The Supreme Court has observed that, merely because an accused is found guilty of an offence punishable under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code and the death of the wife has occurred within a period of seven years of the marriage, the accused cannot be automatically held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC by employing the presumption under Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act.
To sustain a conviction under Section 306 IPC, the bench comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice BR Gavai said, the prosecution has to establish that some act or illegal omission by the accused has driven the deceased to commit the suicide.
The issue considered by the bench, in Gurjit Singh vs. State of Punjab, was whether when the prosecution establishes cruelty under Explanation (b) of Section 498A of the IPC and also establishes that the deceased committed suicide within seven years of the marriage, could the accused be also held guilty for the offence 10 punishable under Section 306 of the IPC with the aid of Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act.
Referring to Ramesh Kumar vs. State of Chhattisgarh, the bench noted that to attract the applicability of Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, the following conditions are required to be satisfied: (i) The woman has committed suicide, (ii) Such suicide has been committed within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage, (iii) The husband or his relatives, who are charged had subjected her to cruelty. In the said judgment, the court had noted that merely because accused had been held liable to be punished under Section 498-A of the IPC, it does not follow that on the same evidence he must also and necessarily be held guilty of having abetted the commission of suicide by the woman concerned.
Also referring to some other judgments on the subjects, the bench said:
"It could thus be seen, that the view taken by the three-Judge Bench of this Court in the case of Ramesh Kumar (supra) that when a case does not fall under clause secondly or thirdly, it has to be decided with reference to the first clause, i.e., whether the accused has abetted the commission of suicide by intentionally instigating her to do so; has been consistently followed. As such, we are of the view that merely because an accused is found guilty of an offence punishable under Section 498-A of the IPC and the death has occurred within a period of seven years of the marriage, the accused cannot be automatically held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC by employing the presumption under Section 113A of the Evidence Act. Unless the prosecution establishes that some act or illegal omission by the accused has driven the deceased to commit the suicide, the conviction under Section 306 would not be tenable."
Taking into account the evidence on record, the bench observed:
We find that though the prosecution is successful in proving the case under Section 498-A of the IPC, we are of the view that the prosecution has failed to prove that the cruelty was of such a nature which left no choice to the deceased than to commit suicide. The prosecution has not been in a position to place on record any evidence to establish beyond reasonable doubt that any act or omission of the accused instigated the deceased to commit suicide. There is no material on record to show that immediately prior to the deceased committing suicide there was a cruelty meted out to the deceased by the accused due to which the deceased had no other option than to commit the suicide. We are of the view, that there is no material placed on record to reach a cause and effect relationship between the cruelty and the suicide for the purpose of raising presumption. It could further be seen from the evidence on record that the time gap between the last visit of the deceased to her parents with regard to the illegal demand and the date of commission of suicide is about two months. As such, there is nothing on record to show that there was a proximate nexus between the commission of suicide and the illegal demand made by the appellant.
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