Demand of Loan Amount From Defaulting Borrower Not Abetment To Suicide Delhi Court:
An accused named Pradeep was granted regular bail by Sessions Judge, Rohini court after no sufficient evidence could be found against him for abetting the suicide of the deceased who was tenant of accused.
Allegedly, the deceased had taken a loan of Rs. 5 Lakhs from the accused in February 2020, which he could not return due to economical failure during Covid-19 spread, thereby committing suicide.
Advocate Ravi Drall argued for accused that there was dispute in the family of deceased further due to loss in his business he could not return the loan amount at time and suffered depression. Further Mr. Ravi Drall argued that mere mentioning the name of accused in suicide note does not make him accused ultimately unless there are cogent evidences of instigation against accused person.
Deceased had left a suicide note and a video also explaining after taking the loan from Pradeep, he handed over the documents of his property to him. It further stated that he went to the house of the accused along with his friend, Maniram to return Rs 5.50 lakhs which were refused by him. He asked for Rs 9 lakhs alongside making his “life miserable,” “threatening him” and “abusing him.” He was fed up of the same and chose to end his life.
However, on an investigation nothing incriminating could be found about the accused and his involvement in the matter. The documents of the property which were stated by the Deceased in his suicide note had already been executed in the name of the applicant. Along with this, his Counsel, Mr Drall submitted that he was innocent and his chances of was innocent and his chances of recovering the money would be finished if he actually intended to abet the suicide of the Deceased.
It was further observed by the court of law that the accused being the sole earner of a family comprising his children, wife and parents has no prior involvement in any criminal acts. There were strong grounds to grant bail to him.
However, the bail was opposed by APP. AB Asthana who stated that the investigation was at an initial stage and the police was not conducting a fair investigation by properly checking the nearby CCTV cameras. The Investigation Officer justified doing the same and that he also investigated the neighbours of the Deceased along Maniram under Sec 161 CrP.C. None of these people deposed that the applicant had instigated or threatened the Deceased in their presence, let alone abetting him 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.
Advocate Ravi Drall has represented clients in cases related to Anticipatory, regular Bails, Acquittal, Revisions, Appeals, Writs, PIL’s in cases of MCOCA, Cheating, Fraud, Murder, Attempt to murder, Extortion, Dacoity, Sexual Offences, Suicide, Narcotic and Drugs, Revenue and Customs Criminal Cases, Economic Offences, Arms and Weapons, Matrimonial, Domestic Violence, Constitutional Law, Negligence, and have availed favourable decisions from the courts. It is always advisable to seek for the best professional legal advise in case of criminal law as it involves intricate complexities and a small fact lead to an acquittal.
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