Tuesday 6 May 2014

Can everyone named in suicide notes left behind by victims be treated as 'offenders?

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu tops the suicide chart in the country and 'victims' cite such petty reasons as verbal abuse by teachers or spouses, to serious reasons such as dowry harassment by inlaws or intimidation by creditors. 

Can everyone named in suicide notes left behind by the victims be treated as 'offenders', prosecuted and jailed for 'abetting' or instigating the suicide? 

Clarifying all these vital factors in the backdrop of sound legal principles, Justice P Devadass of the Madras high court has said that merely because a person has been named in a suicide note, courts should not immediately jump to the conclusion that he is an offender. Mere abuses or reprimanding someone or casual remark or words stated in a fit of anger could not be termed 'abetment' and people named in the suicide note could not be treated as 'abettors' of suicide, he said. 

"If a person makes an ordinary joke or a casual remark in routine course of ordinary lie, and then if the victim commits suicide, that will not attract abetment charges under Section 306 IPC," said Devadass. "Simple abuses are not sufficient to provoke the victim to commit suicide. Simply because the lender has demanded repayment of his money, if the debtor commits suicide, the creditor cannot be said to have abetted his 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 elaborated. 

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 mentioned in a suicide note, instead of straightaway treating him as an instigator for the tragic end, 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 who is responsible for the suicide, 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 our law tackles the menace indirectly by making any attempt to commit suicide a punishable offence under Section 309. 

Justice Devadass was passing orders on a bail plea of a 20 year old youth who was arrested on April 1, after a 15 year old girl left behind a suicide note saying she was forced to take the extreme decision because the boy's love did not allow her to concentrate on her studies and that it would humiliate her entire family. Prosecution opposed bail for the youth saying the suicide note clearly mentioned his name and hence he could not be released on bail. 

Granting him bail and rejecting the prosecution objections, Justice Devadass said that 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."
Print Page

No comments:

Post a Comment