The Supreme Court ruled that in cases of Alleged Abetment of Suicide, there must be proof of direct or indirect acts of incitement to the commission of suicide.
The Appellant and Dr. M. Amali Victoria was married and a male child was born out of wedlock in the year 2007. On the professional front, both parties are doctors. Appellant was informed that the deceased had collapsed in the bathroom of their home and was non-responsive. Immediately, an ambulance was called by the father of Appellant. On reaching the site of the incident, Appellant found the deceased having no pulse. Despite intervention from the neighbors of Appellant who were doctors, the deceased could not be resuscitated and passed away. Post mortem of the body was conducted and the cause of death was asphyxia due to external compression of the neck.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the appellant, submitted that the allegations of cruelty have been made for the first time in the complaint made by the mother of the deceased and there is not even a whisper of these allegations in over 9 years of marriage by the deceased or her family.
He submitted that the deceased was suffering from bipolar disorder and this fact was not disclosed to the petitioner at the time of marriage. In spite of the non-disclosure of the same, Appellant took good care of the deceased and it cannot be alleged that the deceased committed suicide due to abetment by the Appellants.
Advocate P.V. Yogeswaran, appearing for the Respondents, submitted that the evidence of prosecution witnesses has clearly established that after marriage, all the accused persons demanded more dowry and also stated how the deceased was abused and humiliated for not conceiving and compelled her consume cow urine in the name of ‘Pooja’.
The Division bench of Justice M. R. Shah and Justice Krishna Murari said that indeed, each suicide is a personal tragedy that prematurely takes the life of an individual and has a continuing ripple effect, dramatically affecting the lives of families, friends and communities. However, the court of law while adjudicating is not to be guided by emotions or sentiments but the dictum is required to be based on analysis of facts and evidence on record.
The bench observed that the High Court erred in recording the finding that there is sufficient evidence for convicting the appellants under Section 306 IPC losing sight of the fact that there exists no evidence on record indicating that the deceased was meted out with harassment by the appellants just before her death.
“It is well-settled that not only there has to be evidence of continuous harassment, but there should be cogent evidence to establish a positive 19 action by the accused which should more or less be proximate to the time of occurrence, which action can said to have led or compelled the person to commit suicide” the court said.
It was noted that not only the said positive action in close proximity to the time of suicide is absent but also there is no evidence for any continuous physical or mental torture meted out to the deceased by the appellants.
The court further noted that the appellant himself took the deceased to consult a psychiatrist just a day prior to this incident obviously with the intention to make her feel better. The said act can by no stretch of imagination be said to be any such act which may lead the deceased to commit suicide.
“To convict a person under Section 306 IPC, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which leads deceased to commit suicide finding no other option and the act must be such reflecting intention of the accused to push deceased into such a position that he commits suicide” the bench stated.
The court said that it has time and again reiterated that before convicting an accused under Section 306 IPC, the Court must scrupulously examine the facts and circumstances of the case and also assess the evidence adduced before it in order to find out whether cruelty and harassment meted out to the victim had left the victim with no other alternative but to put an end to her life.
It was held by the court that merely on the allegation of harassment without their being any positive action proximate to the time of occurrence on the part of the accused which led or compelled the person to commit suicide, conviction in terms of Section 306 IPC is not sustainable.
The court further held that the Trial Court wrongly convicted the Appellants and the High Court was also not justified in upholding the conviction of the Appellants under Sections 306 and 498A IPC.
Case title: Mariano Anto Bruno & Anr. v/s The Inspector of Police
Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1628 OF 2022