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Supreme Court Sets Stringent Criteria for Abetment of Suicide Cases as Instigation Must Be in Close Proximity

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Published on: December 05, 2023 at 01:20 IST

The Supreme Court has established rigorous criteria for convicting individuals under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in cases of abetment of suicide.

In a recent ruling, the Court quashed a case against an accused, emphasizing that the act of instigation must be in close proximity to the time of the suicide. The decision sheds light on the essential elements required to establish guilt under Section 306 IPC.

The Court clarified that, to apply the first part of Section 107 IPC, the accused must have intentionally encouraged and coerced the person to commit suicide. The instigation must be meticulously planned, and the act should closely precede the actual suicide.

The bench, consisting of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Pankaj Mithal, addressed an appeal challenging a Uttarakhand High Court judgment dismissing a plea seeking to quash charges related to a suicide case.

The case centered around the suicide of Ashok Kumar, allegedly prompted by threats, assault, and a financial dispute with the first appellant, Sandeep Bansal, the son of a money lender.

The deceased’s widow had borrowed money from Sandeep Bansal, and the deceased was distressed by a legal notice related to dishonored cheques. The deceased purportedly took his own life on July 4, 2017.

The prosecution relied on a suicide note written by the deceased on June 30, 2017. The High Court rejected the plea to quash the charges, allowing the case to proceed.

The crucial question before the Supreme Court was whether the appellants instigated the deceased to commit suicide.

The Court analyzed Sections 306 and 107 IPC, emphasizing that abetment requires a specific act of instigation with mens rea, pushing the deceased to a point where suicide becomes the only option.

Examining the timeline of events, the Court noted an incident of threat and assault on June 15, 2017, followed by a legal notice on June 27, 2017. The suicide note was written on June 30, 2017, and the suicide occurred three days later.

The Court observed that the alleged acts of the accused transpired over two weeks before the suicide, with no evidence of subsequent contact or instigation in close proximity to the suicide.

Consequently, the Court ruled that the acts described did not amount to instigation under Section 306. The appeal was allowed, and the summoning order was quashed, with the Court deeming the continuation of the prosecution as an “abuse of the process of law.”