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It is a matter of immense significance that while ruling on a very significant legal point pertaining to what constitutes abetment of suicide, the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur in a most learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment titled Dr Shivani Nishad and Anr vs State of Madhya Pradesh in Misc. Criminal Case No.27101 of 2023 that was pronounced recently on May 7, 2024 has minced just no words to state in no uncertain terms that persistent threats by the accused to falsely implicate the deceased in cases of rape and eve-teasing can amount to abetment of suicide. It must be mentioned here that the Single-Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia very rightly underscored the gravity of psychological harassment and its potential to drive individuals to resort to taking extreme measures. It must be noted that the High Court was dealing with an application that had been filed by the accused under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) seeking to quash the proceedings against them. Most rightly, the Court while refusing to grant the relief sought held most explicitly making it clear that the continuous threat of legal action, coupled with harassment and taunts, inflicted significant psychological harm on the deceased that ultimately was instrumental in leading to his committing suicide.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single-Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, "This application under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. has been filed for quashment of criminal proceedings initiated against applicants in Crime No.39/2023 registered for offence under Section 306 IPC at Police Station Bamhani District Mandla."

As we see, the Bench discloses in para 2 of this notable judgment that, "The applicants have impleaded Chandra Shekhar Ahuja as respondent No.2 but Chandra Shekar @ Pawan Ahuja is the person, who has committed suicide. Therefore, instead of making the mother of the deceased as respondent No.2, applicants have impleaded the deceased as respondent No.2. How the applicants would serve the deceased and how the application against the deceased is maintainable has not been clarified by the applicants."

To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 3 that, "According to prosecution case, on 20.12.2022, an information was received that the deceased Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan Ahuja has committed suicide by hanging himself. Inquest enquiry was conducted and a suicide note left by the deceased was recovered from the left pocket of the pant of the deceased. The said suicide note was written in Hindi and was in red ink, which was signed by the deceased himself. The Post Mortem of the deceased was got done. On the basis of suicide note as well as on the basis of statements of witnesses, namely Smt. Shanti Ahuja, Anees Memon, Mahendra Ramtekkar, Govind Thakur, Anmol Verma, Amit Ahuja and Ankit Rai, the Police registered the offence under Section 306 of IPC against the applicants."

As it turned out, the Bench then enunciates in para 4 of this robust judgment that, "Challenging the FIR as well as criminal proceedings, it is submitted by counsel for the applicants that even if the entire allegations are accepted, then it would be clear that ingredients of Section of 107 of Cr.P.C. are not made out. In fact mother of the deceased herself was a notorious person and was creating all sorts of nuisance in the society. Multiple complaints were made by the residents of the society against mother of the deceased. To buttress her contention, counsel for applicants has relied upon the judgments passed by the Supreme Court in the case of M. Mohan Vs. State of Tr. Dy. Supdt. Of Police reported in (2011) 3 SCC 626 and Ganjula Mohan Reddy Vs. State of A.P. reported in (2010) 1 SCC 750."

On the contrary, the Bench then observes in para 5 that, "Per contra, the application is vehemently opposed by the counsel for the State. It is submitted that FIR as well as statements of the witnesses clearly indicates that by threatening the deceased to falsely implicate in a false case of rape, the applicants had created a situation where the deceased was left with no other option but to put an end to his life. Taunting and humiliation at the hands of the applicants was not the singular event but it was a continuous torture. Even it is clear from the statements of the witnesses that the deceased was under the continuous threat given by applicant No.1 for falsely implicating him in a case of rape and eve teasing and when the threatening was to the extent of demeaning and destroying his self esteem, then it would amount to abetment of suicide. To buttress their contention, the counsel for respondents has relied upon the judgment passed by the Supreme Court in the case of UDE Singh and Others Vs. State of Haryana reported in the AIR 2019 Supreme Court 4570."

While citing a relevant case law, the Bench hastens to add in para 15 of this commendable judgment propounding that, "The Supreme Court in the case of M. Mohan vs. State represented by the Deputy Superintendent of Police reported in AIR 2011 SC 1238 has held that "Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained. The intention of the Legislature is clear that 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.""

Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 22 that, According to prosecution case, the deceased committed suicide after leaving his suicide note alleging the he is fed up with the cases, which are pending in the Court and his neighbours Dr. Shivani Nishad, her mother Rani Nishad, Kailas Nandanawar, Anita Nandanwar, Tijan Bai had lodged multiple cases against the deceased and his mother on false pretext and has spoiled his career. He went to Indore after mortgaging his house for coaching purposes so that he can serve the family after getting some job but on account of cases, which have been registered against him, neither he is able to concentrate on his studies nor he is residing in his house. Reason for residing in Bamhani Banjar is that applicant No.1 Shivani Didi is threatening that they should leave the colony after selling the house otherwise she would falsely implicate him in the case of rape and eve teasing and would send him to jail. Because of this threat he is so afraid that it has become difficult for him to live. Whenever, he went to the Police Station to lodge report against the applicants, then Shailesh Gautam and Maate, who are known to Shivani Didi and are posted as Constable did not register the case as a result he is very upset. He is in Bamhani, whereas the accused are always fighting with his mother and try to assault her and therefore, he tried to alienate his house but even the same could not be done. The condition of the family is not good. Money is being spent in the cases pending in the Court. On account of so much of harassment by his neighbours he has lost his strength to tolerate the same and therefore, his will power has come to an end. The God will never forgive these persons. These persons are the murders and on account of their activities, he has reached to such state. Even after his death if these persons are not satisfied, then it is not known that what they will do to his family. Accordingly a request was made to the Court, Government and Police that a severe punishment should be given to these persons specifically Shivani Nishad and Kailash Nandanwar. He also tendered his apology to his mother for leaving her in the mid way. He also claimed that he himself was weak and instead of fighting, he is running away from his life. He also requested that she should not cry on his death."

