A two-judge Bench of Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud and Justice BV Nagarathna, while criticizing the observations made by the Single Judge of the Karnataka High Court for terming a person who committed suicide as 'weakling', has held that the mental health of a person cannot be compressed into a one size fits all approach.
An appeal was preferred by the Appellant-Complainant and the State of Karnataka against the judgment of the Single Judge of the Karnataka High Court which had quashed an FIR registered against the accused under Section 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC.
The Single Judge had quashed the proceedings on the ground that the continuation of the prosecution would be a travesty of justice and sheer waste of time besides requiring the accused- Respondent to undergo the rigors of a lengthy of trial.
In this case, the deceased had committed suicide and through his suicide note, he had alleged that the second Respondent-Accused who was a State Land Acquisition Officer (SLAO) had amassed disproportionate assets worth over one hundred crores and had utilized the mobile and bank account of the deceased to transfer funds to his relatives for converting black money into white. It was also alleged that since the deceased knew about the illegal activities of the accused, he along with another driver had threatened the deceased with murder.
Thereafter, the deceased was found dead in a lodge and a suicide note was recovered from the place of the incident. The deceased had also stated in the note that he was committing suicide as he was being threatened by the accused and ended his life by consuming poison.
The Appellant contended before the Court that in exercising in its jurisdiction under Section 482 of CrPC, the High Court does not function as a court of appeal or revision and the jurisdiction has to be exercised with care and circumspection. It was further argued that the High Court despite the specific allegations in the suicide note and, in the complaint, enquired into the veracity of the allegations and conducted a trial at the stage of considering the petition for quashing a criminal complaint.
The State contended that the suicide note contained a clear and detailed account of the harassment caused to the deceased at the behest of the second respondent-accused which on its face established a case of abetment of suicide.
While the Respondent argued that the allegations in the complaint and in the suicide note fall short of the ingredients to establish a case of abetment and hence the essential requirements of the offence under Section 306 of IPC were not established.
The Apex Court, after considering the contentions of the parties and analyzing the observations of the Single Judge of the High Court at length, held that the Single Judge had failed to notice the distinction between a petition for quashing under Section 482 CrPC and criminal trial or appeal against a conviction on a charge under Section 306 IPC.
"The Single Judge has tested the veracity of the allegations in the criminal complaint and in the suicide note left behind by the deceased without having the benefit of an evidentiary record which would be collected during the trial," the Court noted.
The Bench opined that the test to be applied was whether the allegations in the complaint as they stood, without adding or detracting the complaint prima facie established the ingredients of the offence alleged.
Further, the Court observed, "The High Court in the present case has virtually proceeded to hold a trial, substituting its own perception for what it believed should or should not have been the normal course of human behavior. This is clearly impermissible."
The Court, additionally, prescribed a test which the High Court should have applied while quashing the FIR under Section 482 CrPC - i) whether the allegations made in the complaint, prima facie constitute an offence; and ii) whether the allegations are so improbable that a prudent man would not arrive at the conclusion that there is sufficient ground to proceed with the complaint.
"Further, the observation of the High Court that there is no material to corroborate the allegations made in the suicide note is erroneous since it is not a consideration for the High Court while exercising its power under Section 482 of the CrPC, particularly in view of the fact that the trial has not begun and the Single Judge had stayed the investigation in the criminal complaint," the Bench noted.
"The Single Judge has termed a person who decided to commit suicide a 'weakling' and has also made observations on how the behavior of the deceased before he committed suicide was not that of a person who is depressed and suffering from mental health issues," the Court observed.
The Court held, "How an individual copes up with a threat- both physical and emotional, expressing (or refraining to express) love, loss, sorrow and happiness, varies greatly in view of the multi-faceted nature of the human mind and emotions. Thus, the observations describing the manner in which a depressed person ought to have behaved deeply diminishes the gravity of mental health issues."
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeals and set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court, and dismissed the petition for quashing the FIR filed by the Respondent-Accused.