Quashing of charge in case of abetment of suicide

Allegations of land grabbing resulting in victim committing suicide.

Charge framed u/s 306 IPC quashed while sustaining the charge u/s. 448 of IPC

In other words, the truth of the matter has to come out when the prosecution evidence is led, the witnesses are cross-examined by the defence, the incriminating material and evidence is put to the accused in terms of Section 313 of the Code and then the accused is provided an opportunity to lead defence, if any. It is only upon completion of such steps that the trial concludes with the court forming its final opinion and delivering its judgment. Merely because there was civil transaction between the parties would not by itself alter the status of the allegations constituting the criminal offence.

This was not a case where the allegations were so predominately of a civil nature that it would have eliminated criminal intent and liability. On the contrary, it is a fact and, in fact, is not even disputed that the deceased committed suicide and left a suicide note. May be, the accused are able to prove their non- involvement in inducing or creating circumstances which compelled the deceased to commit suicide but that again is a matter of trial. The ingredients of Section 306 are that a person commits suicide and somebody alone abets commission of such suicide which renders him liable for punishment. Both these ingredients appear to exist in the present case in terms of the language of Section 228 of the Code, subject to trial. The deceased committed suicide and as per the suicide note left by her and the statement of her son, the abetment by the accused cannot be ruled out at this stage, but is obviously subject to the final view that the court may take upon trial. One very serious averment that was made in the suicide note was that the deceased was totally frustrated when the accused persons took possession of the ground floor of her property, C-224, Tagore Garden, Delhi and refused to vacate the same. It is possible and if the Court believes the version given by the prosecution and finds that there was actual sale of property in favour of the accused, as alleged by him, in that event, the Court may acquit them of not only the offence under Section 306 IPC but under Section 107 IPC also. There appears to be some contradiction in the judgment of the High Court primarily for the reason that if charge under Section 306 is to be quashed and the accused is not to be put to trial for this offence, then where would be the question of trying them for an offence of criminal trespass in terms of Section 448 IPC based on some facts, which has been permitted by the High Court.

The High Court could not have appreciated or evaluated the record and documents filed with it. It was not the stage. The Court ought to have examined if the case falls in any of the above-stated categories.

The High Court has also noticed that perusal of the suicide note brings to fore the fact that the petitioner-accused is not only named but his illegal occupation of the house of the deceased is stated to be one of the primary reasons for Komal Kapoor in committing the suicide. The statement of the son of the deceased is also on the same line. Then the High Court proceeds further to notice that even if it is assumed at this stage that the suicide note and statement were correct, the action of the petitioner-accused in forcibly occupying the portion of the house of the deceased and the deceased taking the extreme step would not bring his act within the definition of abetment, as there is no material or evidence placed by the prosecution on record. This finding could hardly be recorded without travelling into the merits of the case and appreciating the evidence. The Court could pronounce whether the offence falls within the ambit and scope of Section 306 IPC or not. These documents clearly show that the accused persons had brought in existence the circumstances which, as claimed by the prosecution, led to the extreme step of suicide being taken by the deceased. It cannot be equated to inflictment of cruelty as discussed by the High Court in its judgment. Once Sections 107 and 306 IPC are read together, then the Court has to merely examine as to whether apparently the person could be termed as causing abetment of a thing. An abetter under Section 108 is a person who abets an offence. It includes both the person who abets either the commission of an offence or the commission of an act which would be an offence.

A wilful misrepresentation or wilful concealment of material fact and such person voluntarily causing or procuring or attempting to cause or procure a thing to be done is said to instigate the doing of that thing. According to the record, the accused had made a wrong statement that he had paid a sum of Rs.24,00,000/- for purchase of the property C-224, Tagore Garden, Delhi and the property belonged to him. Whether it was a misrepresentation of the accused and was an attempt to harass the deceased and her family which ultimately led to her suicide is a question to be examined by the Court. The allegations as made in the afore-stated documents clearly reflects that blank documents were got signed, but the purpose, the consideration and complete facts relating to the transaction were not disclosed to the deceased or the family. This would, at least at this stage, not be a case for examining the correctness or otherwise of these statements as these allegations cannot be said to be ex facie perverse, untenable or malicious. It would have been more appropriate exercise of jurisdiction by the High Court, if it would have left the matter to be determined by the Court upon complete trial. May be the accused would be entitled to get some benefits, but this is not the stage. These are matters, though of some civil nature, but are so intricately connected with criminal nature and have elements of criminality that they cannot fall in the kind of cases which have been stated by us above. There, the case has to be entirely of a civil nature involving no element of criminality.
In other words, instigation has to be gathered from the circumstances of the case. All cases may not be of direct evidence in regard to instigation having a direct nexus to the suicide. There could be cases where the circumstances created by the accused are such that a person feels totally frustrated and finds it difficult to continue existence. Husband of the deceased was a paralysed person. They were in financial crises. They had sold their property. They had great faith in the accused and were heavily relying on him as their property transactions were transacted through the accused itself. Grabbing of the property, as alleged in the suicide note and the statement made by the son of the deceased as well as getting blank papers signed and not giving monies due to them are the circumstances stated to have led to the suicide of the deceased. The Court is not expected to form even a firm opinion at this stage but a tentative view that would evoke the presumption referred to under Section 228 of the Code.

Thus, we are of the considered view that the finding returned by the High Court suffers from an error of law. It has delved into the field of appreciation and evaluation of the evidence which is beyond the jurisdiction, either revisional or inherent, of the High Court under Sections 397 and 482 of the Code.

 

[Source: Amit Kapoor vs. Ramesh Chander, (2012) 8 SCC 460.]
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