The Supreme Court has said that an individual can not be charged with abetting a suicide if an aggrieved member of his staff, who honestly feels wronged by him, kills himself on that count.
Urging trial courts to be extremely careful, the apex court said that unless there were ‘specific allegation and material of definite nature (not imaginary or inferential one), it would be hazardous to ask the appellant or accused to face the trial’.
Even if a person honestly feels wronged and holds a grudge against his superior officer and commits suicide on account of that grudge, ‘it would still not be a proper allegation for basing the charge under Section 306 Indian Penal Code (abetment to suicide),’ an apex court bench of Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice Cyriac Joseph said in their judgment Tuesday.
A person guilty of abetment to suicide faces a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Sirpukar said that the reasonableness of the allegation against the accused that he had intended or engineered the suicide of the concerned person by his acts or words had to be seen objectively.
The apex court said this while quashing the first information report and subsequent proceedings against Ahmedabad-based senior officer of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) Madan Mohan Singh.
He was charged with abetment to suicide after his driver Deepakbhai Kishanlal Joshi committed suicide.
The driver in his suicide note said that he was harassed and insulted by the senior officer.
The suicide note that was written 17 days before Joshi committed suicide Feb 21, 2008 was sent to the chief justice of Gujarat High Court and chief general manager of BSNL.
The judgment said that the ‘baseless and irrelevant allegations could not be used as a basis for prosecution for a serious offence under Section 306 IPC’.
‘The intention of the accused to aid or to instigate or to abet the deceased to commit suicide is a must for (attracting) this particular offence,’ the judgment said.
The apex court said that high court erred in not quashing the proceedings.
The judgment said that it was absurd to even think that a superior officer like the appellant Singh would intend to bring about suicide of his driver and, therefore, abet the offence.
The court said that a criminal trial was not exactly a pleasant experience.
The person, like Singh in the present case, who is serving in a responsible post would certainly suffer great prejudice, were he to face prosecution on absurd allegations of irrelevant nature, the judgment said.