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 petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby it had rejected petitioner’s application filed under Section 227 CrPC seeking discharge in a criminal case.

The case against the petitioner was that he along with the co-accused tried to intervene in a road rage fight between the complainant and a third party. The complainant was admittedly drunk at the time and slapped the co-accused. The co-accused called for the petitioner to bring the iron rod to teach a lesson to the drunk complainant. Thereafter, the co-accused attacked the complainant and he sustained multiple injuries. The petitioner was charge-sheeted under Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) read with Section 34 (acts done by several person in furtherance of common intention) of the Penal Code.

D.N. Goburdhun, Advocate representing the petitioner contended that there was an absence of mens rea or common intention or conspiracy on part of the petitioner. Per contra, Meenakshi Dahiya, APP appearing for the State submitted that the petitioner had been rightly charged as aforesaid.

Relying on State of M.P. v. Saleem, (2005) 5 SCC 554, the High Court noted: “though common intention should be anterior in time to the commission of crime and involves a pre-arranged plan or a prior concert, however, intention is to be gathered from the act, conduct, relative circumstances, and the attendant situations that cropped up”.It was reiterated that common intention may develop at spur of the moment.

On facts of the case, it was held that the petitioner actively participated in the act by procuring the iron rod and handing it over to the co-accused. Therefore, it could not be said that there was no common intention among the accused. As such, it was held that there was no infirmity with the order of the trial court, and the petition was dismissed.[Manish Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9031, decided on 03-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: S. Talapatra, J. allowed an appeal against the decision of the Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 489-C (possession of forged or counterfeit currency-notes or banknotes) IPC.

The appellant was found in possession of 27 fake counterfeit Indian currency-notes. He was charged and convicted as stated above. H.K. Bhowmik, Advocate representing the appellant submitted that the seizure was not proved and the procedure of seizing the purported counterfeit currencies was visited by serious defects and incongruities. Per contra, A. Acharjee, Special Public Prosecutor appearing for the State submitted that on the discovery of minor discrepancy, considering the nature of human conduct, no weight should not be given.

After considering the evidence on record, the High Court went on to consider the question — whether there was any proof of integrity of the seized materials and chain of custody? The Court found that in the State Forensic Science Laboratory Report it was not at all noted as to how the purported counterfeit currency was received. Further, it could not be ascertained as to who had marked the bank notes as A-1 to A-27. Still, further, the seized counterfeit currency was not sealed within a packet in presence of witnesses. It was observed: “There is no evidence in relation to the chain of custody or the sampling in order to preserve the integrity of the seized materials. There is no evidence except the possession of the so-called ‘counterfeit currencies’. Even there is no evidence of mens rea. In absence of the evidence, mere possession, cannot prove that offence punishable under Section 489 of the IPC has been committed.”

In such view of the matter, the Court was of the opinion that the appellant was to be given benefit of doubt. Resultantly, the appeal was allowed and the impugned judgment was set aside.[Bishu Ranjan Das v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 200, decided on 24-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Bench of Arvind Singh Sangwan J., imposed the fine on Vishal Dadlani and Tehseen Poonawala of Rs 10 lakhs each for hurting the sentiments of the Jain Community by insulting the Jain Saint Tarun Sagar on twitter, even though the FIR was quashed against the criminal charges registered against them. 

A case under Sections 295-A, 153-A and 509 of the Penal Code, 1860 was filed by the respondent/complainant against the petitioners (Vishal Dadlani and Tehseen Poonawala) for hurting the belief, religious feelings of the Jain Community and Jain Monk Tarun Sagar. The petitioner posted the photograph of Jain Monk (Muni) Tarun Sagar, when he was addressing the Haryana State Legislative Assembly and another photo by way of Photoshop, the photograph of a lady whose face was not shown, in a sitting posture wearing only undergarments was clubbed and posted along with the photograph of Jain Muni by Petitioner 2. 

Learned counsel for the petitioners, Karuna Nandy, submitted that there was no mens rea on the part of the petitioner to commit any offence and even the petitioner has tendered his apology to the Jain Muni Tarun Sagar, which was accepted by him by way of print media. She further submitted that a rational criticism of religious tenants, pounded in restraint language does not amount to an offence either under Sections 153-A or 295-A IPC.

Learned counsel for the respondent, Khushbir K. Bhullar, submitted that there are serious allegations against the petitioners for hurting the religious feelings of the complainant and the followers of the Jain Saints. The entire Jain fraternity is defamed before the public in large by using electronic media, to spread the religious discontent and hurt their sentiments and therefore, the FIR was rightly registered. 

The Court opined that the country has witnessed large scale violent protest on incitement made by using social media platform, thereby, causing extensive damage to public property and therefore it was appropriate to impose the costs of Rs 10 lakhs each on the petitioners – Vishal Dadlani and Tehseen Poonawala, so that in future they may not mock at any head of a religious sect, just to gain publicity on social media like Twitter.  The Court ordered that the FIR registered against the parties to be quashed and gave the following instruction for the cost by parties i.e. “The petitioner – Tehseen Poonawala will deposit the costs of `5 lacs with the Tarun Kranti Manch Trust (Regd.), Defence Colony, Delhi (a Trust created by late Jain Muni Tarun Sagar) and will also deposit a costs of 5 lacs with the Poor Patient’s Fund (Prabh Aasra) in Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research at Chandigarh. The petitioner – Vishal Dadlani will deposit the costs of 5 lacs with the Shri Digamber Jain Mandir Trust, Sector 27, Chandigarh and 5 lacs with the Punjab and Haryana High Court Advocates Welfare Fund.” [Vishal Dadlani v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 446, decided on 29-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Bench of P.N. Prakash, J., in a criminal revision case preferred in respect of setting aside the order of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Chennai, stated that,

“The very edifice on which the prosecution was launched against the accused, crumbled like a pack of cards.”

