[COLUMN] Abetment of Suicide viz. Teacher/ Principal of Educational Institution

Merely because an FIR has been lodged under section 306 IPC or section 305 IPC , the offence under these two sections can not be presumed. The basic ingredient or slapping a criminal liability is not only the act rather the Act commissioned with “Mens Rea” .

The core canon of the Criminal Jurisprudence is  that the penal laws must be construed very strictly . No criminal prosecution can be propelled mere on the basis of Assumption or Analogy. Law is no longer res- integra  that a person can be held guilty of abetment to suicide only if he has some mens-rea ( mental intention  of crime) of hidden objective. 


Undoubtedly the loss of life is always painful and unbearable loss of  the bereaved family but this alone can not be the reason of instigation . The entire material submitted along with report u/s 173(2) CRPC must  show any kind of material demonstrating “mens rea” . 
For better understanding, Section 305 of IPC is reproduced hereinbelow:- 
305. Abetment of suicide of child or insane person.—If any person under eighteen years of age, any insane person, any delirious person, any idiot, or any person in a state of intoxication, commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with death or [imprisonment for life], or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Simultaneously Sec. 306 IPC postulates:-

306. Abetment of suicide.—If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Moreover essential condition to charge and prosecute a person is abetment by such person to the commission of suicide. The provision of abetment as contained under Section 107 of Indian Penal Code and for better understanding same is reproduced hereinbelow:

Sec 
107.IPC  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. 


 From the conjoint reading of above two sections it is evident that abetment under section 107 is sine qua non before prosecuting a person under section 305 and in the absence of the necessary ingredients of abetment as provided under section 107 IPC, the accused cannot be charged under section 305/306 IPC. The Investigating Agency is therefore, under obligation to investigate and establish that the persons against whom FIR has been lodged under section 305/306 IPC is responsible for the commissioning of suicide by abating the person to do so. 


The essential three conditions that are necessarily required to be present individually in the sequence leading to the commissioning of suicide by a person are as below:

  1. Instigation to commit suicide. 

    1. Conspiracy leading to person committing suicide 

    1. Intentionally aiding by an act or omission to commit suicide. 


If any of the condition is found present against the person sought to be prosecuted under Section 305 IPC, such person shall be held responsible for abetting commissioning of suicide. Per contra in the absence of the any of the above 3 conditions, a person cannot be held responsible for committing crime under section 305 IPC. 


In all three cases of institution, conspiracy or aid, direct and active involvement of the accused is essential to convict him for abetment of suicide. The term ‘instigation’ is not defined in IPC. The instigation on the part of the accused should be active and proximate to the incident. It has been held in number of cases that to constitute “instigation”, the person who instigates another person has to provoke, incite, urge or encourage doing of an act by the other by “goading” or “urging forward”. A mere statement of suggesting the deceased to end his life without any mens -rea would not come under the purview of abetment to suicide. Mens -rea is a necessary ingredient of instigation and the abetment to suicide would be constituted only when such abetment is found intentional. 


Supreme Court in Geo Varghese v. State of Rajasthan, 2021 SCC Online SC 873, while dealing with the matter wherein a 9th standard student committed suicide and left a note alleging that his PTI teacher harassed and insulted him in front of everyone. The court emphasised two essentials for conviction under Sec. 306. Firstly, there should be a direct or indirect act of incitement. A mere allegation of harassment of the deceased by another would not be sufficient. Secondly, there must be reasonableness. If the deceased was hypersensitive and if the allegations imposed upon the accused are not otherwise sufficient to induce another person in similar circumstances to commit suicide, it would not be fair to hold the accused guilty for abetment of suicide. Thus, Supreme Court quashed the FIR in the lack of any specific allegation and material on record as the essentials to prove the allegation under Section 306 were not satisfied. 


