Author: Sumedha Ray | Featured Pic Credit: Shashwat Ashiya

Section 306 of The Indian Penal Code states Abetment of suicide. If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine. The applicable offences are abetting the commission of suicide for which the punishment is imprisonment for 10 years with fine.

This is a non-bailable, non-cognizable offence and triable by Court of Session. This offence is not compoundable. If an offence is cognizable, police has the authority to arrest the accused without a warrant and to start an investigation with or without the permission of a court. Otherwosepolice does not have the authority to arrest the accused without a warrant and an investigation cannot be initiated without a court order.

If an offence is bailable, police has the authority to release the accused on bail on getting the defined surety amount along with a duly filled bail bond at the concerned police station. Otherwise arrested person has to apply for bail before a Magistrate or court.

If an offence is compoundable, a compromise can be done between the accused and the victim, and a trial can be avoided. Otherwise, No compromise is allowed between the accused and the victim except under certain situations, where the High Court or the Supreme Court have the authority for quashing a matter.

In Gangula Mohan Reddy vs. State of Andhra Pradesh[1], it was submitted that the conviction of the appellant is totally unsustainable because no ingredients of offence under Section 306 of the Code can be made out in the facts and circumstances of this case. It would be profitable to set out Section 306 of the Code.

The word suicide is nowhere itself defined in the code, however, its meaning and import is well known and requires no explanation. ‘Sui’ means ‘self’ and ‘cide’ means ‘killing’, thus implying an act of self-killing. In short, a person committing suicide must commit it by himself, irrespective of the means employed by him in achieving his object of killing himself. Suicide by itself is not an offence under either English or Indian criminal law; though at one time it was a felony in England.

In our country, while suicide in itself is not an offence, considering that the successful offender is beyond the reach of law, attempt to suicide is an offence under Section 309 of The Indian Penal Code.

`Abetment’ has been defined under section 107 of the Code. It is deemed appropriate to reproduce section 107, which reads as under:

Abetment of a thing – A person abets the doing of a thing, who –

First – Instigates any person to do that thing; or

Secondly – Engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes places in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or

Thirdly – Intentionally aides, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.”

Explanation 2 which has been inserted along with section 107 reads as under:

Explanation 2 – Whoever, either prior to or at the time of the commission of an act, does anything in order to facilitate the commission of that act, and thereby facilitate the commission thereof, is said to aid the doing of that act.”

In the case of Mahendra Singh & Another v. State of M.P[2] learned counsel for the appellant has placed reliance on a judgment of this Court.

The court came to a definite conclusion that by no stretch the ingredients of abetment are attracted on the statement of the deceased. According to the appellant, the conviction of the appellant under section 306 IPC merely on the basis of  aforementioned allegation of harassment of the deceased is unsustainable in law.

The Learned counsel also placed reliance on another judgment of this court in Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh[3]. A three-Judge Bench of this court had an occasion to deal with a case of a similar nature.  Instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do “an act”. To satisfy the requirement of instigation though it is not necessary that actual words must be used to that effect. Or what constitutes instigation must necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the consequence. Yet a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. The present case is not where the accused had by his acts or omission or by a continued course of conduct created such circumstances that the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide in which case an instigation may have been inferred. A word uttered in the fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow cannot be said to be instigation.”

In State of West Bengal v. OrilalJaiswal& Another[4], this Court has cautioned that the Court should be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case and the evidence adduced in the trail for the purpose of finding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim had in fact induced her to end the life by committing suicide. If it appears to the Court that a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and difference in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and difference were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the Court should not be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide should be found guilty. The Court in the instant case came to the conclusion that there is no evidence and material available on record wherefrom an inference of the accused-appellant having abetted commission of suicide by the victim may necessarily be drawn.

In the instant case, the deceased was undoubtedly hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences which happen in our day-to-day life. Human sensitivity of each individual differs from the other. Different people behave differently in the same situation and hence one straightjacket standard cannot be applied to every person.

 The court in Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) [5]had an occasion to deal with this aspect of abetment. The court dealt with the dictionary meaning of the word “instigation” and “goading”. The court opined that there should be intention to provoke incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter. Each person’s suicidabilty pattern is different from the others. Each person has his own idea of self-esteem and self-respect. Therefore, it is impossible to lay down any strait-jacket formula in dealing with such cases. Each case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.

Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in  doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained.

The intention of the Legislature and the ratio of the cases decided by this court is clear that in order to convict a person under section 306 IPC there has to be a clear mensrea to commit the offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and this act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.

[1]CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1301 of 2002.

[2] 1995 Supp. (3) SCC 731.

[3](2001) 9 SCC 618.

[4](1994) 1 SCC 73.

[5]2009 (11) SCC 24.

About the author: Sumedha is 2015-20 Batch student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. 

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