Baseless allegations in abetment to suicide cases

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1291 OF 2008

Madan Mohan Singh … Appellant

Versus

State of Gujarat & Anr. … Respondents

WITH

CRLMP NO. 12749 OF 2008

JUDGMENT

V.S. SIRPURKAR, J.

1. The accused who faces prosecution for offences under Section

306 and 294(b) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) comes up before us

being aggrieved by the High Court judgment by which his petition

under Section 482 Cr.P.C. was dismissed. In that petition the

accused/appellant had challenged the First Information Report (FIR)

registered as C.R. No. 166 of 2008 at Naranpura Police Station.

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2. The said FIR is a long document which has been filed by one

Harshida Ben, widow of Deepakbhai Krishnalal Joshi. It is apparent

from the said report that she was married to Deepakbhai Krishnalal

Joshi serving in Ahmedabad Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. as a driver

in the Microwave Project Department. He had undergone a heart

bypass surgery in the year 2002 and he was asked by the doctor to

avoid lifting heavy weights. She further stated that the appellant,

Madan Mohan Singh was working as a D.E.T. and her husband who

was driving a Tata Sumo car was working under Madan Mohan Singh

(accused herein). She then complained that Madan Mohan Singh

used to tell his private errands to her husband and was harassing

him. Though Madan Mohan Singh was transferred, yet he kept on

continuously using her husband. In the year 2007, Madam Mohan

Singh came back on transfer in the Microwave Project as D.E.T. It is

alleged that on the day when Madan Mohan Singh joined, he told her

husband to keep the keys of the vehicle on the table. However,

according to her, her husband did not listen to that and took back the

key on account of which Madan Mohan Singh had become angry and

had threatened her husband of suspending him. He also rebuked her

husband that if he did not listen to him, he would create difficulties for

her husband. Madan Mohan Singh said to her husband as how he is

still alive inspite of the insults. It is then contended that on 21.2.2008,

her husband left at 10’O Clock as per rules with tiffin but did not

return back in the evening and, therefore, his search was taken by his

son Jatin from his colleagues like Raji Saheb and his absence was

reported to the police on 22.2.2008 and 23.2.2008. Ultimately, she

came to know that her husband’s body was lying in the dead

condition in the vehicle No. GJ 1 G 3472 at Kiran Park opposite

Gayatri Hospital, New Vadaj. She also suggested further that a

telephone call had come from Gujarat High Court informing her that

there was a Xerox copy of the suicide note. Lastly, it is stated that

during the period between 2003 to 21.2.2008 the Head of the

department D.E.T. Project was entrusting his house work to her

husband but her husband had not done the work entrusted to him

and, therefore, he had bias against her husband and insulted him in

front of the staff several times and because of this her husband got

depressed and committed suicide.

3. This First Information Report was filed and registered on

17.3.2008 i.e. after the 24 days of the death of her husband. It is this

report which is challenged suggesting that even if the whole report is

accepted as it is, it did not disclose any offence much less the

offences under Sections 306 and 294, IPC. Since, the Gujarat High

Court did not agree and dismissed the petition; the appellant is before

us now.

4. Shri K.T.S. Tulsi, learned Senior Advocate took us through the

FIR in which there is reference to a suicide note allegedly written by

the deceased, a Xerox copy of which was produced by the

complainant. The copy of that suicide note was filed before us. It

seems to be a letter dated 4.2.2008 written to the Chief General

Manager, Telecom Project. It is a huge complaint in which the

incident dated 15.10.2007 was mentioned when allegedly the

appellant asked the driver to keep the keys of the vehicle on the table

and not to take away them. There is also a complaint against the

working style of the Madan Mohan Singh by the driver. There is one

significant sentence I was put under mental tension by M.M. Singh.

Without any concrete proof and evidence I was put under insulting

position due to which I began to feel resentment and insult and I

came under depression.

5. The further complaint in that so-called suicide note appears to

be that the driver was not given a fixed vehicle though all the drivers

were given fixed vehicles to drive. There is also a complaint against

one Raghunathan suggesting that he misled the DGM and had given

him a very bad vehicle to drive. By way of example, it was pointed

out that the keys of the vehicle were taken in the absence of

Incharge, M.K. Sovangya without giving any reasons verbally. Then

he was not given any charge of the vehicle and running log book.

Thirdly, he was sent the transfer order by post. The attendance of

the office staff was not maintained and he was transferred and the

vehicle was given to a regular labour. There is also a complaint

about the salary of 15 days which was deducted by Madan Mohan

Singh. A fair inquiry was sought for by the said driver. It was

suggested that his retirement date was 25.12.2012 and salary should

be recovered from Madan Mohan Singh as he had harassed him

without giving any concrete reason. It is then suggested in the

followings words:

I am going to commit suicide due to his functioning

style. Alone M.M. Singh, D.E.T. Microwave Project is

responsible for my death. I pray humbly to the

officers of the department that you should not

cooperate as human being to defend M.M. Singh.

M.M. Singh has acted in breach of discipline

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disregarding the norms of discipline. I humbly

request the Enquiry Officer that my wife and son may

not be harassed. My life has been ruined by M.M.

Singh.”

6. This huge note is addressed to inquiry officer, Chief General

Manager and also to the Chief Justice. The biggest complaint against

the accused is that he had changed the duty of this driver from one

car to another though no other driver was ever transferred. Again

and again, the deceased has insisted that the only person

responsible for his suicide was Madan Mohan Singh.

