The Bombay High Court has denied anticipatory bail to a Chairman and disciplinary authority of a school in a case of abetting a student's suicide as he "shattered the tender mind" and "put him in deep frustration."
Justice Vinay Joshi, in an order last month, observed that a young student had lost his life in proximity from the act of the applicant and custodial interrogation was necessary for the case where the investigation was in progress.
"As per the statements of witnesses, the applicant has scolded the deceased minor boy in an unruly manner. He had also called his parents to the school. In the presence of the teacher and the Informant (grandfather) again scolded in unparliamentary words (quoted above). Prima facie suggests that the applicant has created an impression in the mind of the student to put him in deep frustration. It requires to be noted that there is a direct link of the applicant's act since within few hours from the episode, the child has ended his life by suicide," the court observed.
The "unparliamentary words" mentioned were about Patil calling the deceased "nalayak" (worthless), jhopadpatti-chhap (like a slum-dweller), that he had no right to live and that he was a burden on the world. All these words were allegedly uttered by the applicant in Marathi language.
The court was hearing the anticipatory bail application filed by one Ganpatrao Patil who is Chairman and disciplinary authority of Symbolic International School in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. Patil's wife is the Principal of the school.
A case under sections 305 (abetting suicide), 504 (intentional insult), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 75 and 87 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 was registered against him at Shiroli MIDC Police Station on April 2, 2022.
According to the complaint lodged by the grandfather, the deceased was a standard 10 student at the school. The complaint stated that he got a phone call from the school on April 1, 2022, asking him to come to the school. When he went to the school, he was asked to take his grandson (deceased) back to the house.
Upon inquiry, the grandson told him that a girl was inadvertently hit while he was playing football, after which Patil had scolded and abused him in filthy language. When the grandfather met Patil to check further, Patil told him that the grandson had caused injury to a girl, that he was ill-cultured, with no chances of reformation and he was a slum boy.
Patil also allegedly told the complainant that the school Principal had informed him that the grandson had behaved in an unruly manner in the past as well and that the boy should be rusticated from the school. Patil then allegedly uttered all the words termed as unparliamentary by the court in the presence of a teacher. The grandfather took the boy home where he died by suicide by hanging himself within a few hours.
Before the court, Patil's counsel argued that the allegations, even at face value, nowhere disclosed adequate mens rea and that Patil being the Chairman and disciplinary authority, his act of reprimanding a student cannot be construed as sufficient instigation to commit suicide.
It was argued that Patil's disciplinary action would not suggest that he intended by such an act to instigate the deceased to commit suicide and that unless there is adequate mens rea, the act of abusing to the student cannot be termed as sufficient "abetment" within the meaning of section 107 of the Indian Penal Code. Various judgements were cited to support the arguments.
The Prosecutor, in turn, opposed the plea stating that the student had committed suicide within few hours of the incident and that Patil had created circumstance which caused the boy to end his life and the investigation was in progress.
The court, relying on a judgement cited by the Prosecutor, observed that it was well settled that each case depends upon facts and circumstances of the case. "Whether a person has abetted in the commission of suicide, could only be gathered from the facts of particular case. There can be indirect act of incitement for commission of suicide," the court observed.
On the merits of the case, the court added, "On examining entire investigation paper it reveals that there are several complaints of the parents against the applicant about misbehaviour with students. As regards to the case in hand, the utterances of the applicant are objectionable. No doubt, he can reprimand students, but not in such a language which would "shatter the tender mind" and "put him in deep frustration," High Court observed.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 191