Skip to content
Home » Law on the subject of abetment of suicide

Law on the subject of abetment of suicide

In the case of Lalitbhai Vikramchand Parekh v. State of Gujarat (Criminal Miscellaneous Application No.16032 of 2014 five members of one family committed suicide. The relevant observations as contained in paras 11 to 28 as under:

Abetment of suicide is made punishable by Section 306 which provides that “if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished.” The section does not define the expression” “abet”, nor is the expression defined in Chapter II of the Code which deals with the general explanations”.

However, Chapter V of the Code incorporates an elaborate statement of “abetment”. Section 107 in this Chapter defines “abetment of a thing”, while Section 108 defines the expression “abettor”.

This is how these sections run :

Section 107 Abetment of a thing

“A person abets the doing of a thing, who

First. Instigates any person to do that thing or

Secondly, Engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or

Thirdly. Intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the.doing of that thing.

Explanation 1. A person who, by wilful misrepresentation, or by wilful concealment of a material fact which he is bound to disclose, voluntarily causes or procures, or attempts to cause or procure, a thing to be done, is said to instigate the doing of that thing.

Explanation 2. Whoever, either prior to or at the time of the commission of an act, does anything in order to facilitate the commission of that act, and thereby facilitates the commission thereof, is said to aid the doing of that act.”

Section 108 Abettor

A person abets an offence, who abets either the commission of an offence, or the commission of an act which would be an offence, if committed by a person capable by law of committing an offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of the abettor”.

Explanation 1. The abetment of the illegal omission of an act may amount to an offence although the abettor may not himself be bound to do that act.

Explanation 2. To constitute the offence of abetment it is not necessary that the act abetted should be committed, or that the effect requisite to constitute the offence should be caused.

Explanation 3. It is not necessary that the person abetted should be capable by law of committing an offence, or that he should have the same guilty intention or knowledge as that of the abettor, of any guilty intention or knowledge. Explanation 4.The abetment of an offence being an offence, the abetment also an offence. Explanation 5.It is not necessary to the commission of the offence of abetment by conspiracy than the abettor should concern the offence with the person who commits it. It is sufficient if he engages in the conspiracy in pursuance of which the offence is committed.”

As the expressions “abetment” and “abettor” have been legislatively defined, the ordinary dictionary meaning of the expressions would not be determinative of their import. It may, however, be useful to have a look at the ;dictionary meaning of the expression “abet”.

According to Webster, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary Vol. I, the expression “abet”, means to incite, encourage instigate, or countenancenow usually used disparagingly.

According to Wharton, Whartone’s Law Lexicon, 14th ed., “abet” means to stir up or excite, to maintain or patronize : to encourage or set on and the “abettor” is an instigator or setter on, one who promotes or procures a crime to be committed.

Stroud, Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary, 4th ed., has given various meanings of the expression “aid” or “abet”, based on judicial pronouncements in England, in the context of different statutes.

Thus, according to Hawkins, 51 L J.M.C. 78R. v. Coney, J., “To constitute an aider or abettor, some active steps must be taken, by word or action, with intent to instigate the principal or principals. Encouragement does not, of necessity, amount to aiding and abetting. It may be intentional or unintentional. A man may unwillingly encourage another in fact by his presence, by misinterpreted gestures, or by his silence or noninterferenceor he may encourage intentionally by expressions, gestures, or actions, intended to signify approval. In the latter case, he aids and abets; in the former he does not.”

Stroud also cites the case of Du Cros v. Lambourne, 1907 (1) K. B. 40.. in which it was held that “the owner in, and in control of, a motor car which is being driven at an improper speed by a driver who is not his servant, “aids or abets” in the offence if he (the owner) does not interfere.”

It is further noticed on the basis of decision in the case of Rubie v. Faulkner, 1980 (1) K.B. 571 : “For a supervisor of a learner driver to see that an unlawful act is about to be done and to fail to prevent it is he can is for him to aid and abet.”

It is further noticed, on the authority of the decision in the case of Callow v. Tillstone, 83 L.T. 411, that “A man does not by negligence aid and abet a person to expose unsound meat for sale.”

