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Supreme Court acquits man convicted for abetting wife’s suicide in 1993

The Supreme Court has acquitted a man, who was convicted 30 years ago for abetting the suicide of his wife.

The Bench of Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra recently noted that the conviction of the appellant convict for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC was not sustainable in law.

It observed that some times, the criminal justice system itself became a punishment, adding that a similar thing happened in this case, wherein the ordeal for the appellant started in 1993 and was coming to an end in 2024.

Noting the fact that a young woman died leaving behind her 6-month-old infant, the Apex Court said that no crime should go unpunished. However, it was equally important to determine the guilt of the accused in accordance with law, it added.

The top court of the country made the observations while hearing an appeal filed by the husband of a woman, who committed suicide in November 1993. The appellant was accused of abetting the suicide of his wife.

In 1998, a trial court convicted the husband. The order was upheld by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2008.

The appellant moved the Supreme Court against this verdict of the High Court.

The Bench noted that the mere alleged harassment of the deceased woman at the hands of the accused husband was not enough to constitute guilt for the abetment of suicide.

It required an active or direct act, which led the deceased to commit suicide. The ingredient of mens rea cannot be assumed to be ostensibly present, but has to be visible and conspicuous, it added.

The Apex Court further said that the instant case lacked clinching evidence to convict the husband.

The mere fact that the deceased died by suicide within seven years of marriage could not make the presumption under Section 113A (presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman) of the Indian Evidence Act apply automatically.

The Bench noted that the courts needed to be very careful and vigilant in assessing evidence of alleged cruelty in such cases, which could be a tough and arduous task.

It said before the presumption under Section 113A was raised, the prosecution must show evidence of cruelty or incessant harassment in that regard.

If it transpired that the victim committing suicide was hyper sensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the Court would not be satisfied for holding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide was guilty, it added.

Additional Advocate General Raj Singh Rana, along with Advocates Samar Vijay Singh, Keshav Mittal, Sabarni Som and Fateh Singh appeared for the Haryana government.

Appellant Naresh Kumar was reoresented by Advocates SD Singh, Shweta Sinha, Ram Kripal Singh, Siddharth Singh and Aparna Jha.

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