Mischief

This article is written by Shraddha Jain, a law student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. This article seeks to cover various aspects of Section 306 IPC. The main focus of the article is to discuss various landmark and recent cases on abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction

An abetment is a process where there is a mental advancement towards inciting or deliberately assisting an individual in performing a specific act. Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) talks about the concept of abetment to suicide. Section 306 of the IPC provides punishment for an individual who has abetted, aided or instigated any person to commit suicide. According to this Section, the punishment for such an offence would be for a maximum period of ten years or a fine or both.

In order to convict an individual under Section 306 of the IPC, there must be a clear mens rea (motive) to commit the offence of abetment. Offences under Section 306 of the IPC are cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by the court of sessions. There are various other concepts under this Section that courts have interpreted through various judgements. In this article, we will be dealing with those cases and their interpretation.

What is Section 306 IPC

Section 306 of the IPC talks about the abetment of suicide. Section 306 of the IPC says, “If any person commits suicide, then whoever aids and abets such suicide will be punished by imprisonment of either description for a period not to exceed ten years, and shall also be liable to a fine.”

Ingredients of Section 306 IPC

According to this interpretation of the Section, three main requirements must be met in order to convict (and penalise) an individual for aiding and abetting suicide under Section 306 of the IPC. These three prerequisites are as follows:

Commission of suicide

The deceased must have committed suicide, that is, they should have taken their own life (and not murdered by any other individual). In order to hold the accused guilty under this Section, there must be a commission of suicide. An unaccomplished attempt to commit suicide is not punishable under Section 306 of the IPC.

Instigation or abetment of such suicide

The accused should have encouraged or provoked the deceased to commit such suicide.

The Supreme Court clarified the term instigation in the case of Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh (2001), stating that “instigation is to encourage, ask forward, stimulate, invoke, or prompt to do a demonstration.”

In the case of Vijay Kumar v. State of Rajasthan (2018), it was determined that the term instigation means “to advise or make a decent effort to persuade someone to do something and to end up making an individual move all the more quickly or in a particular way.” To establish abetment, it must be demonstrated that the accused proceeded to encourage or irritate the deceased through words or insults until the deceased responded. Furthermore, the accused intended to incite, request, or urge the deceased to end it all while acting in the manner described above. The existence of mens rea is indisputably very important.

It was determined in the case of M.Mohan v. State Tr.Dy.Supdt.of Police (2011) that abetment contains a psychological interaction of provocation or intentionally assisting a person in doing something. The conviction cannot be backed up unless there is a favourable follow-up on the part of the convicted to stimulate or assist in ending the individual’s life.

Direct nexus

There must be a direct connection between the incitement and the committal of suicide. For example, in the case of Amalendu Pal @ Jhantu v. State of West Bengal (2009) It should also be noted that in cases of alleged suicide abetment, there needs to be evidence of either direct or indirect acts of incitement to the commission of suicide. Conviction under Section 306 of the IPC is not viable based solely on the accusation of harassment without any positive action on the part of the accused close to the time of the occurrence that led or forced the individual to commit suicide.

Scope of Section 306 IPC

Abetment is the mental evolution of purposefully inciting or assisting someone to perform an act. For convicting an individual under Section 306 of the IPC, there needs to be a clear motive to commit the offence of abetment. There should also be a direct act that prompted the deceased to commit suicide. 

The Supreme Court ruled in M.Mohan v. State Tr.Dy.Supdt.of Police (2001) that there must be a close connection between the alleged person’s act and the deceased person’s choice to commit suicide. In the absence of a connection, it will be difficult to prove that the accused person stimulated the deceased person to commit suicide. As a result, abetment by a person occurs when the accused instigates or generates situations that force the deceased to commit suicide.

