This article is written by Harsha Asnani, a  2nd year student at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

Protecting the sanctity of life has been a sine qua non intention in the minds of Indian Legislators while drafting any law. Apart from ensuring a healthy existence to a human life it has also aimed at protecting the life itself. The level of respect shown towards a person’s life by state is best explained by the fact that it not only prohibits a person from taking another person’s life but also penalises a person who himself tries to put an end to his  life by means of suicide. The former is made punishable under section 302 and the latter under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Not only this but also a person who assists or abets any other person in commission of suicide is also subjected a certain term of punishment.

  1. Section 306: Important ingredients

Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code defines abetment of suicide as “If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punishable with such imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.” In order to bring a successful conviction under this section it is important that its three essential ingredients stand to be fulfilled i.e. firstly, the deceased should have committed suicide, secondly, the accused under this section should have abetted or instigated him/her to commit such an act and thirdly, such the alleged involvement of the accused should be direct[2] in nature.

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2. Interpretation of ‘Instigation’

In a landmark judgement of Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh,[3] it was held that ‘instigation’ may be inferred from a series of acts on the part of accused that led to creation of such circumstances where the deceased had no other option left with him or her than committing suicide. This series of acts may include use of force, words, conduct, wilful omission or deeds or for that matter even silence of accused in order to annoy or irritate the deceased which resultantly caused the latter to take steps to put an end to one’s life. This overt act has to necessarily coupled with a concomitant element called the mens rea to encourage the deceased to commit suicide. However, in a series of judgements it has been noted by the Apex Court that the use of the word ‘instigation’ need not be confused with ‘intimidation.’ Intimidation may as a result frighten the person on the receiving end which may cause him or her to retaliate whereas statements as a result of instigation may provoke or encourage the deceased to cause his death.[4] In absence of any one of the element either mental process of intentional aiding or an overt act to cause this instigation to commit suicide, conviction will not be successfully sustained.[5]

With regard to matters of instigation it has been reiterated in several Supreme Court judgements that there should be a live or proximate link between the act of abetment and actual commission of suicide.[6] In absence of such a link, the element of intention or aiding cannot be attributed to the accused. Mere threats given by the accused in relation to involving the family in false and frivolous cases cannot be brought under the ambit of instigation.[7]

As far as the second ingredient of abetment to suicide is concerned, i.e., the deceased should have committed suicide, Supreme Court in a landmark judgement of Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab,[8] Section 306 renders a person punishable of abetment to suicide only if the condition of commission of suicide is fulfilled. This is essential because it is possible to abet the commission of suicide and not a mere attempt in furtherance of same. It would be preposterous if law would penalise such attempts also.

  • Application of Section 306

The charge of abetment of suicide is widely used in the cases of dowry demand related suicides or suicides as a result of domestic violence or cruelty. In a landmark judgement, according to whose factual matrix it was alleged that there were constant quarrels between a couple over the husband’s consistent demand of dowry. Eventually on the fateful day during a quarrel of the same kind the wife reacted by saying that she would consider death to be better than her ruthless existence and the state of life she was going through. Upon this the husband responded by saying that he would feel much relieved on her death. Immediately, the wife set herself on fire. The court held the husband guilty of abetment to suicide on the pretext that there was a close link between the act of instigation and commission of suicide.[9]

Similar situations such as  constant beating and torture that led to formulation of mental agony causing the wife to set herself along with her three children on fire,[10] subjection to maltreatment and starvation with the superadded fact of looking for another girl,[11] maltreatment and taunting for bringing less dowry,[12] maltreatment and beating the wife for not conceiving,[13]  husband being obsessed with gambling and creation of ugly and hurtful scenes in committing cruelty on the deceased,[14] history of pressure for cruelty and divorce,[15]  verbal remarks such as “You bloody whore, why don’t you die” (this remark being a part of verbal cruelty and serious provocation to the wife),[16] accused pressurising his wife with parting of land that she had received as a part of stridhan from her father,[17] and transferring it in his name.

 Although there has been a general agreement on the point that cruelty may itself not be enough to cause an offence under abetment to suicide but where the accused has wilfully produced an atmosphere as a result of which the deceased had no other option left and was forced to commit suicide, a conviction may be upheld.