Do note, the Bench notes in para 23 that, "From the plain reading of the aforesaid suicide note, it is clear that the relationship of the neighbours with the family of the deceased were not cordial. Multiple cases were registered against deceased and his mother. Although the deceased had gone to Indore in connection with coaching but because of institution of pending cases, he was unable to concentrate on his studies. Even applicant No.1 was insisting that deceased and her mother should leave the colony after alienating the property otherwise she would falsely implicate him in a case of rape and eve teasing and would send him to jail."

Most significantly, the Bench mandates in para 24 what constitutes the cornerstone of this refreshing judgment holding that, "As held by the Supreme Court in the case of UDE Singh (supra) a constant threat to falsely implicate the deceased in a case of rape and eve teasing and to send him to jail would not be a mere empty threat but it would demean and destroy his self-esteem as well as his career by branding him as a criminal of committing a heinous crime of rape and by ensuring that the deceased is lodged in jail on the basis of false allegations. If the deceased was afraid and was apprehensive of destruction of his self-esteem and respect in the society, then on account of daily humiliation at the hands of the accused persons, if the deceased committed suicide, then prima facie an offence under Section 306 of IPC would be made out."

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench notes in para 27 that, "So far as applicant No.2 Smt. Rani Nishad is concerned, although there is no specific allegation in the suicide note regarding threat to falsely implicate the deceased in a case of rape and eve teasing but from the statements of the witnesses, it is clear that Rani Nishad was also sharing the common intention."

It would be worthwhile to mention that the Bench points out in para 28 that, "Shanti Ahuja has stated that she had lost her elder son, when he was aged about 3 years, whereas her younger son Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan Ahuja was residing in Indore in connection with his studies. Her dispute with the applicants, Tijan Bai, Kailash Nandanwar and his wife Anita is going on for the last 10 years on the question of dumping garbage in the drain situated in front of the house. In the year 2020 also they had some dispute and accordingly she had lodged report in Police Station Kotwali, District Balaghat against Kailash Nandanwar and his wife Anita and on that account these persons had lodged two reports in one day against Shanti Ahuja and her son Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan Ahuja. It was further stated that her son Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan Ahuja was not involved in the dispute but his name was falsely implicated to harass him. In the month of July, 2022 her son came to Balaghat, then Kailash Nandanwar and Anita Nandanwar shifted to other place but in spite of that they used to visit their house. All the five persons, namely the applicants, Tijanbai, Kailash Nandanwar and Anita used to threat her son Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan Ahuja that they would spoil his career. These persons were passing taunts against her as well as against her son on daily basis. They were alleging that Smt. Shanti Ahuja and her son Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan Ahuja are shameless persons, who are not getting adversely effected on account of registration of FIR. They were also alleging that if they would have faced such a situation, then they would have died. On various occasions, applicant No.1 had given a threat to falsely implicate in a case of rape. As a result her son was very depressed. He was saying to his father that the neighbours are not stopping their activities. Thereafter, her husband persuaded his son and took him to Bamhani, District Mandla in the month of October, 2022. In the meanwhile, on 28.11.2022 both the applicants had a dispute with Shanti Ahuja on the question of dumping of garbage. Then she narrated the incident to her son on phone. Her son Chandra Shekhar replied that she should lodge a report and accordingly, she went to Police Station to lodge the report. On 8.12.2022 her son came back to Balaghat and he was very depressed and down-hearted. He was saying that on the false allegations multiple cases have been registered, which is haunting him all the time. Even applicant No.1 is extending a threat to falsely implicate him in a case of rape. Then she tried to encourage her son that nothing will happen and with passage of time, the things will improve. On the next day, he went back to Bamhani. In the meanwhile, on 17.12.2022, her husband came to Balaghat and informed that very soon they will alienate the house and will get rid of all the difficulties because deceased Chandra Shekhar @ Pawan is very upset, then she requested her husband to take care of Pawan. Her husband went to Bamhani on 20.12.2022 and informed her that the deceased has committed suicide. Thereafter, this witness went to Bamhani along with Anees Bhai and other family members. Police had already reached. Accordingly, it was alleged that her son Chandra Shekhar has committed suicide on account of false case as well as a threat to falsely implicate him in a case of rape. For that the applicants, Tijan Bai, Kailash Nandanwar and his wife Anita are responsible. All the time her son was saying that he is making preparation for PSC and they have spoiled his career by lodging the report and now he would not be able to get any job and on that issue he was under constant pressure. Similar allegations have been made by the other witnesses."

More to the point, the Bench note in para 29 that, "If the statement of Smt.Shanti Ahuja is considered in the light of judgment passed by the Supreme Court in the case of UDE Singh (supra), then it is clear that the deceased, who was making preparation for appearing in PSC for getting a Government job, was upset because of his false implication in criminal cases he would not get any Government job apart from the continuous threat of his false implication in a case of rape and eve-teasing. He was further upset by the continuous taunts that he is a shameless person and has not died in spite of registration of cases."

As a corollary, the Bench considers it fit to hold in para 30 that, Under these circumstances, this Court is of considered opinion that sufficient material has been made out for prosecution of the applicants for offence under section 306 of IPC."

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 31 that, "Accordingly, the application fails and is hereby dismissed."

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