With the enactment of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, there have been several speculations that Section 309 of the IPC has been forced into oblivion or has been abolished or decriminalised already. However, this legislation does not repeal Section 309 of the IPC, instead, it narrows the scope of its application. Section 115 of the Act explicitly specifies that if a person tries to commit suicide, it will be assumed that he or she was under tremendous stress and that he or she would not be prosecuted or punished under Section 309 of the IPC.

Punishment for abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC

According to Section 306 of the IPC, if any individual commits suicide, the person found to have aided in the commission of such suicide shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend to ten years or a fine or both. Section 306 of the IPC provides that offences are cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by the court of sessions.

The word ‘suicide’

The term ‘suicide’ is not defined in the IPC. The Supreme Court stated in the case of M.Mohan v. State Tr.Dy.Supdt.of Police (2011) that the term ‘suicide’ stands for self-killing, i.e., ‘sui’ means ‘self’ and ‘cide’ means ‘killing.’ It is an act of ‘self-killing’ or ‘taking one’s own life,’ so an individual committing suicide must do so by himself, regardless of the methods he uses to accomplish his goal of killing himself. While suicide is not an offence in our country because the successful ‘offender’ goes outside the reach of the law, attempting to commit suicide is a crime under Section 309 of the IPC, though its scope has been severely restricted by the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

Abetment requires a high level of cruelty

The Delhi High Court observed in the case of Kaushal Kishore v. State of NCT of Delhi (2019) that the extent of cruelty required to establish abetment under Section 306 of the IPC would be greater than the extent of harassment and cruelty required to establish an offence under Section 498A of the IPC. It cannot be held that since an accused has been released from an offence under Section 306 of the IPC, the offence is automatically discharged under Section 498A of the IPC.

Mens rea under Section 306 IPC

The Bombay High Court stated in the case of Pramod Shriram Telgote v. State of Maharashtra (2018) that in order to convict an individual under Section 306 of the IPC, there must be a definite mens rea to commit the crime. It also necessitates an active or direct action that caused the deceased to have no other option but to commit suicide, and also that conduct should have been aimed at placing the deceased in such a situation that he committed suicide. The mens rea to commit the offence is a sine qua non for convicting an individual under Section 306 of the IPC.

Landmark cases on Section 306 IPC

Smt. Gian Kaur v. The State of Punjab (1996)

The judgement of Smt. Gian Kaur v. The State of Punjab (1996) is as follows:

Facts of the case

Gian Kaur and her husband, Harbans Singh, were charged with aiding the suicide of their daughter-in-law. The trial court convicted both of them under Section 306 of the IPC and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for six years, with a fine of Rs. 2,000. If they were unable to pay the fine on time, they would be sentenced to a further 9 months of imprisonment. The matter went to the High Court of Punjab, which reaffirmed the trial court’s decision and lowered the sentence from six to three years in prison.

Issue of the case

The main issue raised in this case was: Whether Section 306 of the IPC is constitutionally valid or not.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court ruled that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India does not include the right to die. Sections 306 and 309 of the IPC are constitutionally valid. Abetment of suicide or attempted suicide is a separate offence that is observed even in nations where attempted suicide is not subject to punishment. Section 306 of the IPC can exist independently of Section 309 of the IPC because it creates a distinct offence. There is no reason to believe that Section 309 of the IPC is unconstitutional. The Court ruled that anyone who aids and abets another person in committing a crime will be held liable and penalised with rigorous imprisonment for up to ten years, a fine, or both.

Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chattisgarh (2001)

The judgement of Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh (2001) is as follows:

Facts of the case

In this case, during a conflict between the married couple, the husband told his wife, “You are independent to do what you want and go anywhere you want.” As an outcome of this comment, the wife committed suicide by pouring kerosene on herself and setting herself on fire.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: Whether the act of the accused or the statement made by him encouraged the woman to commit suicide.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court determined that there was no evidence or material on record to support a conclusion that the accused instigated the deceased’s suicide. The entire circumstances addressed in this case, particularly the dying declaration and the suicide notes left by the deceased herself, fall for the evaluation under the expression “all the other circumstances of the case” mentioned in Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and do not allow the assumption thereunder to be brought up against the accused. As a result, the accused deserved to be acquitted of the accusation under Section 306 of the IPC.

