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Mere mention of name in Suicide Note not ground for abetment
Gulab Vs The State of Maharashtra and Anr
Bombay HC, Aurangabad Bench
CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.164 OF 2018
About/from the judgment:
The High Court recently reiterated that the mere mention of a person’s name in a suicide note does not by itself prove that the person is guilty of abetment of suicide.
The Bench of Justices RG Avachat and SS Shinde emphasised that a positive act by the accused indicating that they instigated the deceased to commit suicide is necessary in order to prove the offence under Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). As noted in their judgment,
“The mere fact that certain persons have been named in the suicidal note to be responsible for his death is not by itself a ground to fasten one with the charge of abetment. In terms of Section 107, it must prima facie appear to hold that the person named in the suicide note to be responsible for commission of suicide has abetted in the act. The act for conduct of the accused, even if there may be any, however, insulting and abusive those may be, will not by themselves suffice to constitute abetment of commission of suicide, unless those are reasonably capable of suggesting that the accused intended by such acts consequence of suicide.“
The deceased in this case had entered into certain business dealings with the accused (petitioner), who had filed a petition in the High Court to quash the criminal case initiated against him by the widow of the deceased.
As per the petitioner, the deceased had executed an agreement to sell certain property, which he then failed to hand over. In relation to the same, the petitioner initiated a civil suit, for which the deceased failed to appear in Court.
However, as per the FIR lodged by the widow of the deceased, the petitioner and the deceased were partners for a hotel business on the property of the deceased. The hotel business failed within months. Later, the petitioner allegedly harassed the deceased demanding that the property be handed over to him. As per the FIR, the petitioner had also demanded the payment of Rs 3 lakh.
Further, it was alleged that the petitioner had forcibly restrained the deceased from appearing in court for the civil suit initiated by the deceased, so that the same could proceed ex parte. As per the FIR, the deceased committed suicide by hanging after the petitioner made a threatening phone call in November 2017. In this background, the widow contended that her husband was prompted to do so on account of the harassment he faced from the petitioner.
The Court, however, found that even if this version of events were accepted, there was no material to proceed against the petitioner for the offence under Section 107, IPC.
“What can be gathered from the contents of the suicide note is that the deceased decided to end his life since the petitioner claimed to have owed from him (deceased) Rs.3,00,000/ instead of Rs.60,000/. There is not a whisper in the suicide note that the petitioner tortured the deceased or gave threats to his life on 14th November, 2017, as alleged in the FIR.
True, it is unfortunate that the deceased committed suicide. It is not a case of persistent torture or harassment of the deceased. The allegations in FIR and contents of the suicide note do not even remotely suggest that the petitioner had ever tortured the deceased with a view (intention) to drive him to commit suicide.“
Placing reliance on Supreme Court judgments, the Court held,
“Death by commission of suicide must have been the desired object of the abettors; and with that in view they must have instigated, goaded, urged or encouraged the victim in commission of suicide. The instigation may be by provoking or inciting the person committing suicide and this instigation may be gathered by positive acts done by the abettors or by omission in the doing of a thing. Thus, the acts or omission committed by the abettors immediately before the commission of suicide are vital…
… ‘Intention’ is one of the main ingredients of the offence of abetment of suicide. When a person owes from the other and for the recovery thereof, initiates legal proceedings, by no stretch of imagination, one could infer that the person initiating such proceeding, would instigate his debtor to commit suicide. By doing so, the wrong doer is going to get nothing but to face music. “
The Court therefore allowed the petition to quash the criminal complaint, holding that it would be an abuse of the process of law if the prosecution in the case was allowed to continue.
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