Read Judgment: Mahendra K C vs. State of Karnataka & Anr.

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, November 1, 2021: While stating that the essence of abetment to suicide u/s 306 of IPC lies in instigating a person to do a thing or the intentional doing of that thing by an act or illegal omission, the Supreme Court has held that the Single Judge has transgressed the well settled limitations on the exercise of the powers u/s 482 of CrPC, and has encroached into a territory which is reserved for a criminal trial. 

The Supreme Court highlighted that it is impossible on a judicious purview of the contents of the complaint and the suicide note for a judicial mind to arrive at a conclusion that a case for quashing the FIR had been established. 

The Single Judge tested the veracity of the allegations in the criminal complaint and in the suicide note left behind by the deceased without having the benefit of an evidentiary record which would be collected during the trial, and thus virtually proceeded to hold a trial, substituting its own perception for what it believed should or should not have been the normal course of human behavior, which is clearly impermissible, added the Court. 

While setting aside the judgment given by Single Judge on abatement to suicide, a Division Bench of Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice B.V. Nagarathna noted that the Single Judge has termed a person who decided to commit suicide a ‘weakling’ and has also made observations on how the behavior of the deceased before he committed suicide was not that of a person who is depressed and suffering from mental health issues.

Such observations describing the manner in which a depressed person ought to have behaved deeply diminishes the gravity of mental health issues, added the Bench. 

The observation came pursuant to alleged suicide of a person who was working as a driver of a Special Land Acquisition Officer, who is a public servant and against whom serious and grave allegations of amassing wealth disproportionate to the known sources of income were made by the deceased. 

When the matter reached the Karnataka High Court, the Single Judge observed that no prima facie case for the commission of offence u/s 306 of the IPC was made out since: i) the suicide note did not describe the specific threats; ii) details of the alleged demand of Rs. 8 lacs from the deceased by the respondent-accused were not set out in the suicide note; and iii) no material to corroborate the allegations detailed in the suicide note had been unearthed by the investigating agency. 

The High Court also observed that since the deceased took considerable time to write a twelve page suicide note, “it would have been but natural for the author to set out the details”.  

After considering the evidence on record, the Apex Court noted that High Court has evidently travelled far beyond the limits of its inherent power u/s 482 CrPC since instead of determining whether on a perusal of the complaint, a prima facie case is made out, it has analyzed the sufficiency of the evidence with reference to the suicide note and has commented upon and made strong observations on the suicide note itself.  

While adjudicating on an application u/s 482 CrPC, essentially, the task before the High Court was to determine whether the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety did or did not prima facie constitute an offence or make out a case against the accused, added the Apex Court. 

Instead of applying this settled principle, the High Court has proceeded to analyze from its own perspective the veracity of the allegations. It must be emphasized that this is not a case where the High Court has arrived at a conclusion that the allegations in the FIR or the complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person could ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. Nor is this a case where the criminal proceeding is manifestly mala fide or has been instituted with an ulterior motive of taking vengeance on the accused. On the contrary, the specific allegations in the FIR and in the complaint find due reflection in the suicide note and establish a prima facie case for abetment of suicide within the meaning of Sections 306 and 107 of the IPC”, observed the Division Bench.  

Therefore, observing that the question as to what is the cause of a suicide has no easy answers because suicidal ideation and behaviours in human beings are complex and multifaceted, and that each individual’s suicidability pattern depends on his inner subjective experience of mental pain, fear and loss of self-respect, the Apex Court dismissed the petition for quashing the FIR instituted by the respondent-accused.

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