Supreme Court  in the case of Sanju alias Sanjai Singh Sengar vs. State of M.P. 2002 AIR SC 1998, the Hon’ble Apex Court has acquitted the person and quashed the chargesheet filed under section 306 of IPC inter alia holding therein that mere say of the prosecution version will not subserve the purpose for slapping the charges under section 306 of IPC. The presence of mens rea is vital and indefeasible ingredient for to swing the criminal proceeding into the motion. It is a common knowledge that some of the words uttered during the altercation or scuffle cannot be assumed to have been uttered with with mens rea. 


Delhi High court has quashed FIR filed under Section 306 IPC in Roop Kishore Madan v. State, while mentioning that even though the suicide note clearly mentions that the deceased committed suicide because of the accused but there is no material on record to show that the ingredients of the offence of abetment had been satisfied and, therefore the offence under Section 306 IPC cannot be said to have been committed. The instigation when not direct has to be gathered from the circumstances of the case. 


Burden of proof always lies on the prosecution and it never shifts. In view of the crux of the judgments of Hn’ble the Apex court as well as various High Courts if in the present matter the prosecution version even if accepted for a while (though not conceded) does not whisper any component of mental intention of crime pertaining to abetment to commit suicide by the deceased. Nor there happens to be any active or passive motive for the Revisionists for doing so because they are the Principal and Teacher and every teacher wants to see his pupil to reach peak of success. 


 In the case of Sashi Prabha Devi Vs. State of Assam [2006- Cri.LJ-1762], the allegation is that the accused, a Head Mistress of a School wrongly struck off the name of the deceased from the Register of the Students in Class X, which induced the deceased to commit suicide and the High Court of Gujarat has held that there was no evidence showing that the accused had acted at any point of time, suggested or hinted for commission of suicide and when the accused was entitled to correct any wrong order, as in fact deceased had not passed her class IX examination, no case of instigation or abetment of suicide was made out against the accused.

In the case of Nettai Dutta Vs. State of will be [2005-2-SCC-659], the Honourable Supreme Court upholding the order of the High Court, quashed the charge sheet filed under Section 306 of IPC on the ground that the offence under Section would stand only if there is an abetment for the commission of crime.

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in a catena of decisions cited supra to the present case, on looking into the words uttered by the  accused  cannot be said to be instigation. In the said circumstances, certainly it cannot be said that the petitioner had in any way instigated the deceased to commit suicide or was responsible for the commission of suicide by the deceased boy.

Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur in the case of Raj Shekhar Paliwal Vs. State of Chhattisgarh & another, reported in 2020 SCC Online CHH 37 while dealing with similar issue related to Section 306 IPC has held that:-

“14. On perusal of the statement of witnesses under Section 161 of Cr.P.C., it is found that there had been occasions and reasons for which the deceased was taken to task by the applicants, it does not appear that the applicants had acted on any false pretext, there had been reasons for their acting or reacting with respect to the activity or any failure on the part of the deceased which is mentioned in the statements of the witnesses- Karambir Shashtri and Sukanti Shashtri. It appears that the deceased was very much sensitive and she used to become upset after such occasions when she taken to task by the applicants. By taking into consideration, the whole circumstances that occurred before the deceased committed suicide, it can be said that the applicants have acted when they found some kind of fault on the part of the deceased. Being Principal and teacher of the school, the applicants have authority to keep their students under discipline.”

Imparting education is a serious business and the Principal and the teachers cannot overlook the mistakes or lapses committed by any student and they have to be straight forward and show strictness so that the students takes care to remain in discipline and obey the command of the Principal and teacher. I am of this view that the applicants have not done anything otherwise than what was required to be done.

18. In this particular case, this applicant have acted when they had reasons to do so. The deceased used to become upset because of these incidents, there is nothing to suggest that the applicants had intended that the deceased would go and commit suicide, hence, it cannot be said that there had been any mens-rea on their part, neither it can be said that the applicants had created any circumstance from which the deceased could not come out and she was compelled to commit suicide.

