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Concepts, Current Affairs

Abetment of Suicide

Amid the ongoing investigation into the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, his father, KK Singh on Tuesday lodged a police complaint against actress Rhea Chakraborty and five other people, accusing them of abetting the suicide of his son. Based on his complaint, Bihar Police booked the six accused under IPC Section 306 and a number of other charges.

What is Abetment of Suicide?

If a person provokes somebody to commit suicide or is part of a conspiracy to make somebody commit suicide, then he/she is guilty of abetting suicide. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes abetment of suicide a punishable offence. Section 306 of the IPC prescribes either a jail term of up to ten years or a fine or both.

The IPC also has a separate chapter on abetment and describes who is an abettor under Section 108. Abetment is defined as including instigating, engaging in a conspiracy or assisting in committing the offence.

Abetment of suicide is a serious offence that is tried in a Sessions court and is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

A cognizable offence is one in which a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant from a court. A non-bailable offence means bail is granted to the accused at the discretion of the court, and not as a matter of right.

A non-compoundable offence is one in which the case cannot be withdrawn by the complainant even when the complainant and the accused have reached a compromise. The court cannot allow withdrawal of a case involving a non-compoundable offence, and every such complaint is necessarily followed by a trial where evidence is held against the accused.

Procedure for determination of Abetment to Suicide

  • There are two primary ingredients of the crime of abetment of suicide. First is a suicidal death. The second ingredient is the intention of the accused to abet such suicide.
  • Legally, whether a death is a suicide or not is a determination of a fact, which means evidence has to be evaluated to pronounce that death is a suicide. In common parlance, the word suicide is liberally attributed to every case of self-destruction, but suicide is never presumed. A determination of suicide is made when the deceased person is understood to have known the probable consequence of what the self-harm is about to do to the person and yet, does so intentionally.
  • Once such a determination is made, then the intention of the person accused of abetment of suicide is looked into.

The only exception to this is the abetment of the suicide of a woman married for seven years or less. Through an amendment in 1983 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, the law was changed to presume that the husband is guilty if his wife commits suicide within seven years of the marriage. The amendment was made to curb rising dowry deaths that were categorised as suicides.

The intention is discerned from acts of the accused in proving any crime. Multiple rulings of the Supreme Court, including a 2002 ruling in the case of ‘Sanjay Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh’, have held that a comment or a statement uttered in haste, anger would not amount to abetment of suicide.

In a recent 2017 ruling, the apex court also said that instigation, involvement of the accused must be connected strongly and any remoteness in these features would be insufficient to charge the accused with the offence.

Suppose, Person A says “go, die” to Person B and B happens to hang herself to death subsequently, Person A cannot be charged with abetment to suicide. Firstly, A did not intend to instigate B to commit suicide and merely uttered the words in a fit of anger. In such a case, the court would look into Person A’s general behaviour towards B and determine the intention.

In the same case, if a husband and his family have subjected the wife to continuous physical abuse since the marriage and drove her to commit suicide, they can be held liable for the offence. Instigation has to have certain continuity, happen continuously over a reasonable period of time. The suicide must also be a direct consequence of the instigation and cannot be a mere coincidence or very remote to the committing of suicide.

Additionally, if the deceased person is found to be very sensitive compared to a reasonable person, the court has said that the charge of abetment to suicide would weaken.


Reference

  1. The Indian Express
  2. Mirror Now News
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