The factual matrix of the case which led to the filing of the present criminal revision case was that, the petitioner herein was accused of the offence under Section 276-C (2) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. It was stated by the IT Department that for the assessment year 1998-1999, accused filed “Income Tax Returns”, wherein his total income was shown to be Rs 48,150. Income Tax Department on conducting an investigation found out that petitioner’s income was Rs 29,05,126, following which the tax payable along with interest was determined to be Rs 16,02,601.

On filing an appeal by the accused before CIT (Appeals) it was determined by the said authority that the income of the accused is Rs 26,69,470 and Rs 14,84,199 is to be paid as tax. Accused in respect of the stated filed an appeal before Income Tax Appellate Tribunal; however the stay petition was dismissed by ITAT and hence accused was liable to be punished under Section 276-C (2) of the IT Act, for non-payment of determined tax.

Reference to the judgment of the Apex Court in CIT v. Bhupen Champak Lal Dalal, (2001) 3 SCC 459 along with Gujarat Travancore Agency v. CIT(1989) 3 SCC 52, in which the Supreme Court considered Section 276 C of the IT Act and held,

“….There can be no dispute that having regard to the provision of Section 276-C, which speaks of wilful failure on the part of the defaulter and taking into consideration the nature of the penalty, which is punitive, no sentence can be imposed under that provision unless the element of mens rea is established.”

Further, it was stated that the accused had pursued the matter to ITAT who had set aside the CIT (Appeals) order and remanded the matter back to CIT who ultimately determined the tax to be payable at income Rs 2,82,650. In reference to the stated, it should be noted that the accused had been knocking doors of these bodies challenging the determination of the income by ITO and at the end of the day the fact-finding body itself came to the conclusion that income of accused for that period was only Rs 2,82,650 and tax payable only Rs 1,10,402.

Therefore, there was no necessity for the Income Tax Department to have launched the prosecution hurriedly since the law of limitation under Section 468 CrPC for criminal prosecution has been excluded by the Economic Offences (Inapplicability of Limitation) Act, 1974.

Thus, the accused was not found wilfully evading payment of tax. But unfortunately, trial court failed to appreciate the accused’s contention. Court allowed the present criminal revision case and discharged the accused from prosecution. [Sayarmull Surana v. CIT, 2018 SCC OnLine Mad 3505, decided on 14-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of P.N. Deshmukh and M.G. Giratkar, J., partly allowed a criminal appeal which was filed against the judgment of conviction under Section 302 IPC passed by the trial court.

The convict was accused of throwing chilli powder at the deceased and other persons and strangulating the deceased to death. The case was that the accused ran a liquor store, which was objected to by the deceased and other members of a certain samiti. According to the appellant, the deceased was leading a mob of 50 people, trying to enter her house. Apprehending threat and danger, the appellant got frightened and threw chilli powder at the mob. She caught hold of the deceased by her hair and scuffled with her only so that it would act as a deterrent for other persons from entering the house. However, during the said scuffle, the deceased died accidentally. The appellant was tried and convicted under Section 302 IPC. Aggrieved thus, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused the record very carefully. In light of the post-mortem report along with evidence of witnesses, it was proved that death of the deceased was homicidal. However, the Court was of the view that since the defendant did not have any intention to kill the deceased, the conviction of the appellant was liable to modified from that under Section 302 to Section 304 Part II. The order was made accordingly. [Sumitra v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1550, dated 19-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The appellant was acquitted of the charges under Section 306 IPC by a Single Judge Bench comprising of Ram Prasanna Sharma, J., holding that there was no live link between the act of the appellant and suicide of the deceased so as to convict the appellant under the section.

The appellant-husband was alleged to have abetted the suicide of the deceased-wife. The statement of witnesses pointed to the fact that the appellant had assaulted the deceased on one previous occasion; however the date of such incident was not clear.

The High Court perused Section 306 along with Section 107 of IPC and observed that the abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing a thing. Without a positive act on the part of accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction under Section 306 can not be sustained. In order to convict a person under Section 306, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which leads deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and this act must have been intended to push deceased into such a position that he commits suicide. In the instant case, there was nothing on record as to what had happened on or prior to the date of incident which was unbearable for the deceased. Mens rea on the part of the appellant, requiring direct act and active act which led the deceased to commit suicide, was lacking. Some bitter experience during routine married life is natural and that was not sufficient to hold that since long back of the incident there was quarrel between the parties that is why the deceased took the extreme step. In the present case, there was no live link between the act of the appellant and the act of the deceased.

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence of the appellant passed by the trial court was set aside. [Tulsiram v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 413, dated 11-04-2018]