It is further noticed, on the basis of the decision in the case of Ackroyds Air Travel v. Director of Police Prosecutions, 1950 (1) All. E.R. 933 and Thomas v. Lindop, 1950 (1) All. E.R. 966, that “If a person knows all the circumstances which constitute the offence he will be guilty of aiding and abetting whether he knew that they did in fact constitute the offence or not “

Stroud also quotes Lord Goddard C J. in Ferguson v. Weaving, 1951 (1) K.B 814, that “it is well know that the words ‘aid and abet are apt to describe the action of a person who is present at the time of the commission of an offence and takes some part therein.”

It may be useful to refer to some of the early English decisions, dealing with different ways of taking part in a felony, it was recognised that a felony may be committed by the hand of an “innocent agent” who, having no blamable intentions in that he did, incurred no criminal liability by doing it.

In such a case, the man who “instigates” this agent is the real offender; his was the last mens rea that preceded the crime, though it did not cause it “immediately but mediately”. “Thus, if a physician provides a poisonous draught and tells a nurse that it is the medicine to be administered to her patient, and then by her administration of it the patient is killed, the murderous physicianand not the innocent nurseis the principal in the first degree Kel. 52 (T.A.C.).”

In English Law, as it stood before the later developments, “a principal in the second degree is one by whom the actual perpetrator of the felony is aided and abetted at the very time when it is committed; for instance, a carowner sitting beside the chauffeur who kills some one by overfast driving, or a passenger on a clandestine joyriding expedition which results in manslaughter 1930 (22) Cr, App. R. 70 : 144 L.T. 185, “or bigamist’s second ‘wife’ if she knows he is committing bigamy, or even be spectators if they actively encourage such a contest even by mere applause. “

But a spectator’s presence at a prize fight docs not of itself constitute sufficient encouragement to amount to an aiding and abetting 1882 (8) Q.B.D. 534.”

It was also recognised that a man may effectively “aid and abet” a crime and at the very moment of its perpetration, without being present at the place where it is perpetrated. “To be guilty of aiding and abetting, a person must either render effective aid to the principal offender or else must be present and acquiesce in what he is doing. Before a person can be convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of an offence, be must at least know the essential matters which constitute the offence 1951 (1) All. E.R. 412(414).”

“But acquiescene sufficient to constitute the offence may be established by evidence of the accused persons motive and of his subsequent conduct 1951 (1) All. E.R. 464.”

In the category of “accessory before the fact” comes a person who “procures or advises” one or more of the principals to commit the felony. This “requires from him an instigation so active that a person who is merely shown to have acted as the stakeholder for a prizefight which ended fatally, would nut be punishable as an accessory 1875 (2) C.C.R. 147.”

“The fact that a crime has been committed in a manner different from the mode which the accessory had advised will not excuse him from liability for it. But a man who has councelled a crime does not become liable as accessory if. instead of any form of the crime suggested, an entirely ‘different offence is committed 1936 (2) All. E.R. 813.”

Kenny, Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law, New ed. by J.W.C. Turner, p. 88, points out that it is not always easy to decide whether or not the crime actually committed comes within the terms of the “incitement.” so as to make the inciter legally responsible for it. He further observed that the courts in some of the older cases tended to “take a strict view of the facts” and refers by illustration to the case of R. v. Saunders, Kel. 52 (T.A.C ) and Archer in 1578. referred to in Plowden.

For obvious, reasons an act of suicide is not penal, even though an unsuccessful attempt at it is punishable. Suicide takes the victim or the perpetrator outside the purview of penal consequences, even though the common law in England at one time endeavoured to deter men from this crime by the threat of degradations to be inflicted upon the “suicide’s corpose”, which by a natural, if unreasoning association of ideas, were often a “potent deterrent”, and also by threatening the forfeiture of his goods, a “vicarious punishment” which though falling wholly upon his surviving family, was likely often to appeal strongly to his sense of affection.

Thus the man who feloniously took his own life was at one time “buried in the highway”, with a stake through his body; and his goods were “forfeited”. The burial of suicides lost its gruesome aspect in 1824 when the original mode was replaced by the practice of burial “between the hours of nine and twelve at night”, without any service.

In 1870, the confiscation of the goods of suicides was put to an end in the general abolition of forfeitures for felony. And in 1882, the statute removed every penalty, except the purely ecclesiastical one that the interment must not be solemnised by a burial service in the full ordinary Anglican form, Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law, New ed. by J.W.C.,, Turner, p. 138.

