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The ingredient of mens rea for abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC can’t be assumed to be ostensibly present but has to be visible and conspicuous: SC
- Gurcharan Singh was convicted for abetting the suicide of his wife. Singh, together with his parents were charged under sections 304B and 498A read with section 34 of the IPC.
- The Trial Court observed that there was not enough material to convict them under section 304B & 498A IPC; it noted that even if no charge of abetment was framed against the husband, conviction for abetting suicide of his wife can be made against, under section 306 IPC.
- The Trial Court also observed that prospect of a wedded woman will be love and affection and monetary security through her husband and expectations of her are perturbed by the act or by wilful negligence of the husband, it would amount to abetment within the meaning of section 107 IPC, permitting conviction under sec 306 IPC.
- The Trial Court’s observation was upheld by the High Court, that deceased was abetted to commit suicide because of the environment in the matrimonial home and rejected the appeal filed by the accused.
As in all crimes, mens rea has to be established. To prove the offence of abetment, as specified under Sec 107 of the IPC, the state of mind to commit a particular crime must be visible, to determine the culpability. In order to prove mens rea, there has to be something on record to establish or show that the appellant herein had a guilty mind and in furtherance of that state of mind, abetted the suicide of the deceased. The ingredient of mens rea cannot be assumed to be ostensibly present but has to be visible and conspicuous. However, what transpires in the present matter is that both the Trial Court as well as the High Court never examined whether the appellant had the mens rea for the crime, he is held to have committed.
The Court referred to the verdicts of SS Chheena Vs. Vijay Kumar Mahajan (2010) 12 SCC 190, Amalendu Pal alias Jhantu vs. State of West Bengal (2010) 1 SCC 707, Mangat Ram Vs. State of Haryana (2014) 12 SCC 595, and held that
Proceeding with the above understanding of the law and applying the ratios to the facts in the present case, what is apparent is that no overt act or illegal omission is seen from the appellant’s side, in taking due care of his deceased wife. The evidence also does not indicate that the deceased faced persistent harassment from her husband. Nothing to this effect is testified by the parents or any of the other prosecution witnesses. The Trial Court and the High Court speculated on the unnatural death and without any evidence concluded only through conjectures, that the appellant is guilty of abetting the suicide of his wife. 20. In such circumstances, we have no hesitation in declaring that the Trial Court and the High Court erred in concluding that the deceased was driven to commit suicide, by the circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home. This is nothing more than an inference, without any material support. Therefore, the same cannot be the basis for sustaining the conviction of the appellant, under section 306 of the IPC.
The bench set aside the conviction of a husband and said
“What might have been the level of expectation of the deceased from her husband and in-laws and the degree of her frustration, if any, is not found through any evidence on record. More significantly, wilful negligence by the husband could not be shown by the prosecution.”
Case name: Gurcharan Singh vs. State of Punjab
Case no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.40 OF 2011
Coram: Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy