Read Judgement: ATUL KUMAR v. STATE OF NCT OF DELHI & ANR

Tulip Kanth

New Delhi, August 25, 2021: The Delhi High Court has recently ruled that issuance of a legal notice and filing of a complaint case by the petitioner would not amount to ‘abetment’ to suicide punishable under Section 306 Indian Penal Code (IPC)

“It cannot be said that by filing a criminal complaint against the deceased, the petitioner had the mens rea to instigate or goad the deceased to commit suicide; and further, that the deceased was left with no other option but to commit suicide,” said the Bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri. 

This petition had been filed under Section 482 Cr.P.C., on behalf of the petitioner, assailing the order whereby the closure report qua only the petitioner was not accepted.

This case arose out of an FIR, registered under Section 306 IPC, in pursuance of a complaint filed by the complainant (wife of the deceased) against the petitioner, who is a resident of USA,  and two police officers, nearly 44 days after the date on which suicide was committed by her husband Arvinder Singh Grewal.

It was stated from the petitioner’s side that he had purchased a vintage motorcycle from the deceased but despite the receipt of complete payment in the year 2012, the deceased did not handover the possession of the vintage motorcycle. The petitioner came to India and on legal advice, had a legal notice issued to the deceased. Later, a criminal complaint for offences punishable under Sections 420/406 IPC read with Section 120B IPC was also filed against the deceased.

The petitioner, thereafter, left India on the intervening night of 5th and 6th December, 2014. On December 9, 2014, the deceased committed suicide and left behind a suicide note naming the present petitioner as the reason for taking the extreme step.

The petitioner submitted that taking legal recourse to one’s remedy, by no stretch of imagination, amounts to abetment. It was also submitted that as the petitioner had left India earlier and the suicide was committed by the deceased on a later date the same cannot be said to be a direct result of any act of the petitioner.

While setting aside the impugned order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge which directed the Trial Court to proceed with the matter, the Court was of the opinion that necessary ingredients of the offence punishable under Section 306 IPC were not made out against the petitioner.

The Bench observed that the transaction between the petitioner and the deceased relating to purchase of a vintage motorcycle is an admitted fact. Whether the motorcycle was delivered to the petitioner or not, would have been established after inquiry. 

It cannot be said that by filing a criminal complaint against the deceased, the petitioner had the mens rea to instigate or goad the deceased to commit suicide and further, that the deceased was left with no other option but to commit suicide. Even as per investigation, the deceased was called to the Police Station only once on December 6, 2014 which was three days before he committed suicide, opined the Court.

Also, the acceptance of closure report qua the two police officers by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate and its affirmation by the ASJ, had not been challenged by the complainant and had attained finality.

In the instant case, it was also noteworthy that on the day the deceased was called to the Police Station, the petitioner had already left India a night earlier. Also, from a perusal of the suicide note, it was probable that a portion of it was written on November 28, 2014 and the note was completed on a later date. In this note, the deceased also mentioned that he was mentally disturbed, noted Justice Ohri. 

The High Court found that neither any live link nor any proximity between the acts of the petitioner and the act of committing suicide by the deceased was discernible. Furthermore, the requisite mens rea on part of the petitioner was also lacking. It could not be said that the petitioner had abetted or instigated the deceased to commit suicide and that the deceased was left with no option but to commit suicide.

Delving into the law relating to abetment, the Court postulated that to attribute the acts of the petitioner as abetment, there has to be some causal link and proximity of the acts of the petitioner with the deceased committing suicide. It has to be shown that the petitioner did an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option. 

“It also has to be shown that the petitioner’s act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that they committed suicide. Further, the prosecution has to show that the petitioner had the mens rea to commit the offence,” added the Bench.

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