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Abetment of Suicide-A Misconstrued Provision

Source:LawInsiderIndia

This blog is authored by Harsh Kashyap, a 3rd year law student from 

Shri Navalmal Firodia Law College, Pune


Nowadays we come across reports of incidences of crimes that allege, that the victim had been driven to commit suicide by the accused person(s). Most such victims are either involved in any professional transaction with the accused person or are involved in any love affair. It would be pertinent to mention here that according to the National Crimes Record Bureau data of 2020, eight thousand, eight hundred and sixteen (8,816) abetment of suicide cases were registered throughout the country. This write-up attempts to demarcate the contours within which the offence of abetment of suicide is placed. It also highlights the ways in which the penal provision related to the offence has been misconstrued.


INSIGHTS FROM THE PAST:

It can safely be assumed that the phenomenon of suicide is as old as the inception of humanity. In ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome suicide was not allowed and was regarded as sinful. Only during 460-377 BC it was for the first time regarded as a consequence of depression. Gradually as time passed by, people with guilty minds started exploiting this vulnerability of the human mind. They started facilitating the commission of suicide by others. This was done with an intent that was criminal in nature. The criminal would humiliate, provoke and compel the victim to commit suicide. As the legal systems across the globe started flourishing, the need was felt to criminalize such abetment of suicide as a criminal offence.


LEGAL PROVISION:

In the Indian Penal Code of 1860, Section 306 prescribes that if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. There is no explicit definition of the term abetment of suicide, but Section 107 of the IPC defines abetment of a thing into three categories :-

·  Firstly-A person abets the doing of a thing if he instigates any person to do that thing; or

·  Secondly-A person engages with other persons in any conspiracy for doing that thing, any act or illegal omission takes place in furtherance of the act; or

·  Thirdly-A person intentionally aids by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.

On a conjoint reading of both the sections, it can be safely said that all acts which might compel the victim to end his life, do not fall within the boundaries of abetment of suicide. Mere vague allegations, hot words or even abuses may not legally constitute an offence under section 306 of the IPC. In the recent Sunanda Pushkar death case, the deceased’s husband and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was charged by the Delhi Police with abetment of suicide of her wife. He was also indicted with a charge of cruelty inflicted upon the deceased. Later, a Delhi court discharged Mr Tharoor from all the charges including the abetment of suicide of her wife. The judge cited a lack of any positive evidence or illegal omission on part of the accused to further prosecute him. There are also such cases where on account of civil disputes the victim commits suicide. The investigating agency often hounds the business partners, associates and even acquaintances of the accused under the aforementioned charge. Even in cases of passionate love affairs or matrimonial discord, if one of the partners out of sheer melancholy commits suicide, the other partner is persecuted for such so-called abetment of suicide without proper appreciation of the factual matrix of the case. The irresponsible attitude of the police is mainly because of their lack of understanding of the ingredients which constitute a fit case u/s 306 of the IPC.


APEX COURT’S MANDATE:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Ude Singh & Ors v State of Haryana[1] had elucidated on the essential ingredients of the offence u/s 306 IPC. It had been observed that in cases of alleged abetment of suicide, there must be direct, cogent and convincing proof of acts of incitement that led to the commission of suicide by the victim. The mere allegation of harassment of the deceased by the action(s) on part of the accused which compelled the victim to take a resort to the extreme step of suicide is not enough. Such delicate analysis of human behavior needs to be conducted according to the viewpoint of a prudent person and not of a hypersensitive person who is vulnerable to the slightest of words, actions and expressions. In Geo Varghese v State of Rajasthan,[2] the Supreme Court quashed an FIR relating to the abetment of suicide of a schoolboy by his Physical Education (PT) sir. The boy committed suicide out of alleged harassment being committed by his PT sir constantly. The accused contended that he was only discharging his duty as a teacher and the boy was being admonished for bunking classes and for being undisciplined. The court held, that it appears that the boy who committed suicide was of hypersensitive nature and had stated nothing definite/specific against the accused even in his suicide note. Mere admonition/scolding of a student by a teacher sans any criminal overt act does not attract Section 306 of the IPC. Finally, it would be apposite to state that the proposition of law relating to abetment of suicide is very clear, viz. the victim must have been ‘driven’ to commit suicide by the accused. The extreme step of suicide ‘must’ be the last resort for the victim, even if the abetment is directly or indirectly carried out.

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