The Supreme Court observed that a word uttered in a fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow cannot be said to be instigation.

The Court observed thus in an appeal against the conviction of a man under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) i.e., abetment of suicide case.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice Bela M. Trivedi and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan held, “… this Court held that to ‘instigate’ means to goad, urge, provoke, incite or encourage to do ‘an act’. To satisfy the requirement of ‘instigation’, it is not necessary that actual words must be used to that effect or that the words or act should necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the consequence. But, a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. Where the accused by his act or omission or by his continued course of conduct creates a situation that the deceased is left with no other option except to commit suicide, then instigation may be inferred. A word uttered in a fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow cannot be said to be instigation.”

The Bench said that in a case of death by poisoning, be it homicidal or suicidal and which is based on circumstantial evidence, recovery of the trace of poison consumed by or administered to the deceased is of critical importance.

Advocate Rajesh Mahale appeared for the appellant while Advocate D.L. Chidananda appeared for the respondent.

Brief Facts -

The Fast Track Court convicted the appellant/accused for the offence under Section 306 of IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs. 2,000/-. An appeal was filed by him under Section 374 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) before the Karnataka High Court but the same was dismissed. The case of the prosecution was that he was residing in the house of the deceased as a tenant but on the date of incident, he was residing elsewhere as the term of the lease agreement had expired.

The deceased was returning home after dropping the children of her sister in the school and when she reached the bank, the accused was waiting there and teased her to marry him. However, she refused to respond due to which the accused threatened her that he would destroy the family of her sisters, outrage their modesty, and would kill them if she did not agree to marry him. After she reached home, she informed her sisters about the same over telephone and thereafter, consumed poison in the house. As a result, she died and an FIR was lodged against the accused.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “In a case of death due to consumption or administering of poison or insecticide or pesticide, be it homicidal or suicidal, recovery of the trace of such poison or insecticide or pesticide is crucial. … If the prosecution case is to be believed, then the syringe and the needle or the container must have been present in the scene of occurrence itself. Those were not found by the prosecution.”

The Court said that no trace of pesticide was seen by the investigating officer in the room and that the FSL report as well as the chemical analysis report are silent as to whether any trace of the pesticide was detected from any of the seized articles.

“Prosecution is silent as to why no investigation was done in this regard. In a case of this nature, where the oral evidence including that of PW Nos. 1, 2 and 4 are not at all convincing, the absence of the container or the bottle containing the pesticide from where the deceased had orally consumed the pesticide, becomes very crucial. Similarly, recovery of syringe and needle if the deceased had injected the poison, is also crucial. … It forms a part of the chain; rather it would complete the chain to prove homicide or suicide”, it added.

The Court further noted that human mind is an enigma and it is well neigh impossible to unravel the mystery of the human mind. It said that there can be myriad reasons for a man or a woman to commit or attempt to commit suicide: it may be a case of failure to achieve academic excellence, oppressive environment in college or hostel, particularly for students belonging to the marginalized sections, joblessness, financial difficulties, disappointment in love or marriage, acute or chronic ailments, depression, so on and so forth.

“… it may not always be the case that someone has to abet commission of suicide. Circumstances surrounding the deceased in which he finds himself are relevant. … Coming to the facts of the present case, we do not find any evidence on the basis of which we can hold the appellant guilty of abetting the suicide of the deceased. While the death of a young woman is certainly very tragic, it cannot be said with any degree of certainty that suicide has been proved; the other essential ingredient constituting the offence under Section 306 IPC, viz, abetment cannot also be said to have been proved”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction of the appellant.

Cause Title- Kumar @ Shiva Kumar v. State of Karnataka (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 156)

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