7. We have gone through the suicide note though it is not yet on

record. Shri Tulsi pointed out that even if this suicide note is

accepted as it is, along with the FIR, no ingredients of Sections 306

and 294 (b), IPC could be spelt out from the same. We have gone

through the whole FIR as well as the so-called suicide note which

seems to have been signed on 4.2.2008 wherein he had complained

about the stale incidents dated 15.10.2007 to 19.10.2007. It seems

that it is 17 days after that, that he was found dead 23.2.2008. It is

claimed by his wife Harshida Ben that she got a call from the Gujarat

High Court informing her that a suicide note was found and that she

should search for such note in her house subsequent to which she

claimed to have found the suicide note bearing the signature of the

deceased, thus bringing the origin of alleged suicide note under the

cloud of suspicion.

8. It is on this that Shri Tulsi contended that all this is absolutely

absurd. If a person writes a suicide note on 4.2.2008, he had no

business to send the suicide note to High Court and keep a copy

thereof in the house. Learned Senior Counsel said that even if all this

is accepted as it is, there is nothing to suggest that the appellant has

committed any offence or that any offence could be spelt out from the

said suicide note or the FIR much less offence under Sections 306

and 294, IPC. We are convinced that there is absolutely nothing in

this suicide note or the FIR which would even distantly be viewed as

an offence much less under Section 306, IPC. We could not find

anything in the FIR or in the so-called suicide note which could be

suggested as abetment to commit suicide. In such matters there

must be an allegation that the accused had instigated the deceased

to commit suicide or secondly, had engaged with some other person

in a conspiracy and lastly, that the accused had in any way aided any

act or illegal omission to bring about the suicide. In spite of our best

efforts and microscopic examination of the suicide note and the FIR,

all that we find is that the suicide note is a rhetoric document in the

nature of a departmental complaint. It also suggests some mental

imbalance on the part of the deceased which he himself describes as

depression. In the so-called suicide note, it cannot be said that the

accused ever intended that the driver under him should commit

suicide or should end his life and did anything in that behalf. Even if it

is accepted that the accused changed the duty of the driver or that

the accused asked him not to take the keys of the car and to keep the

keys of the car in the office itself, it does not mean that the accused

intended or knew that the driver should commit suicide because of

this. In order to bring out an offence under Section 306, IPC specific

abetment as contemplated by Section 107, IPC on the part of the

accused with an intention to bring out the suicide of the concerned

person as a result of that abetment is required. The intention of the

accused to aid or to instigate or to abet the deceased to commit

suicide is a must for this particular offence under Section 306, IPC.

We are of the clear opinion that there is no question of there being

any material for offence under Section 306, IPC either in the FIR or in

the so-called suicide note.

9. It is absurd to even think that a superior officer like the

appellant would intend to bring about suicide of his driver and,

therefore, abet the offence. In fact, there is no nexus between the so

called suicide (if at all it is one for which also there is no material on

record) and any of the alleged acts on the part of the appellant.

There is no proximity either. In the prosecution under Section 306,

IPC, much more material is required. The Courts have to be

extremely careful as the main person is not available for cross-

examination by the appellant/accused. Unless, therefore, there is

specific allegation and material of definite nature (not imaginary or

inferential one), it would be hazardous to ask the appellant/accused

to face the trial. A criminal trial is not exactly a pleasant experience.

The person like the appellant in 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. In the

similar circumstances, as reported in Netai Dutta Vs. State of W.B.

[2005 (2) SCC 659], this Court had quashed the proceedings initiated

against the accused.

10. As regards the suicide note, which is a document of about 15

pages, all that we can say is that it is an anguish expressed by the

driver who felt that his boss (the accused) had wronged him. The

suicide note and the FIR do not impress us at all. They cannot be

depicted as expressing anything intentional on the part of the

accused that the deceased might commit suicide. If the prosecutions

are allowed to continue on such basis, it will be difficult for every

superior officer even to work.

11. It was tried to be contended by the learned counsel appearing

on behalf of the complainant that at this stage, we should not go into

the merits of the FIR or the said suicide note. It is trite law now that

where there is some material alleged in the FIR, then such FIR and

the ensuing proceedings should not be quashed under Section 482

Cr.P.C. It is for this reason that we very closely examined the FIR to

see whether it amounts to a proper complaint for the offence under

Sections 306 and 294(b) IPC. Insofar as Section 294(b) IPC is

concerned, we could not find a single word in the FIR or even in the

so-called suicide note. Insofar as Section 306 IPC is concerned,

even at the cost of repetition, we may say that merely because a

person had a grudge against his superior officer and committed

suicide on account of that grudge, even honestly feeling that he was

wronged, it would still not be a proper allegation for basing the charge

under Section 306 IPC. It will still fall short of a proper allegation. It

would have to be objectively seen whether the allegations made

could reasonably be viewed as proper allegations against the

appellant/accused to the effect that he had intended or engineered

the suicide of the concerned person by his acts, words etc. When we

put the present FIR on this test, it falls short. We have already

explained that the baseless and irrelevant allegations could not be

used as a basis for prosecution for a serious offence under Section

306 IPC. Similarly, we have already considered Section 294 (b) IPC

also. We have not been able to find anything. Under such

circumstances, where the FIR itself does not have any material or is

not capable of being viewed as having material for offence under

Sections 306 and 294(b) IPC, as per the law laid down by this Court

in State of Haryana & Ors. Vs. Bhajan Lal & Ors. [1992 Suppl. 1

SCC 335], it would be only proper to quash the FIR and the further

proceedings.

12. For all these reasons, we are of the clear opinion that the High

Court erred in not quashing the proceedings. Allowing this appeal,

we set aside the order of the High Court and allowing the petition

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under Section 482 Cr.P.C. filed by the appellant/accused, the

questioned proceedings are quashed.

[V.S. Sirpurkar]

[Cyriac Joseph]

New Delhi;

August 17, 2010