This article is written by Tarini Kalra, a BBA-LL.B. student from Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology affiliated with Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi. The article discusses abetment of suicide under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with a critical analysis of judgments of courts and recent developments in the abetment of suicide.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Abetment is the act of inciting or compelling someone to engage in wrongdoing or unlawful activity. If ‘A’ convinces ‘B’ to poison himself and ‘B’ does so, then ‘A’ would be responsible for abetting the crime. The Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled in the case of M Mohan v. State represented by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (2011), that abetment is a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally assisting a person in carrying out an act. If any person abets, entices, or compels someone to commit suicide, then they shall be penalised under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for abetment of suicide.
The present article provides a detailed study on the provision of abetment of suicide.
Concept of suicide and abetment of suicide
Intentionally killing oneself is referred to as suicide or “felo de se”. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, deals with suicide. It states that whoever attempts suicide and commits the commission of such an offence will be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, a fine, or both. Suicides can occur due to several causes, including professional or personal crisis, feelings of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, mental issues, alcoholism, financial loss, chronic pain, etc. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) gathers statistics on police-recorded suicides. An increase in the suicide rate was observed in 2021 (1,64,033 suicides) compared to 2020 (1,53,052 suicides). “Family Difficulties excluding marriage-related problems” contributed around 33.2%, “Marriage Related Problems” contributed 4.8%, and “Illness” contributed 18.6%, accounting for approximately 56.6% of total suicides in the country in 2021.
Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, defines abetment as the act performed by:
- A person abetting or inciting another person,
- A person engaging with one or more people in any conspiracy for abetting or instigating a person,
- A person intentionally aiding by any act or illegal omission for abetting or instigating a person,
- A person by wilful misrepresentation concealing a material fact that he is obligated to disclose or attempts to cause or procure voluntarily comes within the act of instigation.
If any person abets, entices, or compels someone to commit suicide, then they shall be penalised under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for abetment of suicide. A person abetting, enticing or compelling someone to commit an offence is known as an “abettor” as per Section 108 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Abetment of suicide is referred to as the mental process of instigating, encouraging, or assisting someone in committing suicide. A conviction cannot stand without an intentional effort on the part of the accused to encourage or abet suicide.
In the case of State of Gujarat v. Gautambhai Devkubhai Vala (2022), the Gujarat High Court ruled that the prosecution must fulfill the requirements under Section 107, which deals with instigation, in order to establish an offence under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Abetment of suicide of a child or an insane person is dealt with under Section 305 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It states that anyone who aids or abets any person under the age of eighteen, any insane person, any delirious person, any idiot, or any person in a state of intoxication in committing suicide shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or a period of imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or a fine or both.
Ingredients of abetment of suicide
An offence under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by the Sessions Court. The Gujarat High Court in the case of State of Gujarat v. Raval Deepakkkumar Shankerchand (2022) laid down the ingredients which constitute the act of abetment of suicide. The essential ingredients are:
- Abetment, and
- The intention of the accused is to aid, instigate or abet the individual to commit suicide.
Interpretation of ‘instigation’
Instigation literally means to encourage, provoke or incite a person to commit an act which is abstained by law. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, does not define the term “instigate”. In the case of Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh (2001), the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled that “instigation” can be interpreted as a series of acts on the part of the accused that led to the establishment of such conditions where the deceased had no other alternative than to commit suicide. In other words, in order to prove that the accused abetted the act of suicide of a person, it must be established that:
- That the accused continued to irritate or annoy the deceased through words, deeds, or wilful omission or conduct, including wilful silence, until the deceased reacted, pushed or forced to commit suicide.
- That the accused intended to provoke, urge or encourage the deceased to commit suicide while acting in the manner abovementioned. Without a doubt, the presence of mens rea is a crucial condition for instigation.
In the case of B Sridevi v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2022), the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that proof of incitement and abetment is required and that mere claims of workplace pressure or harassment will not serve to attract components of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
In the case of Ramesh Babubhai Patel v. State of Gujarat (2022), the Gujarat High Court held that words spoken in anger, not with the intention of instigation, cannot be constituted as abetment of suicide.
Punishment for abetment of suicide
Abetment of suicide is punishable under Section 306. The punishment for abetment of suicide is imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and a fine.
In the case of Daxaben v. State Of Gujarat (2022), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the abetment of suicide is a heinous, grave and non-compoundable offence which cannot be resolved with a mere compromise.
Burden of proof
It is necessary to evaluate the facts and circumstances in order to establish the act of abetment of suicide. The prosecution needs to prove –
- The deceased must commit suicide as held in the case of Satvir Singh And Ors v. State Of Punjab (2001),
- The accused instigated or abetted committing suicide, and
- Mens Rea of the accused as held in the case of Gurcharan Singh v. the State of Punjab, (2016)
The prosecution has to predominantly rely on circumstantial evidence. In the landmark case of Gurbachan Singh v. Satpal Singh and Ors (1989), the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled that the burden of proof of abetment of suicide lies on the prosecution. Therefore, it’s important to gather convincing proof, such as indirect or circumstantial evidence.
