Section 306, Indian Penal Code II

When the accusation in the present case has its genesis in certain acts and utterances attributed to the accused, the meaning and expanse of the expression ‘abetment’, particularly on its operation in relation to the offence of ‘abetment of suicide’, is required to be dilated upon. ‘Abetment’ involves a mental process of instigating a person in doing something. A person abets the doing of a thing when: (i) he instigates any person to do that thing; or (ii) he engages with one or more persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing; or (iii) he intentionally aids, by acts or illegal omission, the doing of that thing. These are essential to complete the abetment as a crime. The word ‘instigate’ literally means to provoke, incite, urge on or bring about by persuasion to do anything.

In cases of alleged abetment of suicide, there must be a proof of direct or indirect act/s of incitement to the commission of suicide. It could hardly be disputed that the question of cause of a suicide, particularly in the context of an offence of abetment of suicide, remains a vexed one, involving multifaceted and complex attributes of human behaviour and responses/reactions. In the case of accusation for abetment of suicide, the Court would be looking for cogent and convincing proof of the act/s of incitement to the commission of suicide. In the case of suicide, mere allegation of harassment of the deceased by another person would not suffice unless there be such action on the part of the accused which compels the person to commit suicide; and such an offending action ought to be proximate to the time of occurrence. Whether a person has abetted in the commission of suicide by another or not, could only be gathered from the facts and circumstances of each case.

For the purpose of finding out if a person has abetted commission of suicide by another, the consideration would be if the accused is guilty of the act of instigation of the act of suicide. As explained and reiterated by this Court, instigation means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act. If the persons who committed suicide had been hypersensitive and the action of accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly circumstanced person to commit suicide, it may not be safe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide. But, on the other hand, if the accused by his acts and by his continuous course of conduct creates a situation which leads the deceased perceiving no other option except to commit suicide, the case may fall within the four-corners of Section 306, IPC. If the accused plays an active role in tarnishing the self-esteem and self-respect of the victim, which eventually draws the victim to commit suicide, the accused may be held guilty of abetment of suicide. The question of mens rea on the part of the accused in such cases would be examined with reference to the actual acts and deeds of the accused and if the acts and deeds are only of such nature where the accused intended nothing more than harassment or snap show of anger, a particular case may fall short of the offence of abetment of suicide. However, if the accused kept on irritating or annoying the deceased by words or deeds until the deceased reacted or was provoked, a particular case may be that of abetment of suicide. Such being the matter of delicate analysis of human behaviour, each case is required to be examined on its own facts, while taking note of all the surrounding factors having bearing on the actions and psyche of the accused and the deceased.

We may also observe that human mind could be affected and could react in myriad ways; and impact of one’s action on the mind of another carries several imponderables. Similar actions are dealt with differently by different persons; and so far a particular person’s reaction to any other human’s action is concerned, there is no specific theorem or yardstick to estimate or assess the same. Even in regard to the factors related with the question of harassment of a girl, many factors are to be considered like age, personality, upbringing, rural or urban set ups, education etc. Even the response to the ill-action of eve-teasing and its impact on a young girl could also vary for a variety of factors, including those of background, self- confidence and upbringing. Hence, each case is required to be dealt with on its own facts and circumstances.

Having examined the record in its totality, we are clearly of the view that the actions and utterances of the accused, directed towards the deceased on continuous basis, had driven her to suicide; and accused persons are guilty of the offence of abetment of suicide. Taking an overall view of the matter, we are satisfied that the present one had not been a case of a mere eve-teasing, insult or intimidation but the continuous and repeated acts and utterances of the accused persons were calculated to bring disgrace to the village girl and to destroy her self-esteem; rather the acts and utterances were aimed at taking her to the brink of helplessness and to the vanishing point of tolerance. It had not been a case of mere intimidation or insult. The incessant intimidation and insult of the innocent girl had been of instigation; and such instigation clearly answers to the description of abetment of suicide. The present case indeed represents a sordid state of affairs in relation to the young girl in the rural setting, whose honour and self-esteem got brutally violated by none other but her own relatives, who found her to be the soft-target to settle their scores with her parents. The acts and deeds of the accused in the evening of 05.05.1996 had been too proximate to the event of suicide by 9 a.m. in the morning of 06.05.1996.”

Hon’ble Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Ude Singh & Ors. v. State of Haryana, [Criminal Appeal No. 233 of 2010].