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Santanu Biswas vs The State Of West Bengal on 20 February, 2019

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20.2.2019
55

md.

CRA 200 of 2016
(Assigned)

Santanu Biswas

– Versus –

The State of West Bengal

Mr. Debashis Roy,
Mr. Sanat Kumar Das,
Mr. Sujan Chatterjee,
Mr. Soumesh Roy

….For the appellant

Mr. Ranabir Roy Chowdhury,
Mr. Mainak Gupta
…..For the State

The appeal is directed against a judgment of conviction of

February 19, 2016 and the consequent sentence of February 20,

2016. The appellant has been convicted under Section 306 of the

Penal Code in connection with the unnatural death of the

appellant’s wife.

The appellant and the victim were married for about 16 to 18

months before the incident took place on September 06, 2007. The

victim was run over by a train at Bally Station.

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The appellant and several relatives of the appellant were

charged, inter alia, under Sections 498A, 304B and 306 of the

Penal Code. All the relatives of the appellant have been acquitted

of the charges. The appellant has been acquitted of the charges

under Section 498A and Section 304B of the Penal Code. The

appellant has, however, been convicted for abetting the perceived

suicide of his wife on September 06, 2007.

It is contended on behalf of the appellant that once the

connected charge under Section 498A was found not to have been

proved and even the charge under Section 304B of the Penal Code

failed, there was no question of the court proceeding with the

charge under Section 306 of the Penal Code and, at any rate,

finding the appellant guilty on such count.

On behalf of the appellant, the oral evidence of several of the

witnesses has been placed and it is submitted that it is even

doubtful as to whether the victim committed suicide. It is

submitted on behalf of the appellant that it is possible to discern

from the evidence that the victim may have fallen accidentally and

may not have committed suicide at all.

There are some allegations that the victim had left the

matrimonial home for some time because of the persistent

demands for dowry and physical and mental torture inflicted on

her. However, such matters were not proved.

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As to the incident of September 06, 2007, the principal

material appears to be the oral evidence of PW3, PW4 and PW10.

PW3, who stays in the same locality as the complainant, the

victim’s father, said that he knew the complainant and he also

knew the victim. According to him, the victim committed suicide in

the year 2009 by “jumping before the running train namely Rajgir

Passenger”. He recollected, in course of his oral evidence, that at

about 10.30 am on the relevant date he saw the victim and the

appellant coming out of their matrimonial home and he claimed to

have heard the appellant asking his wife to bring money from the

wife’s father. Such witness recounted that the appellant and the

victim proceeded towards the railway platform and, upon the

appellant hearing some commotion a little while later, the appellant

reached the Bally Station and found the mangled remains of the

victim on the tracks after she had been run over. It is evident that

such witness had not mentioned to the investigating officer in

course of the investigating officer obtaining his statement under

Section 161 of the Code that he had heard the appellant demand

that the victim should get money from the victim’s father, on the

relevant date.

PW4 was another acquaintance of the complainant who

knew both the complainant and the victim. He claimed to have

been present at the railway station at about 10 am on September

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6, 2007 when he saw an altercation between the victim and the

appellant. He claimed that the victim was crying and trying to

assure the appellant that the victim would arrange money from her

father and pleaded with the appellant that the appellant should see

to it that the appellant’s father did not create any problem. Such

witness claimed the appellant to have threatened the victim by

saying that unless the victim brought substantial money, she may

not be allowed into the matrimonial home. PW4 also testified that

he attempted to ask the victim as to what the problem was, and the

victim told him that she would talk to him later. According to such

witness, upon it being announced on the public address system at

the station that a through-train would pass by platform no.3, the

victim jumped on the railway tracks just as the train was about to

enter the platform and she was run over.

A further witness, PW10, claimed to have seen the victim and

the appellant quarrelling while going towards the Bally Railway

Station on the morning of September 06, 2017. He also claimed

that he heard the appellant telling the victim to arrange for money

from the victim’s father. In addition, such victim claimed that the

appellant had apparently abused the victim.

On the basis of such material as they presented themselves

before the trial court, it was held that there was an altercation

between the appellant and the victim which resulted in the victim

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being given an ultimatum to come with money to the matrimonial

home or be driven out therefrom.

The State has fairly submitted that in the light of the

appellant’s acquittal of the other charges, the charge under Section

306 of the Penal Code could not have stuck. According to the

State, if the appellant was found not to have made dowry claims or

otherwise acted cruelly towards the victim, the incident of

September 06, 2007 at the railway station may not have been

provocation enough that would amount to abetting suicide.

A charge under Section 306 of the Penal Code is difficult to

establish since such charge involves a person virtually getting into

the head of another and driving the other to take the other’s life for

a motive that the first person may have. If the demands for dowry

as contained in the statements attributed to the appellant by the

three witnesses to the incident are taken out of the equation, as

they must, in the light of the charge under Section 498A of the Act

failing against the husband, there is little material to show that the

victim was pushed to a state of mind where there was no

alternative available to her but to take her own life. A charge of

abetting suicide has to be founded on sterner stuff than the flimsy

material as evident on the basis of the statements of the said three

witnesses. It is true that the husband and wife may have had a

disagreement, but it is equally true that they continued talking to

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each other over the distance from the matrimonial home to the

railway platform and no other act of cruelty or aggression was

attributed to the appellant.

It does not appear that PW4 may have seen the victim just

before the incident and his testimony is of no use as to whether the

victim jumped or she fell. There is no clarity in the statements of

the other two either on such aspect.

On an overall appreciation of the evidence against the

appellant qua the charge under Section 306 of the Penal Code, it

does not appear that his acts or conduct as taken into account by

the trial court, could have led the victim or pushed her to suicide.

As a consequence, the order of conviction and the consequent

sentence are set aside and the appellant is directed to be set at

large immediately if not required in any other criminal case.

CRA 200 of 2016 is allowed as above.

The Criminal Section is directed to supply a certified

photocopy of the order, if applied for, to the appellant on urgent

basis.

(Suvra Ghosh, J.) (Sanjib Banerjee, J. )

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