Halsbury, in Halsbury’s Law of England, 4th ed. paras 42 to 44 notices some of the English decisions in the matter of classification of offence and complicity in the crime. Thus, a person who ‘”assists the perpetrator at the time of its commission, or if he assists or encourages the perpetrator before its commission, was held liable 1970 (2) Q.B. 54.”

According to R.V. Gregory (1867) L.R.I. C.C.R. 77 “any person who aids, counsel or procures the commission of an offence, whether an offence at common law or by statute, and whether indictable or summary, is liable to be tried and punished as a principal offender.”

Mere presence at the commission of the crime is not enough to create criminal liability, nor is it enough that a person is present with a secret intention to assist the principal should assistance be required. Some encouragement or assistance must have been given to the principal either before or at the time of the commission of the crime with the intention of furthering its commission.

Presence without more may, however, afford some evidence of aid and encouragement. It is an indictable offence at common law for a person to incite or solicit another to commit an offence. For an incitement to be complete, there must be some form of actual communication with a person whom it is intended to incite, where, however, a communication is sent with a view to incite, but does not reach the intended recipient the sender may be guilty of an attempt to incite.

Incitement is complete though the mind of the person incited is unaffected and notwithstanding that person incited intends to inform on the inciter ; but there can be no incitement unless one person seeks to persuade or encourage another Halsbury’s Laws of England, Paras 42 to 44.

It may be useful to notice some of the Indian decisions on the question of abetment. Among the early cases of abetment of suicide arose out of unfortunate incidents of Sati, which was common in India, at one time. A person who induced the woman to return to the pyre after she had once retired from it, and immolated herself, was held to have abetted suicide 1863 (1) R.L.P.J. 174.

Where a women prepared to commit suicide in the presence of certain persons who followed her to the pyre, stood by her and one of them told the women to say ‘Ram Ram’ and “She would became sati”, the facts were held sufficient to prove the active connivance of these persons and to justify the inference that they had engaged with her in a conspiracy to commit suicide 1871 (3) N.W.P. 316; (1933) A.L.J.R. 7.

Where the accused prepared the funeral pyre, placed the victim’s husband’s body over it, and did not use any force to prevent her from sitting on the pyre and supplied her with ghee which she poured over the pyre were found guilty of abetment of suicide. Where a Hindu women was burnt in the act of becoming sati, those who assisted her in taking off her ornaments, supervised the cutting of her nails and the dying of her feet, prepared the pyre on which she sat herself and put the corpse upon the pyre, were all held guilty of abetment of suicide.

The defence that the abettors were in fact “expecting a miracle and did not anticipate that the pyre would be ignited by human agency was rejected, 1928 (8) Pat. 74. Similarly, where the accused, who were members of a crowd, who had joined the funeral procession from the house of the victim to the cremation ground, and were shouting “Sati Mata Ki Jai” it was held that all those persons, who joined the procession were aiding the widow in becoming sati and were guilty of an offence under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1958 Cr. L J. 967, 1958 Raj. 143.

Some later decisions arising out of other instances of instigation throw further light on the question. In the case of Parimal Chatterjee and others A.l.R 1932 Cal. 760, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court observed that the word “instigate” literally means to goad or urge forward or to provoke, incite, urge or encourage to do an act.

A person may however not only instigate another, but he may cooperate with him and his Cooperation may consist of a conjoint action and that would amount to abetment. In the case of State of Bihar v. Ranen Nath and other A.I.R. 1958 Patna 259, a Division Bench of the Patna High Court was construing Section 27 of the Industrial Disputes Act which uses the expressions Instigation and incitement’ and observed that the words “should be read to signify something deeper than a mere asking of a person to do a particular act.

There must be something in the nature of solicitation to constitute instigation or incitement” and it was held that the words seem to convey the meaning “to goad or urge forward or to provoke or encourage the doing of an act.” It was further observed that what acts should amount to instigation or incitement within the meaning of that section will depend upon the “particular facts of each case”, and that in some circumstances a “throw of a finger” or “a mere turning of the eye’ may give rise to an inference of either “incitement or instigation”, and yet in others even “strong words, expressly used, may not mean that the person using them was stimulating or suggesting to anyone to do a particular act.”

The court expressed the view that there must be something “tangible” in evidence to show that the persons responsible for such action were “deliberately trying to stir up other persons to bring about a certain object”. According to a division bench of the Calcutta High Court, a person abets the doing of a thing when he or she, inter alia. “instigates any person to do that thing.” The other modes of abetment, besides instigation, are “conspiracy and intentional aid”. The word “instigation” literally means “to goad or urge forward to do an act.” “It is something more than cooperation.”

