Kerala High Court Acquits Husband held for Wife’s Suicide Under IPC 498A but Upholds Conviction for Cruelty

Kerala HC Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: February 3, 2024 at 11:10 IST

In a recent ruling, the Kerala High Court acquitted a husband accused of abetting his wife’s suicide, citing a lack of mens rea, an essential element for convicting under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

However, the Court upheld the husband’s conviction for cruelty under Section 498A IPC, emphasizing that the wife’s suicide resulted from acts of cruelty.

The appellant, previously convicted by the Sessions Court under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498A (cruelty) of the IPC, appealed to the High Court.

Justice P G Atjithkumar overturned the conviction under Section 306 IPC, ruling that the prosecution failed to establish the mens rea required for abetment of suicide. While confirming the conviction under Section 498A IPC, the court determined that the wife’s suicide was a consequence of unbearable acts of cruelty by the husband, justifying the conviction. The court’s statement read:

“Although the appellant had no mens rea to impel the wife to commit suicide, her act of suicide due to unbearable cruelty amounts to an offence under Section 498A IPC. The conviction for this offence is thus confirmed.”

The case involved allegations that the husband mentally and physically abused his wife, leading her to commit suicide by self-immolation.

According to the prosecution, on February 9, 2006, the appellant assaulted his wife, resulting in burn injuries that caused her death on February 13, 2006.

The appellant denied the allegations, claiming he never harassed his wife and that she had a tendency to commit suicide. He also asserted that he tried to save her and sustained burn injuries himself.

The court acknowledged the prosecution’s evidence of physical and mental torture inflicted by the husband. It noted the consistency between witness statements and the victim’s dying declaration, supporting the prosecution’s case.

In examining the elements of abetment of suicide, the court emphasized the necessity of establishing both the suicide itself and the accused’s active involvement with mens rea.

However, the court concluded that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant instigated the suicide. Instead, it found evidence supporting the wife’s suicide due to the husband’s cruelty, justifying the conviction under Section 498A IPC.

As a result, the appeal was partially allowed, with the appellant’s conviction under Section 306 IPC set aside, and the conviction under Section 498A IPC confirmed.

The Court modified the sentence to two years of rigorous imprisonment, allowing for a setoff under Section 428 of the Code.

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