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Gurcharan Singh vs The State Of Punjab - (Supreme Court) (01 Oct 2020)

Case of abetment made out only if accused instigates a person either by act of omission or commission

MANU/SC/0731/2020

Criminal

Present Appeal challenges the judgment and order of the High Court whereunder, the Criminal Appeal of the convicted Appellant was dismissed and the judgment of conviction under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and the consequential sentence imposed by the Learned Additional Sessions Judge, was upheld.

The learned Counsel focused on the findings of the Trial Court that, there is no direct evidence of cruelty towards the deceased, by the husband or parents-in-law. It is then submitted that, there is nothing to conclude that, the husband had wilfully neglected his wife or had frustrated her, to bring the case within the ambit of abetment. The Counsel argues that, the Court’s conclusion is entirely based on conjectures and not upon any substantial evidence.

In order to give the finding of abetment under Section 107 of IPC, the accused should instigate a person either by act of omission or commission and only then, a case of abetment is made out. In the present case however, there is no direct evidence of cruelty against the husband or the in-laws. There is nothing on record to show which particular hope or expectation of the deceased was frustrated by the husband. Evidence is also lacking on wilful neglect of the Appellant, which led to the suicidal death. Whereas contrary evidence is available to suggest that, care and treatment was given to the deceased in the matrimonial home and in the hospital, and during the three years of marriage, there was no instance of maltreatment, attributable to dowry demand.

It must also be noted that both children born to deceased are being brought up by the Appellant’s family ever since the death of the mother on 12th August, 1997. The maternal grandparents, even while pointing fingers against the accused, never raised any issue on their grandchildren being brought up in the home where their daughter died an unnatural death.

As in all crimes, mens rea has to be established. To prove the offence of abetment, as specified under Section 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.

No overt act or illegal omission is seen from the Appellant’s side, in taking due care of his deceased wife. The evidence also does not indicate that, the deceased faced persistent harassment from her husband. Nothing to this effect is testified by the parents or any of the other prosecution witnesses. The Trial Court and the High Court speculated on the unnatural death and without any evidence concluded only through conjectures, that the Appellant is guilty of abetting the suicide of his wife.

The Trial Court and the High Court erred in concluding that, the deceased was driven to commit suicide, by the circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home. This is nothing more than an inference, without any material support. Therefore, the same cannot be the basis for sustaining conviction of the Appellant, under Section 306 of the IPC. The decisions under challenge cannot be legally sustained. Consequently, interfering with the impugned judgment of the High Court and the Trial Court, the Appellant’s conviction under Section 306 of IPC is set aside and quashed. The appeal is accordingly, allowed.

Tags : ABETMENT   CONVICTION   LEGALITY  

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