Legal Notice & Filing Of Complaint Does Not Amount To Abetment Of Suicide: Delhi High Court

By- Manik Tindwani

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the recent case of Atul Kumar v. State of NCT Delhi observed that mere filing of a complaint or sending a legal notice must not be considered as abetment of suicide (Section 306 of IPC) as in the instant case it was the legal recourse, as was advised to him.

The petitioner had challenged an order that had refused to accept the police’s closure report against him in the case before the Hon’ble Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri. The Court ordered that,

It cannot be said that by filing a criminal complaint against the deceased, the petitioner had the mens rea to instigate or goad the deceased to commit suicide; and further, that the deceased was left with no other option but to (sic) commit suicide.”

The case was prompted by the suicidal death of a person who was in the business of vintage motorcycles. The petitioner, who is a domicile of the USA, made a purchase of a motorcycle by remitting money to the deceased in 2012. When the petitioner did not receive the motorcycle, he sent a legal notice to the deceased in 2014 when he visited India. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a criminal complaint against the deceased at the local police station. Subsequently, the petitioner left India on the intervening night of December 5 and 6, 2014. However, the deceased was reported as dead by suicide on December 9, 2014. The deceased had also left behind a note blaming the petitioner for committing suicide.

The trial court rejected the closure report against him in the abetment of suicide case. Thereafter, the petitioner approached the Hon’ble Delhi High Court challenging the order of the trial court. The High Court narrowed down the issue as to whether issuance of legal notice and filing of a criminal complaint by the petitioner is itself sufficient to constitute the offense of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Counsels appearing on behalf of the petitioner contended that the conduct of the petitioner was merely the legal recourse which was advised to him and that he did not have any malafide intention to instigate the deceased to take such extreme step.

Whereas the counsels on the behalf of the wife of the deceased, who is the complainant in the case, emphasized on the death note by the deceased which stated that the petitioner harassed the deceased despite having taken possession of the motorcycle in 2012. The counsels pointed out that the petitioner lodged the complaint to coerce the deceased to service his other motorcycles free of cost.

The Court observed that for attributing the criminal liability onto the petitioner it is requisite that there is a nexus of the petitioner’s acts with the suicide. It remarked that,

It has to be shown that the petitioner did an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option. Also, it has to be shown that the petitioner’s act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that they committed suicide. Further, the prosecution has to show that the petitioner had the mens-rea to commit the offence…”.

The Court opined that abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person, although the deceased had felt harassed, the petitioner’s act could not be stated to have abetted his suicide. It further added that,

The filing of a criminal complaint by the petitioner was his legal recourse, as advised to him.”

It concluded by affirming that,

The requisite mens rea on part of the petitioner is also lacking. It cannot be said that the petitioner had abetted or instigated the deceased to commit suicide and that the deceased was left with no option but to commit suicide. This Court is of the opinion that necessary ingredients of the offence punishable under Section 306 IPC are not made out against the petitioner with the result that the petition is allowed and the impugned order passed by the learned ASJ (additional sessions judge) directing the trial court to proceed with the matter, is set aside.”

Advocates Sarojanand Jha, Megha Shawani and, Suraj Malik argued on behalf of the petitioner. Advocate Amarjeet Singh Sahni represented the complainant. Additional Public Prosecutor Neelam Sharma appeared for State.