In cases of extra-marital relationships, the mere fact that there was development of intimacy between the deceased’s husband with another lady and his failure in fulfilling marital obligation during the subsistence of marriage, it would per se not amount to cruelty. But if its nature is of such a kind that drives or pushes the deceased to commit suicide it can be taken under the ambit of abetment to suicide. In a case of Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal v. State of Gujarat[18] it was held that in absence of the above mentioned conditions and the fact that there was just a one-sided love affair, fulfilment of all sorts of marital obligations by the accused towards the deceased, no evidence of physical or mental torture to extract dowry, the deceased being under ‘emotional stress’ due to an abortion followed by  the death of the daughter born out of the subsequent pregnancy, it cannot be held that it was the accused who had intended or ever abetted his wife to commit suicide. For conviction it is necessary that a chain of circumstances such as, outrageous acts of humiliation, be so created under which the deceased would commit suicide.[19]

But conviction cannot lie in cases where words have been spoken or any conduct is in continuance of feeling of anger or hard feelings. In such cases since the element of intention remains lacking therefore it cannot be described as amounting to instigation.[20] In cases where there is time gap between when the deceased was last harassed and her death,[21] evidences showing that she was ashamed of faults and was hence committing suicide,[22] lack of enough evidences to show that whether the death of the deceased was accidental or suicidal,[23] the deceased’s death took place within few months of marriage and absence of any complaints by the deceased to her parents regarding any maltreatment, torture, for bringing insufficient dowry,[24]  no implication on the husband in dying declaration,[25] instances of quarrel due to consumption of liquor,[26] the deceased was found to be of hot-tempered, quarrel-some and out-spoken nature, her death being a result of dissatisfaction and unhappiness due to economic disparity between her husband’s family and her parents’ family and not because of alleged torture by her husband and his family members,[27] repeated proposals by the accused to marry deceased,[28] failure of the accused to appear on the settled marriage ceremony date with the deceased with whom he had a love affair cannot be attributed to intention of accused to abet her to suicide or knowledge that commission of suicide was a likely consequence,[29] performing of bigamy by husband and subsequently  living separately due to which the deceased found it difficult to find means for existence,[30]  it cannot be conclusively said that an abetment had necessarily been caused.

In a few cases charge of abetment to suicide has also been brought against the wife for her immorality. In the case of Dammu Sreenu v. State of A.P.,[31] the wife had an illicit relationship with another man who used to pay frequent visits to their place, where on one such day he openly announced that since the deceased’s wife had no problem with his visiting their place of residence, therefore he would continue to come, subsequently took her away and kept her for 4 days due to which the deceased committed suicide. The Supreme Court held that in light of proximity and nexus between the behaviour and conduct of appellant and deceased’s wife to the act of commission of suicide, no interference should be made with the clear and unambiguous findings of the Lower Courts of holding the appellant guilty under section 306 of IPC.

In other matters such as demand of money for recruitment to a job,[32] publication of defamatory article[33] it cannot be said that there existed adequate or any instigation by the accused to abet the deceased to commit suicide. Where the victim committed suicide after 5 months when she was raped, since the charge of rape was not being successfully proved therefore conviction under abetment to suicide also could not be implicated.[34] In cases of student suicide, where on finding gutka packets from the deceased, the Principal scolded, hit and asked him to apologise before many people, the court held that it is unimaginable that the latter had not instigated the former to commit suicide as his actions were in consonance to maintaining discipline among the students.[35]

1.Burden Of Proof

In order to prove a case under this section the prosecution has to majorly rely in circumstantial evidences. It is not necessary that all cases would carry direct proofs for establishing a nexus between the act of instigation and suicide. The two conditions as mentioned in the preceding sections are to be necessarily proved. The burden of proof, as laid down in the Supreme Court judgement of Gurbachan Singh v. Satpal Singh,[36] heavily lies on the prosecution. It is necessary that clear evidences including circumstantial or direct, if available, to support the prosecution story should be produced before the court.

2. Duty of the Court

Through a series of judgements it can be observed that a very protective approach towards women has been adopted by the judicial minds. In light of increasing crimes against women it is regarded as a duty of the court to bring such offended under the record books. Judges have sensitised over the protection of women’s dignity. The kind of effect rendered due to such an assault should not be generalised and therefore be decided on the basis of facts and circumstances of each case.

It is not only the judicial minds but also the legislature who has expressed its concern over this matter. In furtherance of the same a presumption has been injected in the Criminal Justice System by way of Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 wherein the death of any woman if occurs within the seven years of her marriage and it is shown that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband or any of the husband’s relative then it shall be presumed that her death was a result of abetment caused by the husband or his relative.