19. Apart from that, the other things that are present in the evidence of this case are these, that the date written on the suicide note is 10.02.2018 and the suicide has been committed by the deceased on 20.02.2018. The acts alleged against the applicants are of previous dates and the last date mentioned is of 16.01.2018, which is about one month prior to the date of incident. Therefore, there appears to be difficulty in connecting all the incidents that have taken place between the applicants and the deceased with the incident of commission of suicide. Hence, I am of this view that in this case, the allegations are though against the applicants but there is nothing to suggest that these applicants have given any kind of abetment to the deceased to commit suicide. Hence, the framing of charge against these applicants under Section 306 read with Section 34 of I.P.C. is erroneous which is liable to be set aside. Hence, the revision petition is allowed and the impugned order framing charge against the applicant is set aside. The applicants are discharged.”

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Hon’ble Supreme Court vide order dated 01.10.2020 in the case of Gurcharan Singh. Vs. The State of Punjab (Criminal Appeal No.40 of 2011) while dealing with the issue related to section 306 IPC has held that:

13. Section 107 IPC defines “abetment” and in this case, the following part of the section will bear consideration: –

“107. Abetment of a thing – A person abets the doing of a thing, who – First-Instigates any person to do that thing; or **** **** ****

[14]

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

14. The definition quoted above makes it clear that whenever a person instigates or intentionally aids by any act or illegal omission, the doing of a thing, a person can be said to have abetted in doing that thing.

As in all crimes, mens rea has to be established. To prove the offence of abetment, as specified under Sec 107 of the IPC the state of mind to commit a particular crime must be visible, to determine the culpability. In order to prove mens -rea, there has to be something on record to establish or show that the appellant herein had a guilty mind and in furtherance of that state of mind, abetted the suicide of the deceased. The ingredient of mens- rea cannot be assumed to be ostensibly present but has to be visible and conspicuous. However, what transpires in the present matter is that both the Trial Court as well as the High Court never examined whether appellant had the mens rea for the crime, he is held to have committed. The conviction of Appellant by the Trial Court as well as the High Court on the theory that the woman with two young kids might have committed suicide, possibly because of the harassment faced by her in the matrimonial house, is not at all borne out by the evidence in the case. Testimonies of the PWs do not show that the wife was unhappy because of the appellant and she was forced to take such a step on his account.

The necessary ingredients for the offence under section 306 IPC was considered in the case SS Chheena Vs. Vijay Kumar Mahajan1 where explaining the concept of abetment, Justice Dalveer Bhandari wrote as under:-

“25. Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a 1 (2010) 12 SCC 190 person in doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained. The intention of the legislature and the ratio of the cases decided by this Court is clear that in order to convict a person under Section 306 IPC there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.”

While dealing with a case of abetment of suicide in Amalendu Pal alias Jhantu vs. State of West Bengal2, Dr. Justice M.K. Sharma writing for the Division Bench explained the parameters of Section 306 IPC in the following terms:

“12. 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.”

Allahabad High Court at Lucknow Bench in the case of Dr. J.P. Bhargava and anr. Vs. State of U.P. (Application u/s 482 No.6195 of 2016) vide order dated 06.07.2022, while dealing with the abetment to suicide under Section 306 IPC has held that:

“18. Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. There has to be a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide. If there is no positive act on behalf of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, offence under Section 306 cannot be said to be made out. In order to convict a person under Section 306 IPC, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence. There should be an active act or direct act, which led the deceased to commit suicide. The overt act must be such a nature that the deceased must find himself having no option but to an end to his life. That act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he/she commit suicide. In the suicide-note, only allegation is that the deceased was being frequently transferred and he was being harassed by the applicants. For demanding bribe, the deceased never made any complaint to any authority and the same could not be believed. The facts disclose that the deceased himself was not handing over the charge despite numerous reminders and he was not joining the place of his transfer. The deceased himself was guilty of dereliction of duty. For performing official acts, without there being any intention to push the deceased to commit suicide, the offence under Section 306 IPC against the applicants cannot be said to be attracted. On a plain reading of the suicide-note itself reflects that there was no abetment on the part of the applicants for committing suicide by the deceased.

