Without knowledge and intention, there cannot be an abetment mens rea to be proved

Bail Granted
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPLICATION NO.1213 OF 2016
IN
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.555 OF 2016
NEERAJ SUBHASH MEHTA )…APPLICANT
V/s.
THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA  )…RESPONDENT
Mr.Subir   Sarkar   a/w.   Mr.Jayant   Bardeskar,   Advocate   for   the
Applicant.
Ms.A.A.Takalkar, APP for the Respondent ­ State.
CORAM : A. M. BADAR, J.
DATE : 13th JANUARY 2017.
P.C. :
1 This is an application for suspension of sentence and
releasing the applicant / accused on bail during pendency of the
appeal.     The   applicant   /   accused   is   convicted   of   the   offences
punishable under Sections 498A and 306 read with Section 34 of
the IPC and he is sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 3
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years for the offence punishable under Section 498A read with
Section 34 of the IPC and to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 10
years  for the offence punishable under Section 306 read with
Section 34 of the IPC.  In addition, the applicant / accused and the
co­accused are directed to pay compensation of Rs.25,000/­ each
to the first informant.
2 Heard   the   learned   counsel   appearing   for   the
applicant / accused at sufficient length.  By taking me through the
evidence of witnesses for the prosecution, the learned counsel
pointed out that the incident dated 28th September 2014 is coming
on record from the evidence of PW2 Premlata Sharma – mother of
the deceased.  By taking me through evidence of other witnesses
recording the alleged ill­treatment, the learned counsel argued
that evidence is lacunae and insufficient to hold that offences
alleged against the applicant / accused are proved.
3 The   learned   APP   opposed   the   application   by
contending that the offence alleged is serious and evidence of
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witnesses examined by the prosecution is sufficient to hold that
the   offence   is   proved   and   therefore   considering   the   nature   of
offence, the applicant / accused is not entitled for bail.
4 I have carefully considered the rival submissions and
also   perused   the   impugned   judgment   and   order   as   well   as
deposition of witnesses.
5 The applicant / accused married Neha Mehta (since
deceased) on 27th April 2009 and thereafter she started cohabiting
with   the   applicant   /   accused   and   his   family   at   Nerul,   Navi
Mumbai, in her matrimonial house.   Neha Mehta died suicidal
death on 28th September 2014 by hanging herself at the house of
the applicant / accused.
6 On the basis of report lodged by PW1 Kamal Sharma –
father of deceased Neha, the applicant / accused and co­accused
were   prosecuted   and   ultimately   convicted   and   sentenced   as
indicated   in   opening   paragraph   of   this   order.     Charges   of
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subjecting a married woman to cruelty and abetting her to commit
suicide are held to be proved against the applicant / husband.
7 Explanation to Section 498A of the IPC defines the
term cruelty and it reads thus :
498A.  Husband or relative of husband of a woman
subjecting her to cruelty – Whoever, being the husband
or the relative of the husband of a 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 wilful 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.
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Section 107 of the IPC defines the term abetment and this
section reads thus :
107. Abetment of a thing – A person abets the doing of
a thing, who ­
Firstly ­ Instigates any person to do that thing; or
Secondly ­ Engages with one or more other person or
persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if
an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of
that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing;
or
Thirdly   ­   Intentionally   aids,   by   any   act   or   illegal
omission, the doing of that thing.
Explanation   1   —   A   person   who,   by   willful
misrepresentation,   or   by   willful   concealment   of   a
material fact which he is bound to disclose, voluntarily
causes or procures, or attempts to cause or procure, a
thing to be done, is said to instigate the doing of that
thing.
Explanation 2 — Whoever, either prior to or at the
time of the commission of an act, does anything in
order   to   facilitate   the   commission   of   that   act,   and
thereby facilitate the commission thereof, is said to aid
the doing of that act.
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8 Section 113A of the Evidence Act prescribes rule of
presumption   in   case   of   suicidal   death   by   a   married   woman.
Whenever the question arose as to whether commission of suicide
by a woman has been abetted by her husband or relatives of her
husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within
the period of seven years of her marriage and that her husband or
relatives of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, then the
court may presume “having regard to all other circumstances of
the case” that such a suicide has been abetted by her husband or
relatives of her husband.  It is, thus, clear that, this presumption
cannot be raised automatically on proof of suicidal death within
seven   years   of   marriage   and   subjecting   a   married   woman   to
cruelty.  Something more is required to be seen for drawing this
presumption.
