SC: To prove abetment of suicide, direct/indirect incitement must be proven

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 25thJuly, 2019, in the matter of Ude Singh & Ors. v. State of Haryana, observed that in the case of accusation of abetment of suicide mere allegation of harassment of the deceased by another person would not suffice unless there be such action on the part of the accused which compels the person to commit suicide; and such an offending action ought to be proximate to the time of occurrence. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

“Abetment” involves a mental process of instigating a person in doing something. A person abets the doing of a thing when: (i) he instigates any person to do that thing; or (ii) he engages with one or more persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing; or (iii) he intentionally aids, by acts or illegal omission, the doing of that thing. These are essential to complete the abetment as a crime. The word “instigate” literally means to provoke, incite, urge on or bring about by persuasion to do anything. (Para 15)

In cases of alleged abetment of suicide, there must be a proof of direct or indirect act/s of incitement to the commission of suicide. It could hardly be disputed that the question of cause of a suicide, particularly in the context of an offence of abetment of suicide, remains a vexed one, involving multifaceted and complex attributes of human behaviour and responses/reactions. In the case of accusation for abetment of suicide, the Court would be looking for cogent and convincing proof of the act/s of incitement to the commission of suicide. In the case of suicide, mere allegation of harassment of the deceased by another person would not suffice unless there be such action on the part of the accused which compels the person to commit suicide; and such an offending action ought to be proximate to the time of occurrence. Whether a person has abetted in the commission of suicide by another or not, could only be gathered from the facts and circumstances of each case. (Para 16)

For the purpose of finding out if a person has abetted commission of suicide by another, the consideration would be if the accused is guilty of the act of instigation of the act of suicide. (Para 16.1)

Instigation means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act. (Para 16.1)

If the persons who committed suicide had been hypersensitive and the action of accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly circumstanced person to commit suicide, it may not be safe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide. But, on the other hand, if the accused by his acts and by his continuous course of conduct creates a situation which leads the deceased perceiving no other option except to commit suicide, the case may fall within the four-corners of Section 306 IPC. (Para 16.1)

If the accused plays an active role in tarnishing the self-esteem and self-respect of the victim, which eventually draws the victim to commit suicide, the accused may be held guilty of abetment of suicide. (Para 16.1)

The question of mens rea on the part of the accused in such cases would be examined with reference to the actual acts and deeds of the accused and if the acts and deeds are only of such nature where the accused intended nothing more than harassment or snap show of anger, a particular case may fall short of the offence of abetment of suicide. However, if the accused kept on irritating or annoying the deceased by words or deeds until the deceased reacted or was provoked, a particular case may be that of abetment of suicide. Such being the matter of delicate analysis of human behaviour, each case is required to be examined on its own facts, while taking note of all the surrounding factors having bearing on the actions and psyche of the accused and the deceased. (Para 16.1)

In regard to the factors related with the question of harassment of a girl, many factors are to be considered like age, personality, upbringing, rural or urban set ups, education etc. Even the response to the ill-action of eve-teasing and its impact on a young girl could also vary for a variety of factors, including those of background, selfconfidence and upbringing. Hence, each case is required to be dealt with on its own facts and circumstances. (Para 16.2)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_25-Jul-2019

-Tushar Kaushik 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *