|COURT||High Court of Bombay|
|JUDGES/CORAM||Justice P.N. Deshmukh|
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT||11.05.2017|
The present case involves death of one Priya who committed suicide by jumping into the well in the backyard of her house. The parents of the deceased accused the Respondents under section 306 (Abetment of suicide) read with 34 (meeting of minds). The State of Maharashtra preferred an appeal against the judgement of the Sessions court which held the respondents innocent. After carefully perusing the evidences submitted by all the witnesses, the High Court comes to the conclusion that the respondents were not guilty of abetting the suicide of Priya.
The facts of the case are as follows: Priya, the daughter of the appellants committed a suicide by jumping into the well on 19th November 2001 at around 9:30 am. Intimation about the incident was given by Dwarkanath Janu Patil, PW 3, Police Patil of village Lonare. During investigation, spot panchnama and inquest panchnama were drawn and the body was sent for post mortem. Statements of all the witnesses were recorded. The matter was then sent to Senior Public Prosecutor. After seeking the opinion of the prosecutor, the mother of the deceased was called to the police station and based on her statement complaint was registered and investigated into. On completion of investigation, a charge sheet was filed for the offence punishable under section 306 read with 34.
The main issue in the case was: On the basis of all the evidences presented before the court, whether the case on hand establishes the guilt of abetment of suicide on the respondents?
Summary of court decision and judgment
Based on the evidences presented and the facts and circumstances of the case, the Sessions court held the respondents innocent. An appeal was preferred in the High Court by the state which also decided the case in with the sessions court, thereby holding the respondents innocent.
The entire case was decided on the basis of the evidences, witnesses and most importantly on the basis of mysterious omissions of statements of some witnesses on the first stage of investigation. The most important role is played by the deceased’s father and mother. The High Court pursued the statements of the parents of the deceased. The mother, Bharti, said before the court that Priya, the deceased had visited her maternal home on 16th November, 2001 and the next day Bharti took her back to her matrimonial home and on 19th November when she was about to leave, a heated up argument took place between Priya and the respondents and it was then when accused no.1 stated to the deceased that she should commit suicide and die. But, the court observed that this evidence that Bharti gave before the court was missing in her statement given during investigation and Bharti failed to give a reason for the same. It is also important to note here that Bharti also denied the fact that Priya was suffering from fits and that she was continuously under treatment while the head constable who carried out the investigation said that the deceased had an attack of epilepsy on the day of the incident. Therefore, the judges were of the opinion that it cannot be said that the case on hand is that of abetment of suicide as there are fair chances of the deceased committing suicide due to her ill-health. According to me, there was also a possibility of the deceased falling into the well accidentally during the attack.
The doubts of the judges were cleared and the opinion of the judges gained strength by the evidence given by PW 2, the deceased’s father, Bhaskar. Bhaskar, like his wife Bharti stated that around one and half years before the incident, Priya was ill-treated at the hands of the respondents and the matter was resolved by the intervention of accused number 2, Jyoti and therefore Priya’s parents did not lodge a complaint about the same. Bhaskar further stated that on November 16th, Priya returned to her maternal home and complained about the ill-treatment with her. The next day, Priya’s mother took Priya back to her matrimonial house and on 19th when Bharti was going to return to her house, a quarrel took place between the accused and Priya and her mother. Bhaskar said that Priya’s daughter Pooja called Bhaskar up and informed him about the scene. Bhaskar set out for Lonare but as he reached, Priya had already committed suicide by jumping into the well. Here again, the judges of the High Court observed that Bhaskar did not mention about the fight that took place one and half years; the fact that the fight was intervened by Police Patil because of which no complaint was lodged; that Pooja telephonically informed him about the fight which was in progress. Omission of these information in these statements only created doubts with regards to the accusations that Priya’s death was abetted.
The Hon’ble High Court also observed that the parents of the deceased did not lodge the complaint of the incident immediately. Instead, they waited for the opinion of the Sr. P.P. and lodged the complaint after 2 days. Therefore, the court concluded:
“In that view of the matter since case of prosecution of quarrel between deceased and accused immediately prior to incident of deceased causing suicide is itself not reliable to be acted upon. It cannot be said that accused in any manner had abetted the deceased to commit suicide. By now law on the point of offence punishable under section 306 of India Penal Code is well established. For invoking the provisions of section 306 of IPC it is necessary for prosecution to establish that deceased committed suicide as a result cruelty provided to her within the meaning of section 498A of IPC and that the act of commission of suicide is abetted by the accused. In the case in hand on considering evidence as aforesaid there is no material to establish that accused abetted commission of suicide much less immediately prior to deceased committing suicide.
According to me, the stand of the High Court in the case at hand is very apt. Evidence that is beyond any reasonable doubt is the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction. In the instant case, the trial court as well as the High Court were correct in their decision as they conformed with the law and therefore had reasonable doubts with regard to the accuses made by the appellants. This case shall set a precedent for all the cases which lack sufficient evidence and create doubts prima facie. The court adequately justified the reasons for not relying on the evidences of PW 1 and 2 and clearly explained the doubts that were created in those evidences. It has clearly taken into consideration all the aspects of the case and has keenly studied the evidences of the main witnesses.
Therefore, according to me the case has been rightly decided by both, the trial court and the High Court because as the Blackstone ratio goes:
It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.