Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Whether court can convict father-in-law for offence U/S 202 of IPC if he fails to inform the authorities about the suicide of daughter-in-law?

The learned Counsel for the respondent State of Rajasthan, however, submitted that the accused would atleast be liable of having committed other offences. It may be noted that the question whether they would be liable under Section 498-A or 304-B does not arise for consideration inasmuch as these provisions were not on the statute on the day of occurrence. However, A 1 was atleast under an obligation to give information about the death of the deceased since the same was unnatural. Assuming that the prosecution has not positively proved that the death was homicidal yet from the medical evidence it is clear that it was not a natural death and consequently the death should atleast be noted as one of suicide. Even in the case of suicide an offence of abetment punishable under Section 306 is inherent. There- fore, even in the case of a suicide there is an obligation on the person, who knows or has reason to believe that such a suicidal death has occurred , to give information. In Kalidas Achamma v. The State of A.P., S.H.O. Karimnagar. I Town P.S. [1987] 2 ALT 937 it was observed as under:

In the case of every suicide abetment is inherent. Whether ultimately it is proved or not, it is a different aspect. Abetment of suicide is an offence punishable under Section 306 IPC and therefore whenever a case of suicide is there, the body cannot be disposed of without informing the Police and further as provided under Section 174 Cr. PC the Police have to hold an inquest since it is an unnatural death.
In the instant case A 1, who reached his house on 18.3.82 knowing fully well that the deceased had already died, informed P.W. 8 that the deceased was in a serious condition. Likewise he informed P.W. 12 on telephone without disclosing that the deceased was already dead. However, when P.W. 6, the brother of the deceased, came to the house where the dead body was lying, A 1 told him that the body would be cremated. To the same effect is the evidence of P.W. 13. P.W. 6, the brother of the deceased, on his own went and gave a report to the police. It can thus be seen that A 1 intentionally omitted to give the information in respect of the death of the deceased which he was legally bound to give. Section 202 1. P. C. is in the following terms:

202. Intentional omission to give information of offence by person bound to inform-Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, intentionally omits to give any information respecting that offence which he is legally bound to give, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

This Section punishes the illegal omission of those who under law are bound to give information in respect of an offence which he is legally bound to give particularly being the head of the family. Under this provision it is necessary for the prosecution to prove (1) that the accused had knowledge or reason to believe that some offence had been committed (2) that the accused had intentionally omitted to give information respecting that offence and (3) that the accused was legally bound to give that information. Shri R.K. Jain, however, relied on a judgment of this Court in Harishchandrasing Sajjansingh Rathod and Another v. State of Gujarat MANU/SC/0114/1979 : 1979CriLJ1025 and contended that the word "Whoever" occurring in the opening part of the Section refers to a person other then the offender and has no application to the person who is alleged to have committed the principal offence. In that case the accused were tried for offences punishable under Sections 331 and 304 read with Section 34 IPC in respect of the death of the deceased and were acquitted.-On appeal by the State the High Court, however, convicted them under Section 202 IPC A Bench of this Court while reversing the order of High Court observed thus:

We have gone through the entire evidence bearing on the aforesaid offence under Section 202 but have not been able to discern anything therein which may go to establish the aforesaid ingredients of the offence under Section 202 of the Penal Code. The offence in respect of which the appellants were indicted viz. having intentionally omitted to give information respecting an offence which he is legally bound to give not having been established, the appellants could not have been convicted under Section 202 of the Penal Code. It is well settled that in a prosecution under Section 202 of the Penal Code, it is necessary for the prosecution to establish the main offence before making a person liable under this section. The offence under Section 304 (Part II) and the one under Section 331 of the Penal Code not having been established on account of several infirmities it is difficult to sustain the conviction of the appellants under Section 202 of the Penal Code. The High Court has also missed to notice that the word 'whoever' occurring at the opening part of Section 202 of the Penal Code refers to a person other than the offender and has no application to the person who is alleged to have committed the principal offence. This is so because there is no law which casts a duty on a criminal to give information which would incriminate himself That apart the aforementioned ingredients of the offence under Section 202 of the Penal Code do not appear to have been made out against the prosecution. There is not an iota of evidence to show that the appellants knew or had reason to believe that the aforesaid main offences had been committed.
(emphasis supplied)

19. From these observations it is clear that there was no evidence to show that the accused therein knew or had reason to believe that the said offences have been committed and on the other hand they were made principal offenders. In such a situation the ingredients of Section 202 can not be said to have been made out. It is in this context that the meaning of the word "whoever" has been considered. But in the instant case A 1 returned to his house where the dead body was lying on 18.3.82 and the circumstances clearly go to show that he had knowledge that the deceased died of an unnatural death. Therefore he had knowledge or atleast had reason to believe that an offence had been committed even if, at that stage, he thought that it was only a suicide. Therefore it was his bounden duty particularly as head of the family to inform the authorities. He omitted to do so. On the other hand, he went about telling that the deceased was still alive and her condition was serious. But when P.W. 6, the brother of the deceased, came to the house and enquired, A 1 told him that the body would be cremated and he intended to do so without informing the authorities. Therefore all the ingredients of Section 202 are made out against him and he clearly committed the offence punishable under this Section at that stage. The fact that he himself was made an accused in other offences subsequently does not absolve him of his complicity in respect of the offence punishable under Section 202 IPC So far A 2 is concerned, he came to the house only after the investigation commenced. Therefore his case stands on a different footing. In the result the convictions and sentences awarded against A 1 and A 2 l are set aside. A 1, however, is convicted under Section 202 IPC and sentenced to undergo six months' R.I. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Criminal Appeal No. 303 of 1984

Decided On: 28.08.1991

Bhagwan Swarup  Vs. State of Rajasthan


Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
S.R. Pandian and K. Jayachandra Reddy, JJ.

Citation : AIR 1991 SC 2062,1991(4) SCC 514,  1991 SCR (3) 820.
Read full judgment here: Click here


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