines proved the good conduct of the accused persons. In the given circumstances, the appeal was held sans merit and was accordingly dismissed. [State of Himachal Pradesh v. Ashwani Kumar, 2017 SCC OnLine HP 1311, decided on September 1, 2017]