23. From the aforesaid discussions, it is evident that the deceased perceived harassment by the applicants as he was transferred in frequent successions on administrative grounds. There is nothing on record to suggest any mens-rea for instigating or abetting the suicide by the applicants. The suicide-note, as has been extracted herein above even does not remotely suggest that the accused-applicants had any intention to aid, instigate or abet the deceased to commit suicide.

Transferring the deceased, asking him to handover the charge and not sanctioning earned leave by itself would not constitute the offence of abetment to commit suicide. There is no evidence collected by the CBI to suggest that the applicants intended by such act to instigate the deceased to commit suicide. This Court is of the view that all ingredients of instigation of abetment to commit suicide are completely absent in the material collected during the course of investigation and, therefore, it cannot be said that the accused- applicants have committed any offence under Section 306 IPC. There is no offending action proximate to the time of occurrence on the part of the applicants, which would have led or compelled the deceased to commit suicide. Perceived of harassment by the deceased in the hands of the accused-applicants cannot be a ground for invoking the offence under Section 306 IPC as it cannot be said that the accused-applicants have abetted the commission of suicide by playing any active role or by an act of instigation or doing certain acts to facilitate commission of suicide.”

In the judgment of Madras High Court, Madurai Bench, P. Rajmohan. Vs. State, 2018 0 Supreme (Mad) 3697, and paragraph-15 of the said judgment clearly points out that father of the deceased girl was summoned by the teacher and he was asked to give apology for the conduct of his daughter; thus, for the abetment of girl deceased, teacher could not be held responsible. For convenience, paragraph-15 of the said judgment is reproduced hereinbelow:- 
“15. One important thing to be noted in this case is that the Petitioners being the Teachers of the Government School in the interest of the Institution correct any mistake done by the student in order to cultivate good habits and get rid of bad habits, such as stealing money. In fact, the father of the deceased girl had been summoned and it is stated that he gave a letter of apology for the conduct of his daughter and also undertook that the same would not recur again. In such view of the matter, the act of the petitioners cannot be said that it would amount to abetment of suicide.”

In the case of Raj Shekhar Paliwal and another. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh and another, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 37, has been relied on by the learned counsel for the revisionists wherein, it has been held that the 
deceased student was sensitive and she committed suicide. The relevant paragraph-14 of the said judgment is quoted below for convenience:-

“14. On perusal of the statement of witnesses under Section 161 of Cr.P.C., it is found that there had been occasions and reasons for which the deceased was taken to task by the applicants, it does not appear that the applicants had acted on any false pretext, there had been reasons for their acting or reacting with respect to the activity or any failure on the part of the deceased which is mentioned in the statements of the witnesses- Karambir Shashtri and Sukanti Shashtri. It appears that the deceased was very much sensitive and she used to become upset after such occasions when she taken to task by the applicants. By taking into consideration, the whole circumstances that occurred before the deceased committed suicide, it can be said that the applicants have acted when they found some kind of fault on the part of the deceased. Being Principal and teacher of the school, the applicants have authority to keep their students under discipline. Imparting education is a serious business and the Principal and the teachers cannot overlook the mistakes or lapses committed by any student and they have to be straight forward and show strictness so that the students takes care to remain in discipline and obey the command of the Principal and teacher. I am of this view that the applicants have not done anything otherwise than what was required to be done.”

In the case of Sunil Kumar Sen. Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, for instance, the deceased violated the rule of school by sneaking out of the premises before school hours for which she was justifiably admonished. 


In the case of N. Anjali Devi Vs. The Superintendent of Police, the deceased was scolded by the Anganwadi teacher who in a fit of rage uttered “go and die” after discovering the stolen money from the bag of deceased; here the Hon’ble Court has highlighted that words uttered in a fit of rage do not amount into abetment of suicide. Moreover, the deceased was reprimanded for her conduct which itself was immoral.

In the case of Sashi Prabha Devi.Vs. State of Assam, the accused was alleged of having wrongfully struck down the name of the deceased from the student register of Class Xth, owing to which the deceased committed suicide. However, the action was justified against the deceased since she hadn’t passed her class Ixth examination and so no case of abetment to suicide could be established.

Written By: Advocate Anurag Shukla

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