Matrimonial discord cannot be sole ground to attract offence of abetment of suicide: Calcutta High Court

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Mere matrimonial discord between a husband and wife cannot be a ground to hold the husband guilty of abetment of suicide of the wife, the Calcutta High Court held on Wednesday [Goutam Gope vs State of West Bengal].

Single-judge Justice Rai Chattopadhyay therefore, acquitted a man and his mother, who had been convicted by the trial court for abetting the suicide (Section 306 of Indian Penal Code) of the wife and for cruelty (Section 498A of Indian Penal Code).

“So far as the offence under section 498A IPC is concerned, the allegations of cruelty against the appellants should be of the gravity to indicate that the same has driven the victim to commit suicide. In this case, there is no such compulsive material before the Court to find guilt of the accused persons,” the bench noted.

It added that mere matrimonial discord cannot be a ground to convict the husband for abetting the suicide.

“Matrimonial discord or disharmony for what so ever reason cannot and should not casually be weighed with such gravity to have driven a person to commit suicide unless there is some seriously implicating materials available against the accused persons. Their specific intention, overt act and direct incitement would have been the necessary ingredients for the prosecution to bring home the charges against the accused persons, which in this trial the prosecution is found to have failed to bring on record,” the bench held.

The Court was seized of an appeal filed by one Goutam Gope and his mother challenging the order of a trial court, which had convicted them in August 2011.

As per the prosecution case, the appellant and the deceased married in July 2006.

In August 2008, the wife set herself ablaze and died. The father of the deceased alleged that there were illegal demands for furniture, color TV, a motorbike and even some cash. Most of these demands, the father alleged, were fulfilled and yet his daughter was subjected to both mental and physical torture.

The trial court in its judgment pronounced in August 2011 said that a woman having an infant child would not commit suicide. It also noted that there wasn’t any dying declaration on record as she died within hours of being admitted. It also note of the fact that there was no material on record to show that these appellants even attempted to put off the fire and save the deceased and thus convicted them.

The convicts then appealed to the High Court

They contented that it was an accidental fire and that the victim’s father filed the instant case only to take revenge. They claimed that the father pressurised them to transfer the properties in name of the victim’s child which they refused to do and thus this case was filed as a counterblast.

Having heard the contentions, the bench said that merely mentioning the victim’s grievance regarding torture being inflicted upon her by the appellants, would not come within the purview of the offence of abetment of her suicide, unless it can be shown that the suicide was the immediate and direct result of the instigation by the appellants

“It has been settled well now that the reaction of the victim to any alleged act of the accused persons may depend upon the mental strength and stability of the victim for which the accused may not directly to be liable, until and unless it is proven that the victim was so much oppressed that she had no other alternative than to commit suicide. This is however, not a case here,” the bench observed.

Therefore, the bench held that the trial court had premised its ruling on erroneous appreciation of evidence and quashed the conviction order.

Advocates Sibangi Chattopadhyay and Sruti Dey appeared as Amicus Curaie.

Advocates Bibaswan Bhattacharya and Sanjib Kumar Dawn appeared for the appellants.

Advocates Binay Panda and Puspita Saha represented the State.

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