Suicide note as “evidence”
Suicide notes are basically written by a person who allegedly commits suicide and writes out the cause of their suicide. They may be used as an important piece of evidence for proving the abetment of suicide under Sections 306 and 107 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. A suicide note can be a written note, typed, an audio message, or in a video format. The content of a suicide note can be a plea for absolution or framing charges against the accused for abetting the suicide.
In the case of Harbhajan Sandhu v. State of Punjab and Anr (2022), the Punjab-Haryana High Court ruled that a person is not guilty of abetting suicide simply because their name appears in a suicide note. The ingredients of Section 306 must be fulfilled.
Nexus between Section 113A of the Evidence Act, 1872 and Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
Section 113A of the Evidence Act, 1872, presumes the commission of suicide by a married woman to have been abetted by her husband or any relative of his relative if it is established that she committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or any of his relatives had subjected her to cruelty. “Cruelty” has the same meaning as defined under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
The ingredients of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are necessary to be fulfilled for conviction of the crime under Section 113A.
In the case of Gumansinh v. State of Gujarat (2021), the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled that Section 113A of the Evidence Act can be invoked to uphold the conviction of the accused in the absence of direct evidence.
Euthanasia and abetment of suicide
The word “euthanasia” is derived from the Greek words “eu” and “thanotos,” which means “good death”. Euthanasia, often known as mercy killing, is the act of putting to death in a painless manner to those suffering from severe and incurable diseases. The Law Commission‘s 241st report outlined the details of Passive Euthanasia – A Relook. In the case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India and Ors (2011), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that physician assisted suicide constitutes a crime under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. However, the Court permitted passive euthanasia in extraordinary and extremely uncommon instances with the consent of the patient’s family members and doctors.
Exceptions to abetment of suicide
- In the case of A.K. Chaudhary and Ors. v. State of Gujarat and Ors. (2005), the Gujarat High Court ruled that if an employee commits suicide due to any abnormal reaction caused by the complainant or higher officer’s conduct of taking departmental action by using a legal remedy or enforcing the law, it cannot be deemed an abetting or encouraging suicide under such circumstances.
- In the case of Reena v. NCT of Delhi (2020), Delhi High Court ruled that an accused cannot be held guilty of abetment of suicide if the deceased appeared to be of weak character and unable to handle the ups and downs of life.
- In the case of Ajayakumar and anr. v. State of Kerala (2021), Kerala High Court observed that merely because an accused has been held liable to be punished under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 does not automatically mean that he must also be held guilty of having abetted the commission of suicide by the woman concerned under Section 306 Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- In the case of Sabirabano Yusuf Sayyad v. State of Maharashtra (2021), the Bombay High Court ruled that the charge against the accused cannot be framed as abetment of suicide as an alternative to committing murder.
- In the case of Velladurai v. State (2021), the accused and his wife consumed pesticide together as there was some quarrel between the accused and his wife. The accused survived and his wife died. The Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled that the accused cannot be held guilty under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as this case lacked the necessary ingredients mentioned under the Section.
- In the case of Kanchan Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2021), the Hon’ble Supreme Court quashed the criminal proceeding against the accused filed under Section 306 on the absence of any material within the meaning of Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and lack of any positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide.
- In the case of Dyamanna s/o Yamanappa v. State of Karnataka (2022), the Karnataka High Court ruled that mere harassment by way of filing cases cannot associate the petitioner for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- In the case of Mariano Anto Bruno v. Inspector of Police (2022), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that for an offence to be punished under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, there must be a clear mens rea and direct act of instigation or abetment which led the deceased to commit suicide.
Constitutional validity of Section 306 IPC
In the case of Naresh Morotrao v. Union of India (1994), the Bombay High Court ruled that Section 306 is an entirely different offence from Section 309. Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 penalises the person who has abetted the act of suicide, not the individual who has committed suicide or attempted suicide. It is established on the principle of public policy that no one should engage in, provoke, or help in the commission of a crime, and it is not in violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The issue of the constitutional validity of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was raised again in the case of Smt. Gian Kaur v. the State of Punjab (1996). The Hon’ble Supreme Court relied on the judgement of Naresh Morotrao v. Union of India (1994) and dismissed the issue of constitutional validity.
Abetment of suicide is an act of abetting, instigating, or aiding the victim in committing suicide. It is concluded that abetment is one of the most serious and heinous crimes. After all of the ingredients of abetment of suicide are satisfied, only then can the prosecution create a case of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can anticipatory bail be granted for the commission of an act under Section 306 Indian Penal Code,1860?
Yes, anticipatory bail can be granted at the discretion of the court for the commission of an act under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
What are the ingredients of Section 306 Indian Penal Code,1860?
The ingredients of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are:
- The intention of the accused or abettor is to aid, instigate or abet the individual to commit suicide.
Is the abetment of suicide and murder the same?
In murder, the accused does the ‘act’ of causing a person’s death, whereas abetment of suicide constitutes the intention of the accused to abet or instigate or abet the individual to commit suicide.
- The Indian Penal Code (PB), 36th ED by Ratanlal & Dhirajlal
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