Abetment of the Suicide

What is the ingredients of Section 498-A of IPC ?

In the case of Girdhar Shankar Tawade vs. State of Maharashtra (2002) 5 SCC 177, this Court gave a succinct enumeration of the object and ingredients of Section 498-A, IPC, when it observed as follows in paras 3 and 17 :

“3. The basic purport of the statutory provision is to avoid “cruelty” which stands defined by attributing a specific statutory meaning attached thereto as noticed hereinbefore. Two specific instances have been taken note of in order to ascribe a meaning to the word “cruelty” as is expressed by the legislatures :

whereas Explanation (a) involves three specific situations viz. (i) to drive the woman to commit suicide, or (ii) to cause grave injury, or (iii) danger to life, limb or health, both mental and physical, and thus involving a physical torture or atrocity, in Explanation (b) there is absence of physical injury but the legislature thought it fit to include only coercive harassment which obviously as the legislative intent expressed is equally heinous to match the physical injury : whereas one is patent, the other one is latent but equally serious in terms of the provisions of the statute since the same would also embrace the attributes of “cruelty” in terms of Section 498-A.

17. As regards the core issue as to whether charges under Sections 306 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code are independent of each other and acquittal of one does not lead to acquittal on the other, as noticed earlier, there appears to be a long catena of cases in affirmation thereto and as such further dilation is not necessary neither are we inclined to do so, but in order to justify a conviction under the later provision there must be available on record some material and cogent evidence. Presently, we have on record two inconsistent versions of the brother and the cousin, as such no credence can be attributed thereon – the documentary evidence (namely, those three letters), in our view, falls short of the requirement of the statute: Even on an assumption of the fact that there is no contradiction in the oral testimony available on record, the cousin goes to the unfortunate girl’s in-laws’ place and requests the husband to treat her well – at best some torture and a request to treat her well. This by itself would not bring home the charge under Section 498-A. Demand for dowry has not seen the light of day.”

Section 498-A is set out herein below:-

“498-A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty – Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation – For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means –

(a) any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.

In Girdhar Shankar Tawade , wife charged with committing suicide due to ill-treatment of her husband. Prosecution has produced two different oral versions of brother and cousin of deceased which cannot be relied upon. The documentary evidence namely, letters of deceased to her brother and cousin falls short of the requirement of the Statute: Even on the assumption of the fact that there is no contradiction in the oral testimony available on the record, the cousin goes to the unfortunate girl’s in-laws place and requests the husband to treat her well—at best some torture and a request to treat her well. This by itself would not bring home the charge under Section 498-A. Demand for dowry has not seen the light of the day. If suicide is left out, then in that event question of applicability of explanation (a) to Section 498-A, would not arise—neither the second limb to cause injury and danger to life or limb or health would be attracted. In any event the willful act or conduct ought to be the proximate cause in order to bring home the charge under Section 498-A and not de hors the same. To have an event some time back cannot be termed to be a factum taken note of in the matter of a charge under Section 498-A. The legislative intent is clear enough to indicate in particular reference to explanation (b) that there shall have to be a series of acts in order to be a harassment within the meaning of explanation (b). The letters by itself though may depict a reprehensible conduct, would not, however, bring home the charge of Section 498-A against the accused. Acquittal of the charge under Section 306 IPC, though not by itself a ground for acquittal under Section 498-A IPC, but some cogent evidence is required to bring home the charge of Section 498-A as well, without which the charge cannot be said to be maintained. In absence of such evidence accused is entitled to acquittal of the charge under Section 498-A IPC.

To have an event sometime back cannot be termed to be a factum taken note of in the matter of a charge under Section 498-A. The legislative intent is clear enough to indicate in particular reference to explanation (b) that there shall have to be a series of acts in order to be a harassment within the meaning of explanation (b). The letters by itself though may depict a reprehensible conduct, would not, however, bring home the charge of Section 498-A against the accused. Acquittal of a charge under Section 306, as noticed hereinbefore, though not by itself a ground for acquittal under Section 498-A, but some cogent evidence is required to bring home the charge of Section 498-A as well, without which the charge cannot be said to be maintained. Presently, we have no such evidence available on record.


Refer: Amalendu Pal alias Jhantu Vs State of West Bengal-11/11/2009