The Court analysed the term ‘instigation’ and asserted that in order to fulfil the requirement of instigation, although the exact words can be used for such a result, a rational surety to instigate the consequence must be spelt correctly out. A word uttered out of frustration or sentiment cannot be termed as an ‘instigation.’

Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (2009)

The judgement of Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (2009) is as follows:

Facts of the case

The deceased in this case committed suicide by shooting himself using his licenced pistol. It was asserted that the deceased was a partner with the appellant in this appeal, as well as two other individuals, Jahuruddin and Mahavir Prasad, who were all involved in the business of real estate. The deceased committed suicide as a result of the issues caused by these three individuals; the deceased left behind one suicide letter mentioning that there were some financial transactions between them, and therefore, these three individuals aided the deceased in his suicide. The trial court was convinced that there was enough evidence in the documentation to charge all three defendants. The appellant filed a revision petition with the High Court of Delhi after being dissatisfied with the phrasing of the charge. As previously stated, the High Court refused to intervene in the order establishing the charge.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: Whether mental torture aids in the commission of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court determined that the appellant had mentally tormented the deceased and aided him in committing suicide by the stated act of psychological torture and therefore had committed an offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC.

The Court held that the accused must have intended to instigate, incite, or promote the commission of an offence. Each person’s tendency to commit suicide is distinct, as is each person’s concept of self-esteem and self-respect. Furthermore, there is no straightforward method for dealing with suicidal situations, and each case must be evaluated based on its particular facts and circumstances.

If the offender’s activities or persistent course of conduct generate such conditions that the deceased person is left with no other choice than to commit suicide, then the accused will be liable under Section 306 of the IPC. To verify that the accused aided the commission of suicide by an individual, it must be established that:

  • The accused continued to frustrate or harass the deceased with words, actions, or deliberate omissions or behaviour.
  • That the accused wanted to boost the deceased’s desire to commit suicide by behaving in the manner described above is, undoubtedly, mens rea, a required component of incitement.

Amalendu Pal @ Jhantu v. State of West Bengal (2009)

The judgement of Amalendu Pal @ Jhantu v. State of West Bengal (2009) is as follows:

Facts of the case

The appellant, Amalendu Pal, and the deceased, Dipika, married in 1977. Two sons were born from the marriage. The appellant was living in Kolkata because of his employment and earnings. During his time in Kolkata, the appellant had an extramarital affair with a lady named Anita. The deceased became aware of the appellant’s contact with Anita, and the deceased opposed such illegitimate relationship. The appellant requested permission from the deceased to marry Anita, which the deceased declined. As a result, the appellant began tormenting the deceased both emotionally and physically. The deceased was allegedly induced by the appellant to end her life by taking poison.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: Whether the harassment caused to the victim had induced her to commit suicide and end her life.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court held that there must be evidence of either direct or indirect actions of instigation to the conduct of suicide in situations of alleged abetment of suicide. Conviction under Section 306 of the IPC is not feasible based solely on an accusation of abusive behaviour without any positive action on the part of the accused at the time of the incident that prompted or forced the individual to commit suicide.

To bring an action under Section 306 of the IPC, there needs to be a case of suicide and in the commission of the suicide, the person who is alleged to have supported and encouraged the commission of suicide should have taken an active part through the conduct of provocation or by performing a specific act to assist the commission of that offence.

