SC affirmed the conviction decision of the HC and refused to show reduce the sentence.
In the absence of direct evidence of abetment to have caused the suicide of the wife, whether the conduct of the husband to have continued an illicit relationship is sufficient to convict him under Section 498A and 306 IPC?
The provisions have been extracted hereunder:
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.
498A IPC Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.— Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means— (a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or (b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.Indian Penal Code, 1860
The husband was in an illicit relationship with a woman prior to marriage. The marriage of the deceased with the accused person was solemnised on 6th May, 2002. After coming the wife coming to know of this relationship, a panchayat was convened wherein the husband has admitted being living with another woman and that was seen by his wife (the deceased). An agreement was written by the husband accepting of the illicit relationship and agreed not to continue the illicit relationship. However, the husband went on continuing the illicit relation. The wife committed suicide by jumping into the well on 17th September 2002, merely four months after the marriage.
The father of the husband and the husband were arrayed as accused. The trial court convicted the appellant-accused and also his father under Section 498-A and 304-B r/w 34 IPC, Section 306 r/w 34 IPC and Sections 3,4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The High Court in appeal, acquitted father of the husband of all charges. The husband was convicted of Section 498-A IPC and 306 IPC. Aggrieved by the decision, the husband moved an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Points for consideration
The counsel for the appellant husband argued
- to constitute an offence under Section 306 IPC, a mens rea to commit the offence is required
- there ought to be active or direct act leading to the deceased to commit suicide, which is lacking in the present case
Observation by the Supreme Court
The court observed that even in the absence that the husband has directly abetted the suicide of the deceased wife, the act of the husband by continuing the said illicit relationship would have definitely created the psychological imbalance to the deceased. The relevant portion of the decision is extracted:
(8) As held in Randhir Singh v. State of Punjab, (2004) 13 SCC 129 vide para 12, abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or in any manner aiding that person in doing of the thing. Courts should carefully assess the facts of each case before deciding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim which induces her to commit suicide.
(9) In the case case in hand, the witnesses – PW-1, PW-6, PW- 10 and PW-22 have clearly in their statement stated that the appellant continued his relation with another woman. The appellant’s illicit relation with another woman would have definitely created the psychological imbalance to the deceased which led her to take the extreme step of committing suicide. It cannot be said that the appellant’s act of having illicit relationship with another woman would not have affected to negate the ingredients of Sections 306 I.P.C.
(10) In our considered view, based upon the evidence and also Agreement dated 22nd June, 2002, the High Court has rightly maintained the conviction of the appellant under Sections 498-A and 306 I.P.C.Case decided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Siddaling vs. State of Karnataka on 09/08/2018
The Supreme Court held that even in the absence of direct conduct of the husband, the act of the husband by continuing the relationship would have caused the deceased person to have taken the extreme step and convicted the accused husband under Section 306 IPC. The Supreme Court refused to reduce the quantum of the punishment of the accused husband.