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Supreme Court quashes criminal proceedings, NBW against woman accused of abetting suicide

The bench of Justices R. Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order in the criminal appeal filed by the appellant aggrieved by the order dated July 18, 2019 passed by the High Court of Allahabad, dismissing her application filed under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

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The Supreme Court on Friday quashed criminal proceedings and a non-bailable warrant issued against a woman in a case of alleged suicide under the SC/ST Act and observed that abetment involves the mental process of instigating or intentionally aiding a person in doing a thing.

The bench of Justices R. Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order in the criminal appeal filed by the appellant aggrieved by the order dated July 18, 2019 passed by the High Court of Allahabad, dismissing her application filed under Section  482 of Code of Criminal  Procedure (CrPC).
 
On May 11, 2018, an FIR  was registered at PS T.P. Nagar Police Station, District Meerut on the complaint of the brother of the deceased under Sections 328,  302  IPC  and 3(2)(v)  of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes  (Prevention of Atrocities)  Act, 1989  alleging that his brother (deceased) was called by the appellant on May 4, 2018 at her house. At that point of time, his brother was on duty at PVM Logistic Company and on such call,  he went to the house of the appellant, wherein the appellant’s father, mother and sister met his brother and all of them abused his brother with casteist abuses and forcefully administered poison to him and consequently his brother became unconscious. The complainant further stated that his brother was taken to hospital and due to the negligence of the hospital, he died.
 
Initially, FIR was registered for offenses punishable under Sections 328, 302 of IPC  and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act against the appellant, her brother and sister. After investigation, a final report was filed only against the appellant for the offense under Section 306 IPC and  Section 3(2)(v)  of the Act. On filing such a final report, cognizance was taken against the appellant and on February 21, 2019, non-bailable warrants were issued against the appellant.  After filing of the final report, case was registered against the appellant under Section 306 IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act,  which is pending on the file of the Additional   District   &   Sessions   Judge  / Special   Judge,   Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Meerut.

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The appellant approached the High Court for quashing of cognizance order/NBW issued against her. It was the case of the appellant before the High Court that no offence is made out against the appellant to proceed for trial for the alleged offense under Section 306, IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act. The High Court, by the impugned order, has disposed of the petition mainly on the ground that the disputed questions of fact cannot be adjudicated at this stage under Section 482, Cr.PC.
 
Sanchit Garga, Counsel for the Appellant, has mainly contended that there is absolutely no basis to proceed against the appellant for an alleged offense under Section 306, IPC and Section 3(2) (v) of the Act. It is submitted that except that the appellant was harassed by the deceased by following her and proposing marriage with him, there is absolutely no basis to allege that the appellant has abetted the suicide of the deceased. It is further submitted that on the day of the incident,  i.e., 04.05.2018 deceased came to the house of the appellant and started shouting that he would marry the appellant and if her marriage was not solemnized, he would consume poison. Within no time thereafter, he consumed poison from a small bottle which he was holding in his hand and fell unconscious and thereafter died in the hospital. In absence of any of the ingredients of Section 306/107, IPC, the appellant cannot be subjected to trial for the offence under Section  306, IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act , Garga added.

On the other hand, Aviral Saxena, counsel for the state, submitted that the deceased was maintaining relations with the appellant. As she refused to marry the deceased, he committed suicide by consuming poison. In view of the relation maintained by her, it amounts  to abetment for committing suicide by the deceased within the meaning of  Section 306 of IPC.  It is further submitted that the appellant and other members of the family have abused the deceased by uttering casteist words, as such, the appellant is rightly sought to be prosecuted for the offense under Section 3(2)(v) of the Act.

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The Supreme Court bench of Justices R. Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy having heard both sides said there is no other material to show that the appellant was maintaining any relation with the deceased. From the material placed on record, it is clear that on the date of the incident on 04.05.2018, the deceased went to the house of the appellant and consumed poison by taking out from a small bottle which he had carried in his pocket. Merely because he consumed poison in front of the house of the appellant,   that itself will not indicate any relation of the appellant with the deceased.  “Abetment involves the mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing a thing,” observed the Court.

“Without positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, no one can be convicted for offence under Section 306, IPC.  To proceed against any person for the offense under  Section 306 IPC it requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide, seeing no option and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such  a position that he committed suicide. There is nothing on record to show that appellant was maintaining relationships with the deceased and further there is absolutely no material to allege that appellant abetted for suicide of the deceased within the meaning of Section 306, IPC.  Even with regard to offense alleged  under Section 3(2)(v)   of   the  Act it is to be noticed  that  except the vague and bald statement that the appellant and   other family members abused the deceased by uttering  casteist words but there is nothing on record to show to attract  any of the ingredients  for the  alleged offense also.”

The Apex Court referred the case of Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) to deal with the aspect of abetment. In the said case,  the Top   Court has opined that there should be an intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the accused.  Besides, the judgment also observed that each person’s suicidality pattern is different from the other and each person has his own idea of self¬esteem and self-respect.  In the said judgment it is held that it is impossible to lay down any strait-jacket formula dealing with the cases of suicide and each case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.

“Having regard to such material placed on record and in absence of any material within the meaning of Section 107 of IPC, there is absolutely no basis to proceed against the appellant for the alleged offense under Section 306 IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act.  It would be a travesty of justice to compel the appellant to face a criminal trial without any credible material whatsoever,”

-the order reads.

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