Section 306 IPC case laws

Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab (2020)

The judgement of Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab (2020) is as follows:

Facts of the case

The appellant was married to the deceased and the couple had a son (around 2 years) and a daughter (8/9 months). Based on the prosecution case, the deceased was mistreated after marriage because she did not bring an adequate dowry. Even though no charge of aiding and abetting was filed against the husband, the trial court ruled that he could be found guilty of instigating his wife’s suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: Whether the appellant is responsible for creating an environment in the marital home that led to the deceased’s suicide.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court stated that neither the Trial Court nor the High Court considered whether the appellant had mens rea to commit the offence for which he was found guilty. They predicated the conviction on the principle that a young woman with two small children decided to commit suicide as a result of abusive behaviour in a matrimonial home, which was not backed by the evidence presented in the case. To convict a person under Section 306 of the IPC, there must be a clear mens rea to commit the offence.

In the case of Amalendu Pal alias Jhantu v. State of West Bengal (2009), it was held that a conviction under Section 306 of the IPC is not feasible based on a simple accusation of abuse without substantiation of favourable conduct proximate to the time when it occurred on the part of the accused that led to the person who has committed suicide.

The Supreme Court overturned the Trial Court’s and Punjab and Haryana High Court’s verdicts, holding that the result that the deceased was pushed to commit suicide by the instances or environment in the marital home was merely an implication, lacking any material support, and could not be used to maintain the appellant’s conviction under Section 306 of the IPC. 

Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan (2021)

The judgement of Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan (2021) is as follows:

Facts of the case

A class 9 child was under intense mental stress since the appellant (the GEO, PTI sir) had tormented and humiliated him in front of everyone therefore he refused to attend school on April 25, 2018 but was convinced to do so by his family. The boy was notified that his parents had been called to school the next day, which added to his stress and anxiety. On April 26, 2018, the child committed suicide.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: Whether the scolding of the teacher is regarded as an abetment to suicide.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court said the disciplinary actions accepted by a professor or other school administration reprimanding a student for his misconduct would not amount to inciting a student to attempt suicide. Unless there are frequent accusations of abusive behaviour and insults without any reasonable motive or cause.

As a result, if a student is merely reprimanded by a professor for just misconduct or misbehaviour and that act of indiscipline is brought to the notice of the principal of the school, who communicates to the student’s parents for school discipline and tries to correct a child and any student who is extremely emotional or sentimental decides to commit suicide, the said professor cannot be held responsible for the same and cannot be charged and tried for the offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.

To constitute an accusation of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC, there needs to be an accusation of either a direct or indirect act of incitement in the commission of the crime of suicide. The simple accusation of harassment of the deceased by another individual cannot be adequate in itself unless there are accusations of such actions on the part of the accused that forced the commission of suicide.

Shabbir Hussain v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2021)

The judgement of Shabbir Hussain v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2021) is as follows:

Facts of the case

Roshan Bee, the wife of the deceased, went back to her parent’s home one day due to a marital dispute. After 12 days, the deceased poisoned himself and left four suicide letters at his house because the accused, the parents of the wife, refused to send his wife and daughter with him, and as a consequence, they are to be held responsible for his death. Shabbir Hussain, the deceased’s brother, filed a complaint against the respondent under Section 306 of the IPC.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: The fundamental question, in this case, was whether simple harassment amounted to aiding suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court ruled that simple harassment does not constitute an abetment of suicide charge under Section 306 of the IPC. The Court continued by stating in the case of Chitresh Kumar Chopra v State (Government of NCT of Delhi) (2009) that abetment occurs when one individual incites someone else to do something and that the incitement can be implied when the accused has established circumstances where the deceased has had no option but to commit suicide as a consequence of his or her acts or omissions.

The Court rejected the appeal, observing that the claim made was that the deceased had been harassed by the accused, but there was no other information on record to show abetment.

Atul Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr. (2021)

The judgement of Atul Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr. (2021) is as follows:

Facts of the case

The petitioner lived in the United States of America. The petitioner contacted M/s Palli Motors, which was owned by the deceased, through email and expressed a sincere desire to acquire a vintage motorcycle. The deceased responded to the email with a price quote for the motorcycle. It was claimed by the applicant that, despite having transferred the entire purchase price of the vintage motorcycle to the deceased, the deceased failed to hand over ownership of the vintage motorcycle to the petitioner. After around two years of making the payment, the petitioner travelled to India and filed a case. After that, the petitioner returned to the United States. After three to four days, the deceased committed suicide, leaving behind a letter that blamed the petitioner in this matter for his decision to end his life.

