Abetting suicide: Supreme Court says accused should play 'active' act
Unless there is a "active" act on the part of the accused to instigate the victim to commit suicide, a person cannot be charged or convicted for abetting the offence, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The apex court said that different persons react differently to a given situation and, therefore, the factum of mensrea (criminal intention) of the accused has to be established for charging or convicting a person.
A bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and SS Nijjar gave the judgment while quashing the case of abetment to suicide under 306 IPC registered against the mother-in-law and brothers-in law of a woman, Kamakshi who committed suicide after being taunted at her matrimonial home for not possessing a car.
"The deceased was undoubtedly hyper-sensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences which happen in our day-to-day life.
"In a joint family, instances of this kind are not very uncommon. Human sensitivity of each individual differs from person to person. Each individual has his own idea of self-esteem and self-respect. Different people behave differently in the same situation," Justice Bhandari writing the judgment observed.
The case of the prosecution is that on January 14, 2005, Kamakshi wanted to use the matrimonial family's Qualis vehicle to go to the Theme Park at Madurai from Karaikudi along with other family members.
However, it was alleged that Easwari, wife of the N Mohan, brother of the deceased's husband, Ananadraj taunted her saying that "if she (Kamakshi) wanted to go around in a car, she has to get a car from her parents. These words deeply hurt Kamakshi who committed suicide onJanuary 18, 2005 at 1.30pm at her matrimonial home.
Before taking the extreme step, she is said to have made a request to her father to buy her a car.
Police registered cases under Section 306 against Kamakshi's husband, Anandraj, his brothers--Mohan and Velumurgan, and the mother-in-law.
Aggrieved Mohan, Velumurgan and the mother-in-law approached the Madras high court on the ground that they were falsely roped in the case. The high court refused to quash the case, following which they appealed in the apex court.
Upholdoing the appeal, the apex court said abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in committing an act.
"Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained. In order to convict a person under section 306 IPC there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence.
"It also requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and this act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he/she committed suicide," the bench said.
"In the instant case, what to talk of instances of instigation, there are even no allegations against the appellants. There is also no proximate link between the incident of 14/1/2005 when the deceased was denied permission to use the Qualis car with the factum of suicide which had taken place on 18/1/2005," the bench said.
The apex court said it was unfortunate that the victim had resorted to suicide.
"But the question remains to be answered is whether the appellants can be connected with that unfortunate incident in any manner.
"On a careful perusal of the entire material on record and the law, which has been declared by this court, we can safely arrive at the conclusion that the appellants are not even remotely connected with the offence under Section 306 of the IPC," the apex court said.
The bench said that the high court ought to have quashed the proceedings so that the appellants who were not remotely connected with the offence under Section 306 IPC should not have been compelled to face the rigmaroles of a criminal trial.