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The accused cannot be automatically held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 IPC whe

GURUJIT SINGH v STATE OF PUNJAB, CRIMINAL APPEAL Nos. 14921493 OF 2010 – 26.11.2019

The petitioner initially had filed a revision petition against the judgment dated passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, Gurdaspur whereby his appeal against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by learned Judicial Magistrate 1st Class, Batala, was dismissed. The Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court in Criminal Appeal No. 544DBA of 2001 and Criminal Appeal No. 959SB of 2000 dismissed the review petition. Thereby, an appeal was placed before the Supreme Court by a special leave petition with the judgment delivered by Honourable Justice B.R. Gavel.

It was submitted by the appellant that the conviction as recorded by the learned trial court and confirmed by the High Court under Section 498A of the IPC was not tenable. The conviction was submitted only on the basis of evidence by a witness who was the father to the deceased and that there was no corroboration to the said evidence. It was further submitted, that in any case, the conviction under Section 306 of the IPC was not tenable. In addition to this, it was contended that the charge was for the offence punishable under Section 304B of the IPC, the ingredients of which were totally different from the ingredients of Section 306 of the IPC.

The State submitted that insofar as conviction under Section 498A of the IPC was concerned since there was a concurrent finding, no interference is warranted. It was further submitted that since the ingredients of Section 304B and Section 306 of the IPC were almost similar, no prejudice was caused to the appellant by convicting him under Section 306 of the IPC though no charge was framed for the same. It was submitted that all the ingredients necessary for conviction under Section 306 with the aid of Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 were duly proved by the prosecution and as such, no interference is warranted in the present appeals.

Whether the conviction as confirmed by the High Court under Section 498A of the IPC and as recorded by it for the first time under Section 306 of the IPC would be sustainable or not?

The relevant provisions of the IPC that fall for consideration are:

  1. Section 107 I.P.C (Abetment to do a thing),

  2. Section 306 I.P.C (Abetment of suicide),

  3. Section 498-A I.P.C (Husband or relative of husband subjecting her to cruelty)

  4. Section 113-A Indian Evidence Act (Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman).

The prosecution was able to prove before the court that the deceased was harassed with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or such harassment was on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such a demand. It was found, that on the basis of the aforesaid evidence, the prosecution had proved the charge under Explanation (b) of Section 498A of the IPC.

Whether when the prosecution establishes cruelty under Explanation (b) of Section 498A of the IPC and also establishes that the deceased committed suicide within seven years of the marriage could the accused be also held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC with the aid of Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act?

The Court observed that instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do “an act”. Though the court observed that to satisfy the requirement of instigation, it is not necessary that those actual words must be used to that effect or what constitutes instigation must necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the consequence. However, it had been observed that a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. Relying on the judgment of this court in the case of State of West Bengal vs. Orilal Jaiswal, it was observed that the court should be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case and the evidence adduced in the trial for the purpose of finding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim had in fact induced her to end her life by committing suicide.

It was further held that Section 498A and Section 306 of the IPC are independent and constitute different offences. It had been observed, that depending on the facts and circumstances of an individual case, subjecting a woman to cruelty may amount to an offence under Section 498A of the IPC. If a course of conduct amounting to cruelty is established leaving no other option for the woman except to commit suicide, and it may also amount to abetment to commit suicide. However, merely because the accused had been held liable to be punished under Section 498A of the IPC, does not follow that on the same evidence he must also and necessarily be held guilty of having abetted the commission of suicide by the woman concerned.

we are of the view that merely because an accused is found guilty of an offence punishable under Section 498­A of the IPC and the death has occurred within a period of seven years of the marriage, the accused cannot be automatically held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC by employing the presumption under Section 113­A of the Evidence Act. Unless the prosecution establishes that some act or illegal omission by the accused has driven the deceased to commit the suicide, the conviction under Section 306 would not be tenable.

The court, therefore, held that the ingredients to constitute an offence under Section 306 of the IPC were already found in the charge and as such no prejudice was caused to the accused therein, though no separate charge was framed under Section 306 of the IPC. Apart from that, the evidence on record established that when the letters concealed by the husband were discovered by the wife and handed over to the father and she was driven out of the house, this cruel conduct of the husband led the wife to commit suicide. It could thus be seen, that in the facts of the said case, the Court found that the conviction under Section 306 of the IPC could be recorded. It was found that, apart from the earlier acts of harassment for parting with the land which she had received in marriage as stridhana, there was an act of driving the deceased out of the house which had direct nexus with the deceased committing suicide. The court found that in the case there was no direct evidence to establish that the appellant either aided or instigated the deceased to commit suicide or entered into any conspiracy to aid her in committing suicide.

It has been held that when the allegation is of cruelty, it must consider the nature of cruelty to which the woman was subjected having regard to the meaning of the word “cruelty” in Section 498A of IPC. It has been held that one of the circumstances which have to be taken into consideration by the court is whether the alleged cruelty was of such a nature as was likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India delivered the judgment as under,

“In the foregoing circumstances, the appeals are partly allowed. Conviction under Section 498A of the IPC is maintained and the conviction under Section 306 of the IPC is set aside. The appellant is acquitted of the charge under Section 306 of the IPC. The appellant is stated to be on bail, his bail bonds shall stand discharged and he is directed to surrender within four weeks for serving the remaining period of his sentence, if not already undergone.”

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