Issue of the case

The main issue that was raised in this case was: Whether the petitioner’s issuing of a legal notice and lodging of a complaint constituted an ‘abetment to commit suicide’ punishable under Section 306 of the IPC.

Decision of the Court

According to the Delhi High Court, in order to acknowledge any of the petitioner’s acts as an abetment, there must be a significant correlation as well as the proximity of his actions to the deceased who committed suicide. The Court concluded that it may be possible that the deceased may have felt annoyed and therefore committed suicide after considering the facts and circumstances of this case. The petitioner cannot be held liable for aiding the deceased in committing suicide. The petitioner had the legal right to issue a legal notice and register a complaint, as instructed by his counsel. As a result, the petitioner’s filing of a criminal complaint against the deceased cannot be deemed as an act of mens rea to provoke or cause the deceased to commit suicide.

Daxaben v. The State of Gujarat (2022)

The judgement of Daxaben v. the State of Gujarat (2022) is as follows:

Facts of the case

The accused were charged with defrauding the deceased of Rs. 2,35,73,200 and, as a result, the deceased, who was in severe financial distress, was forced to commit suicide. In a petition brought by the accused under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, the Gujarat High Court quashed an FIR under Section 306 of the IPC submitted against the accused in light of a settlement between the accused named in the FIR and the complainant- a cousin of the deceased. The application made by the wife of the deceased to have the judgement recalled was also denied.

Issue of the case

The main issue raised in this case was: Whether the High Court has power under Section 482 of the CrPC to quash the FIR filed under Section 306 of the IPC on the basis of settlement.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court ruled that an FIR under Section 306 of the IPC (abetment to suicide) cannot be quashed under Section 482 of the CrPC on the grounds of a settlement. Grave or heinous crimes that are not private in nature and have a significant effect on society cannot be quashed through a settlement between the accused and the complainant and/or the victim itself. The Bench began by noting that the crime of aiding and abetting to commit suicide under Section 306 of the IPC is a serious, non-compoundable offence.

Conclusion

Abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC occurs when someone commits suicide after being prompted or aided to do so by someone else. The applicability of this provision is limited to only three main categories i.e., the commission of suicide, instigation or abetment of such suicide and direct connection between the incitement and the committal of suicide. The accused are often seen to easily avoid the penal rules relating to such offences. As a consequence, the rules associated with the allegation of abetment must be revised so that offenders are unable to dodge the laws, modify cases to fit their own interests, and escape punishment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the nature of the offence under Section 306 IPC?

The nature of the offence under Section 306 of the IPC is as follows:

  • Cognizable offence;
  • Non-bailable offence;
  • Triable by the court of session;
  • Non-compoundable.

What are the essential elements of Section 306 IPC?

The essential ingredients of the offence under Section 306 of the IPC were highlighted by the Gujarat High Court in the case of State of Gujarat vs Raval Deepakkkumar Shankerchand (2022). They are as follows:

  1. the abetment;
  2. the accused’s intention to assist, incite, or abet the deceased’s suicide.

Can we get bail under Section 306 IPC?

Section 306 of the IPC is the abetment of suicide and is a non-bailable offence. Therefore the accused cannot seek bail as a matter of right under this section. It is at the discretion of the court. According to Section 437 of the CrPC, the court will examine some factors prior to granting bail such as the essence and gravity of the offence, the nature of the evidence, circumstances, reasonable suspicion of witness tampering, the general public’s interest, etc. You can also file a petition in the sessions court for anticipatory bail and if the court refuses such a plea, you can then file a petition in the High Court for anticipatory bail.

References


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