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Evidence and not inference required to prove abetment – SC

In the case of Gurcharan Singh Vs State of Punjab [Criminal Appeal No 40 of 2011], Supreme Court held that the act of abetment by the person charged with it, must be proved and established by the prosecution before he could be convicted under Section 306 IPC.

The appellant was married to Shinder Kaur and they had a son and a daughter, when the wife committed suicide. The complainant in the present matter was the father of the deceased who claimed that the deceased was harassed by the appellant due to less dowry. The post mortem report disclosed that death was due to consumption of aluminium phosphide. The appellant along with his parents was charged under sections 304B and 498A read with section 34 of the IPC. The learned Trial Court while declaring that there is insufficient material to convict anyone under section 304B & 498A IPC, it was of the opinion that although no charge of abetment was framed against the appellant, he can be convicted for abetting suicide of his wife, under section 306 IPC. Accordingly, the High Court upheld the Trial Court’s view that deceased was pushed to commit suicide by the circumstances and the atmosphere in the matrimonial home. Following which the present appeal has been filed before the Supreme Court.

The Appellant contended that the inference without any evidence of vitiating circumstances in the matrimonial home purportedly created by the appellant, is nothing but an inference and conviction cannot be sustained on that basis alone. The Counsel further submitted that the appellant has already undergone sentence for about two years.

The respondent claimed that the deceased was beaten and was sent to her parental home to bring cash for purchase of a plot. As the parents were unable to pay the demanded sum, the deceased was driven to commit suicide in her matrimonial home on the very day, when her father dropped her back.

The court observed that, “As in all crimes, mens rea has to be established. To prove the offence of abetment, as specified under Sec 107 of the IPC, the state of mind to commit a particular crime must be visible, to determine the culpability. In order to prove mens rea, there has to be something on record to establish or show that the appellant herein had a guilty mind and in furtherance of that state of mind, abetted the suicide of the deceased. The ingredient of mens rea cannot be assumed to be ostensibly present but has to be visible and conspicuous.”

While dealing with a case of abetment of suicide in Amalendu Pal alias Jhantu vs. State of West Bengal (2010) 1 SCC 707 parameters of Section 306 IPC were explained as – “Thus, this Court has consistently taken the view that before holding an accused guilty of an offence under Section 306 IPC, the court must scrupulously examine the facts and circumstances of the case and also assess the evidence adduced before it in order to find out whether the cruelty and harassment meted out to the victim had left the victim with no other alternative but to put an end to her life. It is also to be borne in mind that in cases of alleged abetment of suicide there must be proof of direct or indirect acts of incitement to the commission of suicide.”

The court further referred the case of Mangat Ram Vs. State of Haryana (2014) 12 SCC 595 where it was observed, “A woman may attempt to commit suicide due to various reasons, such as, depression, financial difficulties, disappointment in love, tired of domestic worries, acute or chronic ailments and so on and need not be due to abetment. The reasoning of the High Court that no prudent man will commit suicide unless abetted to do so by someone else, is a perverse reasoning.”

The court held that, we have no hesitation in declaring that the Trial Court and the High Court erred in concluding that the deceased was driven to commit suicide, by the circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home. This is nothing more than an inference, without any material support.”

 

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