In the case of Shri Ram and another, 1975 (2) S.C.R. 622, the Supreme Court observed that in order to constitute abetment, the abettor must be shown to have “intentionally” aided the commission of the crime. “Mere proof that the crime charged could not have been committed without the interposition of the alleged abetter is not enough compliance with the requirements of Section 107”.

A person may, for example, “invite another casually or for a friendly purpose and that may facilitate the murder of the invitee”. But unless the invitation was extended “with intent to facilitate the commission of the murder”, the person inviting cannot be said to have abetted the murder. It is not enough that an act on the part of the alleged abettor “happens to facilitate the commission of the crime”. “Intentional aiding and therefore active complicity is the gist of the offence of abetment under the third paragraph of Section 107”.

In case of suicide how the evidence is required to be appreciated has been stated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in number of judgments. In State of West Bengal v. Orilal Jaiswal, (1994) 1 SCC 73, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has cautioned 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 the life by committing suicide.

If it appears to the court that a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the court should not be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide should be found guilty.

Further the Hon’ble Supreme Court in case of Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi), (2009) 16 SCC 605 had an occasion to deal with this aspect of abetment. The Court dealt with the dictionary meaning of the words “instigation” and “goading”. The Court opined that there should be intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter.

Each person’s suicidability pattern is different from the other. Each person has his own idea of self esteem and self respect. Therefore, it is impossible to lay down any straitjacket formula in dealing with such cases. Each case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in case of Amalendu Pal @ Jhantu vs. State of West Bengal, 2010 AIR(SC) 512, after considering various earlier judgments in para 15 observed that,

“15. Thus, this Court has consistently taken the view that before holding an accused guilty of an offence under Section 306 IPC, the Court must scrupulously examine the facts and circumstances of the case and also assess the evidence adduced before it in order to find out whether the cruelty and harassment meted out to the victim had left the victim with no other alternative but to put an end to her life.

It is also to be borne in mind that in cases of alleged abetment of suicide there must be proof of direct or indirect acts of incitement to the commission of suicide. Merely on the allegation of harassment without their being any positive action proximate to the time of occurrence on the part of the accused which led or compelled the person to commit suicide, conviction in terms of Section 306 IPC is not sustainable.”

“16. In order to bring a case within the purview of Section 306 of IPC there must be a case of suicide and in the commission of the said offence, the person who is said to have abetted the commission of suicide must have played an active role by an act of instigation or by doing certain act to facilitate the commission of suicide. Therefore, the act of abetment by the person charged with the said offence must be proved and established by the prosecution before he could be convicted under Section 306 IPC.”

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Randhir Singh v. State of Punjab, (2004) 13 SCC 129 has reiterated the legal position as regards Section 306 IPC which is long settled in para 12 and 13. Para 12 and 13 reads thus :

“12. Abetment involves a mental process of instigation a person or intentionally aiding that person in doing of a thing. In cases of conspiracy also it would involve that mental process of entering into conspiracy for the doing of that thing. More active role which can be described as instigating or aiding the doing of a thing is required before a person can be said to be abetting the commission of offence under Section 306 IPC.

13. In State of W. B. v. Orilal Jaiswal this Court has observed that the courts 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 the life by committing suicide.

If it transpires to the court that a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive or ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belongs and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstances individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the court should not be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide should be found guilty.”

In Gcngula Mohan Reddy v. State of A.P., (2010) 1 SCC 750 the Supreme Court while interpreting Section 306 IPC held that:

“Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing and without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, there cannot be any conviction. It was further held that to attract Section 306 IPC there has to be a clear mens tea to commit the offence.”

In Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh., (2001) 9 SCC 618. the Supreme Court held that “Instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do ‘an act’. To satisfy the requirement of instigation though it is not necessary that actual words must be used to that effect or what constitutes instigation must necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the consequence.

Yet a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. The present one is not a case where the accused had by his acts or omission or by a continued course of conduct created such circumstances that the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide in which case an instigation may have been inferred. A word uttered in the fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow cannot be said to be instigation.”

