KASHIBAI & ORS. VERSUS THE STATE OF KARNATAKA

                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                               CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                    CRIMINAL APPEAL NO… OF 2023

                          ARISING OUT OF SLP (Crl.) NO. 8584/2022

KASHIBAI & ORS.                                                      ….APPELLANTS

                                            VERSUS

THE STATE OF KARNATAKA                                ….RESPONDENT

FACTS

In the present case, the judgement passed by the Karnataka high court by the Kalaburagi bench in criminal appeal no. 200027/2014 was in question. The accused had moved to the high court to appeal against the order of the sessions judge, Bijapur, in sessions case no. 5/2011 by order dated 11.02.2014. In the given case, the sessions court had sentenced the three accused for offences under section 498A of IPC, and section 306 of IPC and reading section 34 of IPC along with it. The fourth accused was acquitted by the court, who was the deceased’s brother-in-law. In this case, appellant no.1 is the mother-in-law of the deceased, appellant no.2 is the father-in-law of the deceased and appellant no.3 is the deceased’s husband. The deceased name is Jayashree, who married appellant No. 3, Chandrashekhar. Here the mother of the deceased is smt. Annapurna, w/o sadashiv limbikai, had complained to the police station of bableshwar, and she said that her daughter was the wife of the accused, no. Three here for the past three years, and she believed that her mother-in-law, father-in-law, husband and her brother-in-law had subjugated her to mental and physical harassment in the form of asking for dowry to be in cash or through the gold form. The deceased died on 07.02.2010 at about 11:00 am, and her post-mortem report tells that she had been killed due to asphyxia due to drowning in the well.

The prosecution case relied on the testimony of the 21 witnesses, out of which some turned hostile, including the mother, father, uncle and the mediator who arranged their marriage. The deceased’s mother admitted that she had received a phone call around noon from her son-in-law here, accused no.3, and she was informed that her daughter had fallen in the well because she slipped. None of the main prosecution witnesses admitted to seeing the body floating in the well. The trial was conducted by the sessions court and sentenced the convicts 1 to 3, 2 years of simple imprisonment and a fine of 2000 each under 498 A, and sentenced the convicts 1 to 3 for five years simple imprisonment and penalty of 5000 each under 306 and reading it along with section 34 of IPC. The accused No. 4 was acquitted by the sessions court, the deceased’s brother-in-law. The Karnataka high court dismissed their appeal against their sentence, and the conviction was upheld right. Hence the appeal lies before the supreme court.

ISSUES:

Can presumption of evidence under section 113A be applied here to convict the accused 1 to 3 under 306 IPC and reading it along with section 34 of IPC?

CONTENTION

Here it was pointed out that the examination in chief, i.e., the mother of the deceased testimony, had failed, and she admitted that in her knowledge, it was not clear whether the body was floating or not; the reason cited for this was that it was a long before occurred event. Also, the other witness had turned hostile. Also, it was observed that to convict a person under 306, the charges must satisfy the ingredients set out in section 107 of IPC. It was observed in one of the cases by the court that mere commission of suicide would not attract the offence under 306 because it needs to be proved that the instigation has led to the person committing the suicide[1]. The court also observed that the abetment as specified under section 113 A is not bound to be presumed by it. The court has discretionary power in keeping in mind the other case circumstances, whether the commission of suicide is an act of the abetment[2]. Also, here the charges levied on the defendant had failed due to lack of evidence which establishes the act of abetment of suicide on the part of the accused.

RATIONALE

The court observed that in case the person committing suicide is hypersensitive to the act of ordinary petulance, difference and problems in domestic life which is very common in society, then in such a case, the court must reasonably assess whether the same act of instigation would make the similarly placed individual in place of the person committing the suicide to commit the suicide, so the hypersensitive person must be compared with the ordinary person who is not so much hypersensitive. The comparison must be made in the sense that what would be the result of a similar instigation on the normal person, based on this, the court will find the accused guilty.[3] The court also observed that pattern of each person of suicidality is disimilar because everyone has their self-esteem and self-respect. So it is not feasible to give any straightjacket method to assess the outcome of such cases. The individual cases need to be viewed based on their facts and situation, and the court also observed the difference between the meaning of the word “instigation” and “goading”[4]. It was observed by the court that a word uttered in anger without any intention of the accused to make the circumstances as such which will force the person to commit suicide so it cannot be called as instigation. Also, to constitute the act of instigation, the words don’t need to be uttered by the accused any act which triggers the person as much as to commit suicide is sufficient to be instigation. Also, it was [5] by the court that the act of instigation must be such that the person committing suicide was left with no option other than suicide.[6] The doctor who had done the post-mortem had stated asphyxia as the cause of death, but that cannot be proved that it was suicide or an accidental fall.

According to section 107 of IPC, a person can be said to abet the commission of suicide in three cases first, when he instigates, second when he enters into conspiracy with others to commit or omit for instigating the other person, and third, when the accused out of his own will help in such a way that the person can commit suicide example a person willfully conceals or misrepresents a fact which is important and the same he is obliged to reveal then the act due to his activity will be the abetment of his act of concealment/misrepresentation[7].

According to section 113A of the Indian evidence act,1872[8], if the married woman commits suicide and the date of the suicide is such that it does not crosses the seven years of marriage, then a presumption is made that she is subjugated to cruelty where cruelty will have the same meaning as in section 498A of IPC. The deceased’s husband or her relatives in her matrimonial home will be presumed to be the abettors for her to commit suicide. But this could not be proved in the current case, due to which the benefit of the doubt was given to the accused.

REFORMS NEEDED IN CRIMINAL LAW

As in the given case, the accused had been suffering mental as well as physical and economic agony for many years because of the wrong application of the law by the lower court and high court. To avoid this in future, the lower courts must assess the facts and circumstances of the individual cases very carefully because a small error can disturb the whole life of any person, the criminal law system is of the British era, and it needs some changes in the form of amendments like in the cognizable offences there are chances that the accused is falsely implicated by someone to destroy someone’s career so the arrest should be made only when there is enough evidence available to the police and the court based on which the person can be taken in custody. There are many laws like this, like the British-era sedition law under section 124A of IPC, which criminalizes the criticism of the government, so there is a need for positive change in the criminal justice system. This will save people’s money and prevent the courts from unnecessarily wasting their precious time on frivolous cases where the evidence gathered is insufficient to make one accused.

INFERENCE

Thus the supreme court acquitted the other accused by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Also, there was no such thing which can be termed as instigation as the prosecution failed to adduce proof for the deceased’s cause of death. But the appeal was allowed partly because they were acquitted under the 306, but they were still charged with the offence under 498 A read with 34 of IPC, in the current case, the appellants had already served the sentence period of two years, so it was ordered to release them.

ANCHIT GOYAL

CAMPUS LAW CENTRE


[1] mangat ram v. state of haryana 2 (2014) 12 SCC 595 (india)

[2] hans raj v. state of haryana AIR 2004 12 SCC 257 (india)

[3] state of west bengal v. Orilal jaiswal AIR 1994 1 SCC 73, AIR 1994 SCC (cri) 107 (india)

[4] chitresh kumar chopra v. government of nct of delhi AIR 2010 3 SCC (cri) 367

 

[6] ramesh kumar v. state of chhatisgarh AIR 2002 (Cri) 1088 (india)

[7] the Indian penal code, 1860, section 107

[8] the Indian evidence act,1872, section 113A