GURU CHARAN SINGH V/S STATE OF PUNJAB

To convict a person under Section 306 IPC, there  has to be a clear mens rea to commit an offence and that there ought to be an active or direct act leading the deceased to commit suicide, being left with no option

Case name: Guru charan singh V/S State of punjab
Case number: Criminal appeal number-1135 of 2016
Court: The supreme court of India
Bench: JUSTICE AMITAVA ROY, JUSTICE DIPAK MISRA
Decided on: DECEMBER 02, 2016
Relevant Act/Sections: Section 313 CRPC, Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Section 306, 107 of IPC, 1860
  • BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Dr. Jaspal Singh, who was initially in the Government service, had relinquished the same and started a coal factory at Muktsar. He suffered loss in the business and consequently failed to repay the loan availed by him in this regard from the bank.
  • Before leaving his family, he addressed a communication to the concerned bank expressing his inability to repay the loan in spite of his best efforts as he was not possessed of any property in his name. Dr. Jaspal Singh was thereafter not to be traced.
  • His wife Surjit Kaur and his daughters shifted from Jalalabad where they used to stay to Abohar and started residing in a rented house. They had no source of income and further, they were also deprived of their share in the property and other entitlements, otherwise supposed to devolve on Dr. Jaspal Singh.  They were also not provided with any maintenance by the family members of her husband – Jaspal Singh and instead were ill-treated, harassed, and intimidated.
  • On 3.10.2000 at about 10.30 p.m., Hansraj, the landlord of the deceased Surjit Kaur, being suspicious about prolonged and unusual lack of response by his tenants, though the television in their room was on, informed the brother of the deceased Surjit Kaur.  Thereafter they broke open the door of the room and found all three lying dead. The police was informed and FIR was lodged.
  • The Investigating Officer collected a suicide note in the handwriting of Surjit Kaur and also subscribed to by her daughter Preet Bahul. The suicide note implicated the appellant, his wife Ajit Kaur and the convicted co-accused Sukhvinder Singh @ Goldy as being responsible for their wretched condition, driving them in the ultimate to take the extreme step.
  • After the collection of the post-mortem report which confirmed death due to consumption of aluminium phosphide, a pesticide, charge-sheet was submitted against the three persons named hereinabove along with Satnam Kaur under Section 306/34 IPC.
  • PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Whereas Satnam Kaur died during the committal proceedings, charge was framed against the remaining accused persons namely; Gurcharan Singh (appellant), Ajit Kaur and Sukhvinder Singh @ Goldy under the aforementioned provisions of the Code.  As the accused persons claimed to be innocent, they were made to face trial.
  • At the trial, the prosecution examined eight witnesses including the doctor, who had  performed the autopsy on the dead body.  The accused persons stood by the denial of the charge in their statements under Section 313 Cr.P.C. and also examined five witnesses in defence.
  • The Trial Court, on a scrutiny of the evidence adduced, held the appellant herein and the co-accused Sukhvinder Singh to be guilty of the charge levelled against them and awarded them the sentence as hereto before mentioned.  It, however, acquitted the co-accused Ajit Kaur.  To reiterate, by the impugned verdict, the conviction of the appellant and the co-accused Sukhvinder Singh has been upheld with the marginal modification in the substantive sentence as aforementioned.
  • ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:
  • Whether any act of cruelty, oppression, harassment, or inducement so as to persistently provoke or compel the deceased to resort to self-extinction being left with no other alternative and does these acts constitute to abetment to suicide?
  • RATIO OF THE COURT:
  • The evidence on record did not substantiate the imputation that Surjit and her daughters were deprived wholly of their shares in the joint family property as the heirs of Dr. Jaspal Singh.
  • Neither the appellant nor the in-laws of Surjit had any role in this regard.  The absence of any complaint or civil litigation also permits an inference against the denial of the share in the family property to Surjit and her daughters or of any ill-treatment, torture, oppression meted out to them.
  • That there was neither any proximate nor remote acts of omission or commission on the part of the appellant and his family members that can be irrefutably construed to be a direct or indirect cause or factor compelling Surjit and her daughters to take the extreme step of self-elimination. 
  • Section 306 of Indian Penal Code states “Abetment of suicide”. The offence punishable is one of abetment of the commission of suicide by any person, predicating existence of a live link or nexus between the two, abetment being the propelling causative factor.  The basic ingredients of this provision are suicidal death and the abetment thereof.
  • Remoteness of the culpable acts or omissions rooted in the intention of the accused to actualize the suicide would fall short as well of the offence of abetment essential to attract the punitive mandate of Section 306 IPC. 
  • The courts should be extremely careful in ascertaining whether  cruelty had been meted out to the victim and that the same had induced the person to end his/her life by committing suicide, with the caveat that if the victim committing suicide appears to be hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences  in domestic life, quite common to the society to which he or she belonged and such factors were not expected to the accused charged with  abetment could not be held guilty.
  • Though for the purposes of the case in hand, the first limb of the explanation is otherwise germane, proof of the willful conduct actuating the woman to commit suicide or   to cause grave injury  or danger to life, limb or health, whether mental of physical, is the sine qua non for  entering a finding of cruelty against the person charged. The pith and purport of Section 306 IPC has since been enunciated by this Court in Randhir Singh vs. State of  Punjab (2004)13 SCC 129.
  • The court observe the assessment of the evidence on record as above, in our considered opinion, does not demonstrate with unqualified clarity and conviction, any role of the appellant or the other implicated in-laws of the deceased Surjit Kaur, as contemplated by the above provisions so as to return an unassailable finding of their culpability under Section 306 IPC.  The materials on record, to reiterate, do not suggest even remotely any act of cruelty, oppression, harassment or inducement so as to persistently provoke or compel the deceased to resort to self-extinction being left with no other alternative.  No such continuous and proximate conduct of the appellant or his family members with the required provocative culpability or lethal instigative content is discernible  to even infer that the deceased Surjit Kaur  and her daughters had been pushed to such a distressed state, physical or mental that they elected to liquidate themselves as if to seek a practical alleviation from their unbearable earthly miseries.
  • DECISION HELD BY COURT:
  • In this case the judgement was given by JUSTICE AMITAVA ROY that the court of the unhesitant opinion that the ingredients of the offence of Section 306 IPC have remained unproved and thus the appellant deserves to be acquitted. 
  • The findings to the contrary recorded by the courts below cannot be sustained on the touchstone of the law adumbrated by this Court as well as the facts involved.  The appeal is thus allowed.
  • The appellant would be set at liberty from custody, if his detention is not required in connection with any other case.    

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