In Sanju alias Sanjay v. State of M.P., (2002) 5 SCC 371. the deceased committed suicide on 27.7.1998. whereas, the alleged quarrel had taken place on 25.7.1998 when it was alleged that the appellant had used abusive language and also told the deceased to go and die. The Supreme Court in the said circumstances held that the fact that the deceased committed suicide on 27.7.1998 would itself clearly point out that it was not the direct result of the quarrel taken place on 25.7.1998 when it is alleged that the appellant had used the abusive language and also told the deceased to go and die.

Taking note of various earlier judgments, in M. Mohan u. State Represented the Deputy Superintendent of Police, (2011) 3 SCC 626. the Supreme Court held that “Abetment involves mental process of instigating or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. There should be clear mens rea to commit offence under Section 306. It requires commission of direct or active act by accused which led deceased to commit suicide seeing no other option and such act must be intended to push victim into a position that he commits suicide.”

On a close reading of the above provisions of the IPC, and the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in various decisions, it is apparent that in a case under Section 306 IPC, there should be clear mensrea to commit the offence under this Section and there should be direct or active act by the accused, which led the deceased to commit suicide, that is to say that there must be some evidence of “instigation”, “cooperation” or “initial assistance” by the accused to commit suicide by the victim/deceased.

In Madhavrao Jiwajirao Scindia v. Sambhajirao Chandrajirao Angre, (1988) 1 SCC 692 the Supreme Court observed vide Para 7 that:

“7. The legal position is well settled that when a prosecution at the initial stage is asked to be quashed, the test to be applied by the court is as to whether the uncontroverted allegations as made prima facie establish the offence. It is also for the court to take into consideration any special features which appear in a particular case to consider whether it is expedient and in the interest of justice to permit a prosecution to continue.

This is so on the basis that the court cannot be utilized for any oblique purpose and where in the opinion of the court chances of an ultimate conviction are bleak and, therefore, no useful purpose is likely to be served by allowing a criminal prosecution to continue, the court may while taking into consideration the special facts of a case also quash the proceeding even though it may be at a preliminary stage.”

It was a proposition relating to criminal prosecution.

In Madan Mohan Singh v. State of Gujarat, (2010) 8 SCC 628. the Supreme Court quashed the proceedings under Section 306 IPC on the ground that the allegations were irrelevant and baseless and observed that the High Court was in error in not quashing the proceedings.”

In the case of A.K. Chaudhary(supra), the learned Single Judge of this Court drew a fine distinction between two categories of incitement observing as under:

“17. In view of the above, it appears that the ingredients for abetment for suicide would be satisfied only if the suicide is committed by the deceased due to direct and alarming encouragement/incitement by the accused leaving no option but to commit suicide. Further, as the action of committing suicide is also on account of great disturbance to the psychological imbalance of the deceased such incitement can be divided into two broad categories, one normally where the deceased is having sentimental tie or physical relations with the accused and second category would be where the deceased is having relations with the accused in official capacity.

In case of former category some times a normal quarrel or the utterance of hot exchange of words may result into psychological immediate imbalance. Consequently creating situation of depression, loss of charm in the life and if the person is unable to control sentiments of expectations, it may give temptations to the person to commit suicide, e.g., when there is relation of husband and wife, mother and son, brother and sister, sister and sister and other relations of such type, where sentimental tie is by blood or due to physical relations. In case of second category the tie is on account of official relations, where the expectations would to discharge the obligation as provided for such duty in law and to receive the considerations as provided in law.

In normal circumstances, relationships by sentimental tie cannot be equated with the official relationship and the reason being the different conduct of the parties for maintenance of the relations. The former category leaves more expectations, whereas in the latter category, by and large, expectations and obligations are prescribed by law, rules and regulations. Of course, for meeting with the requirement for ingredients of abetment to suicide, the provisions of the IPC are the same, but for the purpose of examination on the aspects of abetment to commit suicide or incitement/encouragement to suicide, it may have some relevance.

Since, in the present case this Court is not concerned with the matter of matter of abetment to suicide where the deceased or the accused had the relations covered in the first category, no further discussion may be required in this regard to that extent. However, in case where the allegations for abetment of suicide committed by the deceased falling in second category are concerned, the strict interpretation is called for, otherwise it may result into damaging the discipline of any institution or organization or department, which may consequently result into creating a situation against national interest for which the expectation would be the strict discipline and the rule of law only and nothing else.”

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]