Constitutional Validity and the debate of Euthanasia

The constitutional validity of this section has been challenged in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab,[37] wherein the constitutional bench by overruling the judgement in the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India[38] held this section as not to be ultra vires of the Constitution and hence regarding both euthanasia and assisted suicide as unlawful. Subsequently, in the case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India[39] although the court paved way for passive euthanasia in exceptional circumstances and under the strict vigilance of court, but still the issue regarding as to whether a person should be allowed for causing death of another person should be held as illegal in cases where the latter remains in a continuous vegetatitive state and has no scope of recovery has been referred to a constitutional bench in Common Cause, A Registered Society v. Union of India. This seems to be of high importance because it is probable that it may change the ambit of what constitutes abetment to suicide by removing the essential element of instigation.

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[1] 2nd year student at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

[2] Jagganath Mondal v. State of W.B., 2013 CriLJ 1994 (Cal).

[3] 2001 (9) SCC 618.

[4] Supra note1.

[5] M. Mohan v. State, Represented by Deputy Superintendent of Police, (2011) 3 SCC 626; Amalendu Pal v. State of West Bengal, (2010) 1 SCC 707.

[6] M. Mohan v. State, Represented by Deputy Superintendent of Police, (2011) 3 SCC 626.

[7] Vijay Kumar Rastogi v. State of Rajasthan, 2012 (2) Crimes 628 (Raj).

[8] AIR 2001 SC 2826.

[9] Brij Lal v. Prem Chand, AIR 1989 SC 1661.

[10] State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh, AIR 1991 SC 1532.

[11] Girijashankar v. State of M.P. 1989 CriLJ 242 MP.

[12] Nirmal Devi, 1983 CriLJ NOC 230 (P&H).

[13] Sudarshan Kumar v. State of Haryana, AIR 2011 SC 3024.

[14] S. T. Dayannand Reddy v. State of Karnataka, 2000 CriLJ 2064 Kant; Bijoy Uraon v. State of Bihar, 2000 Cri LJ 3384 (Pat).

[15] Ram Kumar v. State of M.P., 1998 CriLJ 952 (MP).

[16] Mohan Chand Kholia v. State, 2003 CriLJ 1835 (All).

[17] K. Prema S. Rao v. Yadla Srinivas Rao, AIR 2003 SC 11.

[18] 2013 (3) MLJ (Crl) 700

[19] Dammu Sreenu v. State of A.P., 2003 CriLJ 2185 (AP).

[20] Sonti Rama Krishna v. Sonti Shanti Sree, (2009) 1 SCC 554.

[21] Samir Samanta v. State of West Bengal, 1993 CriLJ 134 (Cal); Ratan Lal v. State of M.P. 1993 CriLJ 3723 (Cal)

[22] Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2001 CriLJ 4724 (SC).

[23] State of Maharashtra v. Vasant Shankar Mhasane, 1993 CriLJ 1134.

[24] State of Punjab v. Kirpal Singh, 1992 CriLJ 2472 (P&H)

[25] S. Abboy v. R. Sundarajan, AIR 1998 SC 958.

[26] Sanjay Jain v. State of M.P., 2013 CriLJ 668 (Chh).

[27] Tapan Pal v. State of West Bengal, 1992 CriLJ 1017 (Cal); State of Haryana v. Jai Prakash, AIR 2000 SC 3569;

[28] Ramnath Ajinath Bhandwalkar v. State of Maharashtra, 2012 CriLJ 2497 (Bom).

[29] Satish v. State of Maharashtra, 1997 CriLJ 935 (Bom).

[30] Supchand v. State of Maharashtra, 1995 CriLJ 3939 (Bom).

[31] AIR 2009 SC 2532.

[32] J. S. Ghura v. State of Rajasthan, 1996 CriLJ 2158 (Raj).

[33] State of Gujarat v. Pradyman, 1999 CrLJ 3659 (MP)

[34] Partha Dey v. State of Tripura, 2013 CriLJ 2101 (Gau).

[35] Aroma Philemon v. State, 2013 CriLJ 1933 (Raj).

[36] AIR 1990 SC 209.

[37] 1996 (2) SCC 648.

[38] AIR 1994 SC 1844.

[39] (2011) 4 SCC 454.


  1. I have read about such cases in newspapers where parents of some students have unknowingly abetted their children to commit suicide,especially by overburdening them with subjects that their child/ren will not be able to cope up with or has/have no aptitude for


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