Mere taunting does not amount to harassment or mental cruelty, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court observed on Tuesday while acquitting three persons for harassing a woman and abetting her suicide.
A single bench of Justice Abhay Waghwase quashed a 2001 order passed by a sessions court at Nandurbar convicting a woman’s husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law on charges of abetting her suicide, harassment and cruelty.
According to the prosecution, the couple got married in May 1993, and while everything was fine in the beginning, the three accused eventually started taunting the woman for not cooking properly and doing household work, among other things.
“In the considered opinion of this court, mere taunting would not amount to harassment or mental cruelty,” the court said.
The prosecution also claimed that the accused persons had asked the victim to get Rs 10,000 from her father.
In April 1994, the woman allegedly committed suicide by self-immolation.
The woman’s family claimed that she had committed suicide as she was fed up with the ill-treatment meted out to her by her in-laws and husband, while the accused said the woman got immolated by accident.
The bench, in its order, noted that in the absence of any material to show that the accused set the victim on fire, it would be unjust to indict them, and it would amount to drawing assumptions and presumptions.
It further said that it has not come across an iota of evidence to show that the accused persons had abetted the suicide or had ill-treated the woman continuously and to such an extent that she was left with no alternative but to end her life.
The court said there was no evidence of instigation or inducement by the accused persons to the victim to commit suicide.
“Mens rea (intention), which is an essential ingredient, is missing in this case. Simpliciter accusations of taunting and demanding money, which was not followed by physical or mental cruelty, itself would not be sufficient to attribute abetment to commit suicide,” the court observed.
It noted that almost all allegations levelled against the accused are that they taunted the victim for not preparing proper meals, not waking up early, not washing clothes and eating too much.
There was no evidence to show that the accused had harassed the woman for not paying dowry, the court said.