9 By catena of judgments of this court as well as Apex
Court what amounts to cruelty as envisaged by Explanation to
Section   498A   of   IPC   is   explained.     Cruelty   implies   harsh   and
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harmful conduct with certain intensity and persistence. It covers
acts   causing   both   physical   and   mental   agony   and   torture   or
tyranny   and   harm   as   well   as   unending   accusations   and
recrimination reflecting bitterness putting the victim thereof to
intense miscarries.  The conduct, in order to prove guilt, must be
such as strongly stirring up the feeling in the mind of a married
woman that life is now not worth living and she should die, being
the only option left.  In other words, provisions of Section 498A of
the   IPC   envisages   intention   to   drawing   or   force   a   woman   to
commit suicide by un­abetted persistence and grave cruelty.   A
willful conduct of such a nature as is likely to propel or compel a
married woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or
danger to her life, limb or health is required to be established.  In
other words, matrimonial cruelty is included from the definition of
legal cruelty.   To put it in other words, ordinary petulance and
discord or differences in domestic life does not amount to cruelty.
By keeping this aspect in mind, let us prima facie examine the
instant case for a limited purpose as to whether the applicant /
accused is entitled for liberty.   If the impugned judgment and
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order   of   the   trial   court   is   perused,   then   it   is   seen   that   the
reasoning part is in paragraph 65 of the judgment.   Reliance is
placed on evidence of PW1 to PW3 by the learned trial court. It is
observed   that   the   dispute   was  over the  issue  of   the  deceased
having made “kaccha chapati.”    Further observations are to the
effect that this was too trivial matter to invoke extreme and harsh
response of calling her brother and parents.  In other words, the
learned   trial   Judge   was   very   well   aware   of   the   fact   that   the
incident   of   commission   of   suicide   was   preceded   by   a   trivial
incident in the matrimonial life of Neha.   Still, without further
discussion, offence punishable under Section 498A of the IPC is
held to be proved.   Then by taking aid of Section 106 of the
Evidence Act, as well as Section 113A thereof, it is held that the
offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC is proved.
10 Evidence of PW2 Premlata Sharma – mother of the
deceased, reflects what was the incident which took place just
prior to suicidal death of Neha Mehta.   Mother of Neha (PW2)
disclosed this incident by stating that on that day, excluding Neha,
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everybody in her house had breakfast.  But when Neha was about
to take breakfast, her husband i.e. the present applicant, asked her
to prepare tea for his mother i.e. the co­accused.  Upon that, as
per version of PW2 Premlata Sharma, her daughter informed the
applicant / husband that she is feeling uneasy and unwell.  Then
the applicant / husband had spoken bad words about parents and
relatives   of   Neha   i.e.   his   wife.     This   incident,   according   to
prosecution case, as reflected from the evidence of parents and
brother of the deceased, triggered her suicide.   Prima facie, this
discloses hyper sensitivity of a wife, and ordinary petulance and
discord in matrimonial life.  Prima facie, this incident cannot be
said to satisfy the requirement of ingredients of offence of cruelty
defined in Section 498A of the IPC.  Similarly, for making out an
offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC, what is required
to be proved is mensrea.   Without knowledge and intention, there
cannot be an abetment.  There must be some active suggestion or
stimulation by accused persons to the victim.
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11 Perusal of evidence of parents of deceased Neha, prima
facie   goes   to   show   that   they   have   spoken   about   matrimonial
cruelty rather than legal cruelty, as according to their averments,
taunts   to   deceased   Neha   were   to   the   effect   that   she   was   not
knowing how to speak English, how to cook food etc.   On this
backdrop, parents of the deceased admitted that their daughter
studied in English Medium at Army Public School and that she
was even cadet in NCC.   It has also come on record that after
marriage the deceased continued her education.  To crown this all,
it is seen that prior to few months of the incident, PW2 Premlata
Sharma had joined parental relative of deceased Neha to enjoy
trip to Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Delhi etc.
12 In the wake of this evidence against the applicant /
accused, and the fact that during trial, he was on bail, he deserves
liberty, and therefore the order :
i) The application is allowed.
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ii) Substantive sentence of imprisonment imposed upon
the   applicant   /   accused   is   suspended   and   he   is
directed to be released on bail on executing P.R.Bond
of   Rs.15,000/­   and   on   furnishing   surety   in   like
amount.
(A. M. BADAR, J.)
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