Cruelty and Abetment to Suicide

Updated: Jan 22



Sec. 306: Abetment of Suicide

“If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”


Those who aid and abet the commission of suicide by the hand of the person himself who commits the suicide, may be punished under this section. When another person, at the request of or with the consent of the person who wants to commit suicide, has killed that person, he is guilty of‘homicide by consent’ which is one of the forms of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The latter is covered by Exception 5 to Sec. 300 and is punishable under Sec. 304.


The cases of ‘physician assisted suicide’ ‘consent killing or euthanasia’ and ‘mercy killing* viz. in respect of terminally ill patients (persistent vegetative state) are covered by Sec. 304 and not Sec. 306. It may be noted that ‘right to die’ or ‘right to suicide* is not recognized in India and, thus, euthanasia is illegal in India.


Cruelty Do not Always means Abatement


Cruelty may not by itself amount to abetment for suicide. A case of mental torture of this kind, even if the girl does not commit suicide, would amount to an offence of ‘cruelty* within the meaning of Sec. 498-A, PC. Further, where a married girl commits suicide within seven years of her marriage, the court may presume that her husband and relatives of her husband had abetted her to commit suicide (Sec. 113-A, Evidence Act). All these sections are welcome measures to combat the ever-growing menace of dowry death.


It may be noted that a person who ‘attempts’ to commit suicide is guilty of the offence under Sec. 309 whereas the person who committed suicide cannot be reached at all Sec. 306 renders the person who abets the commission of suicide punishable for which the condition precedent is that suicide should necessarily have been committed. Nobody would abet a mere attempt to commit suicide (Satvir Singh v State of Punjab AIR 2001 SC 2826).


The offence under Sec. 306 could not be said to be a minor offence in relation to Sec. 302 (Sangaraboina Sreenu v State ofAP., 1997 CrLJ 3955 (SC)]. Before Sec. 306 can be acted upon, there must be clear proof of the fact that the death in question was a suicidal death (Wazir Chand v State of Haryana AIR 1989 SC 378). Thus, an accidental death is not covered by Sec. 306.


Sec. 306 is an instance of ‘‘constructive homicide”


it is creation of circumstances by the accused in such a way that led a victim to end his own life. Instigation may be by words or conduct. The constitutional validity of this section has been upheld by the Supreme Court in Gian Kaur v State of Punjab (AIR 1996 SC 946), in which case the court also upheld the constitutional validity of Sec. 309 (Attempt to commit suicide). Sec. 306 is based on the public policy that no body should involve himself in, or instigate or aid, the commission of a crime.


Abetment of suicide and dowry Demand Cases


Abetment of Suicide through Dowry Demand Dowry demand has invariably been linked to the abetment of suicide in a number of cases. In Brij Lai v Prem Chand (AIR 1989 SC 1661), the husband persistently demanded money from his wife and quarrelled with her everyday over the same thing. On the fateful day she reacted by saying that death would be better than that state of life. He responded by saying that he would feel relieved if she died that very day. She set herself afire immediately thereafter. The court held him to be guilty of instigating her to commit suicide.


In State of Punjab v Iqbal Singh, 1991 CrLJ 1897 (SC), the relationship between the husband and wife were strained over dowry even to the extent that the wife had sought police protection apprehending danger to her life. One day she set herself and her three children ablaze at the residence of her husband. Before putting an end to her life, she had left a note stating that her husband was demanding money by way of additional dowry and was ill-treating her under the influence of alcohol. She had also stated that her mother-in-law and sister-in-law also conspired and made false accusations against her and had also conspired to kill her on one night by sprinkling kerosene/ petrol on her but their plan misfired. It was held that the husband was responsible for creating circumstances which provoked or forced the wife to commit suicide and he was therefore liable to be convicted under Sec. 306.


Where a newly wedded wife unable to bear the harassment from her husband to bring money from her parents, set herself ablaze and the accused husband stood nearby not trying to save her, it was held that the accused was guilty of offence under Sec. 306 [State v Anil Kumar, 1992 CrLJ 3131 (P&H)} However, where the deceased wife never complained to her parents of maltreatment, torture or cruelty by the husband and in-laws for bringing insufficient dowry and there being no other evidence also, from the mere fact that she committed suicide within few months of the marriage, no inference can be drawn against the husband and in-laws [State v Kirpal Singh, 1992 CrLJ 2472 (P&H)].


Other Factors Related to Abetment of Suicide Cruelty and maltreatment of the wife have also been linked to the abetment of suicide in a number of cases. However, mere quarrelling with wife would not amount to abetment; thus, a quarrelsome married life leading to wife dejected and mortified does not necessarily result in a conviction under Sec. 306. Similarly, where the husband, a drunkard, often beat his wife after taking liquor, this does not amount to abetment.

The words uttered in a quarrel or on the spur of moment, such as “to go and die”, cannot be taken to be uttered with mens rea. It is in a fit of anger or emotion. In such cases, suicide by the deceased could not be said to be the direct result of the quarrel. The word ‘instigate* denotes incitement or urging to do some drastic or indivisible action or to stimulate or incite [Sanju alias Sanjay Singh v State of MP. (2002) 5 SCC 371].


The facts and circumstances of a case are important in the determination of the issue of abetment of suicide. The accused husband, a drunkard, always ill-treated his wife, beat her and imputed unchastity. The wife in a quarrel set herself ablaze and died. The husband along with others attempted to stamp out flames. The conviction of the accused for murder was set aside and he was convicted under Sec. 306 [Jeevan Babu Desai v State, 1992 CrLJ 2996 (Bom)]. In another case, the husband was used to get drunk, beat his wife and consistently abused her. He also told her that he did not bother if she lived or died and asked her to die. The court held that this did not mean that the accused intended to lead her to commit suicide. The offence of abetment was not made out [Bammidi Rajamallu v State, 2001 CrLJ 1319 (AJP.)]


Where a newly married girl committed suicide due to being cruelly treated by the accused husband and mother-in-law by way of taunting and beating, conviction of jthe accused under Sec. 306 and Sec. 498-A was held to be proper [P. Sakharam v State, 1995 CrLJ 4021 (Bom)]. Where the husband had illicit relationship with another woman and used to beat his wife, it was held that this amounted to persistent cruelty within the meaning of Sec. 498-A. The husband was held to be guilty of abetment of suicide and convicted under Sec. 306 and Sec. 498-A [Anoop Kumar v State, 1999 CrLJ 2938 (M.P.)].


Where the accused (husband) suspected the character of his wife and said; “You bloody whore, why don’t you die”. The court said that such a remark on the part of the husband could act as a serious provocation to the wife for committing suicide. A remark of this kind is also a verbal cruelty. The accused convicted under Sec. 306 and Sec. 498-A [Mohan Chand Kholia v State, 2003 CrLJ 710 pel)].


Where the daughter-in-law was subjected to maltreatment and starvation with the superadded fact of looking for another girl for the boy, this was held to be enough to constitute the offence of abetment for the purpose of Sec. 306 [Girijashankar v State, 1989 CrLJ 242 (M.P.)]. However, where the deceased wife was not given proper food and clothing because of the poverty of her husband, this could not be said to be something which would drive a woman to suicide [Balram v State, 1999 lCrLJ 3944 (M.P.)].


Similarly, The publication of a defamatory article against the victim was held to be not sufficient abetment for leading the victim to commit suicide.

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