The Supreme Court has held that a simple act of teacher reprimanding a student on account of indiscipline will not attract the offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) [Geo Verghese vs State of Rajasthan].
A Bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari while quashing a first information report (FIR) filed against a physical training (PT) teacher of a school on charges of abetment to suicide noted that “it was a solemn duty of a teacher to instil discipline in students.”
“It is not uncommon that teachers reprimand a student for not being attentive or not being upto the mark in studies or for bunking classes or not attending the school. A simple act of reprimand of a student for his behaviour or indiscipline by a teacher, who is under moral obligations to inculcate the good qualities of a human being in a student would definitely not amount to instigation or intentionally aid to the commission of a suicide by a student,” the judgment said.
The verdict came on an appeal filed against a judgment of the Rajasthan High Court which had dismissed the petition filed by the appellant-teacher under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking to quash the FIR.
A 9th standard had committed suicide and had left behind a letter blaming the appellant who was the PT teacher in the school. The suicide in the third page said: “THANKS GEO (PTI) OF MY SCHOOL”
The mother filed an FIR alleging that her son committed suicide due to mental harassment meted out by the appellant.
The Court after examining the rival contentions said that what is required to constitute an offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC is that there must be an allegation of either direct or indirect act of incitement to the commission of offence of suicide.
“Mere allegations of harassment of the deceased by another person would not be sufficient in itself, unless, there are allegations of such actions on the part of the accused which compelled the commission of suicide,” the Court emphasised.
Further, if the person committing suicide is hypersensitive and the allegations attributed to the accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly situated person to take the extreme step of committing suicide, it would be unsafe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide, the Court added.
Thus, each and every case has to be considered depending on the facts and circumstances, the Court opined.
In the present case, the Court noted that no reasons or cause for the appellant to harass and insult the victim were mentioned either in the FIR or in statement of the complainant recorded by the police.
There are no details with respect to any action on the part of the appellant by which the deceased boy might have felt being harassed and insulted, the Court observed.
On the other hand, the appellant submitted that he had reprimanded the boy after he was caught bunking classes repeatedly. The appellant had then reported the same to the principal of the school, who informed the parents of the boy to come to the school, the Court noted.
“The disciplinary measures adopted by a teacher or other authorities of a school, reprimanding a student for his indiscipline, in our considered opinion, would not tantamount to provoking a student to commit suicide, unless there are repeated specific allegations of harassment and insult deliberately without any justifiable cause or reason,” the Court said.
If a student is simply reprimanded by a teacher for an act of indiscipline and such continued conduct is brought to the notice the school principal, the same cannot be considered as an offence under Section 306, if the same student dies by suicide.
“Considering the facts that the appellant holds a post of a teacher and any act done in discharge of his moral or legal duty without their being any circumstances to even remotely indicate that there was any intention on his part to abet the commission of suicide by one of his own pupil, no mens rea can be attributed. Thus, the very element of abetment is conspicuously missing from the allegations levelled in the FIR. In the absence of the element of abetment missing from the allegations, the essential ingredients of offence under section 306 IPC do not exist,” the Court ruled.
Further, the top court noted that the “suicide note was rhetoric document, penned down by an immature mind”.
“A reading of the same also suggests the hyper-sensitive temperament of the deceased which led him to take such an extra- ordinary step, as the alleged reprimand by the accused, who was his teacher, otherwise would not ordinarily induce a similarly circumstanced student to commit suicide,” the Bench said.
It, therefore, set aside the verdict of the High Court and quashed the FIR.
“We are conscious of the pain and suffering of the complainant who is the mother of the deceased boy. It is also very unfortunate that a young life has been lost in this manner, but our sympathies and the pain and suffering of the complainant, cannot translate into a legal remedy, much less a criminal prosecution,” the Bench said.
Read Judgment here: