Friday, May 2, 2014

Suicide note not enough for arrest: HC

 Taking the wind out of "incriminating suicide notes" naming specific people as responsible, the Madras high court has said mere abuses or a casual remark or words uttered in a fit of anger could not be termed as "abetment" and people named cannot be arrested and jailed.

Suicide is an "act of cowardice" and people can't be punished for somebody's foolish decision, Justice P Devadass said on Wednesday, granting bail to a 20-year-old youth arrested after a 15-year-old girl killed self and named him as responsible.

Justice Devadass said merely because a person has been named in a suicide note, courts should not immediately jump to the conclusion that he is an offender. "If a person makes an ordinary joke or a casual remark in routine course of ordinary life, and then if the victim commits suicide, that will not attract abetment charges under Section 306 of the IPC," he said.

"Simple abuses are not sufficient to provoke a person to commit suicide. If a debtor commits suicide simply because the lender has demanded repayment of his money, the creditor cannot be said to have abetted the suicide. Mere reprimanding does not amount to instigation. Words stated in a fit of anger will not amount to abetment. Casual remark of husband towards his wife in the ordinary course of life will not amount to abetment to commit suicide," he said.

What, then, will attract the instigation charges? Justice Devadass said: "The offence of abetment requires 'mens rea' (guilty mind). There must be intentional doing/aiding or goading the commission of suicide by another."

If a person's name is found in a suicide note, instead of straightaway treating him as an instigator for the tragic death, authorities should examine contents of the suicide note and the circumstances, the judge said. "There may be a case wherein the suicide note had named a person as responsible, but on proper analysis, Section 306 may not be attracted."

Noting that suicide is self-killing and self-murder, where an individual terminates his own physical existence, the judge said the law tackles the menace indirectly by making any attempt to commit suicide a punishable offence under Section 309.

The youth was arrested on April 1 after the girl killed herself at her residence in Chennai, leaving behind a suicide note saying she was forced to take the extreme step because the boy's love did not allow her to concentrate on her studies and that it would humiliate her entire family. Prosecution opposed the youth's bail plea saying the suicide note clearly mentioned his name and hence he could not be released on bail.

Granting him bail and rejecting the prosecution's objections, Justice Devadass said there was no overt act by the youth that forced the girl to commit suicide. "For her foolish decision, the youth cannot be blamed. There was no intentional doing or instigation on his part, provoking her to commit suicide."

"A person may die like a coward. On his failure in examinations, a student may commit suicide. They are weak-minded and persons of frail mentality. For their foolish mentality/decision, another person cannot be blamed."

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