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Interpretation of Section 306 I.P.C.

The idea that a word must necessarily possess some unique or proper meaning should be abandoned. An explanation of this lies at the basis of a biological theory, known as ‘autopoiesis’, put forwarded by Professor Maturana, that no one can know what the world outside him or her really is, for what each person knows is the response of his or her nervous system to external stimuli. This is not a denial of objective reality, but an assertion that no one can ever know what this is outside his or her neuronal response to it. Perception is thus a matter of personal interpretation. Equally, the meaning of a word depends on individual past experience of the contexts in which it is used, its application as well as its non-applications. Another reason for rejecting ‘proper’ meaning is that the same ‘thing’ may be referred to by different words for different purposes, eg. The same act may be called trespass to goods or theft or malicious damage in different contexts. The meaning of a word also depends upon how it is used in the context, so its function in the preposition as a whole should be considered.

A STATUTE has been defined by many eminent writers, Courts and other learned persons. A STATUTE simply defined as “the will of the legislature” or “the intention of the legislature”. But the experience of all those, who have to bear and share, the task of the application of the law, has been different. It is quite often that we find Courts and Lawyers busy in unfolding the meaning of ambiguous words and expressions and resolving inconsistencies.

Now I want to come to the subject of my article i.e. interpretation of section 306 of The Indian Penal Code. I just want to attempt to interpret true meaning and intention of the legislature on Section 306 of The Indian Penal Code. The code defines section 306 as:

S.306 IF ANY PERSON COMMITS SUICIDE, WHOEVER ABETS THE COMMISSION OF SUCH SUICIDE, SHALL BE PUNISHED WITH IMPRISONMENT OF EITHER DESCRIPTION FOR A TERM WHICH MAY EXTEND TO TEN YEARS, AND SHALL ALSO BE LIABLE TO FINE”.

  1. To understand what sections says first we have to know the meaning of “Suicide”. Suicide is self killing. It is an act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Every act of self-destruction is suicide, provided it to be intentional act of a party knowing the probable consequences of what he is doing. Suicide no doubt is self murder. But one committed suicide places himself or herself beyond the reach of the law, and necessarily the reach of any punishment too. But it does not mean that it is not forbidden by the Penal Code. Section 309 of the Code punishes abetment of suicide. It punishes an attempt to commit suicide. Thus, suicide as such is no crime, as indeed, it can not be. But its attempt is, its abetment is too. Hon’ble Apex Court rightly said in their latest judgment which is passed on dated 01/05/2010 (Gangula Mohan Reddy V. State of Andhra Pradesh), that “The word suicide in itself is nowhere defined in the Indian Penal Code, however its meaning and import is well known and requires no explanation. ‘Sui’ means ‘self’ and ‘cide’ means ‘killing’, thus implying an act of self-killing. In short a person committing suicide must commit it by himself, irrespective of the means employed by him in achieving his object of killing himself”.
  2. The essential ingredient of the offence punishable under section 306, I.P.C. is abetting suicide, which I deem it appropriate to reproduce section 107, which reads as under:-

A person abets the doing of a thing, who:

(a) instigates any person to do that thing;

(b) engages with one or more other persons in any conspiracy for 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

(c) Intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.

Abetment thus necessarily means some active suggestion or support to the commission of the offence. The word ‘instigate’ literally means to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act or a person is said to instigate another when he actively suggests or stimulates him to the act by any means, or language, direct or indirect, whether it takes the form of express solicitation or of hints, insinuation or encouragement. It is also not necessary that the instigation should be only in words and may not be conduct. Direct evidence of any instigation or aid is not necessary.

In the matter of an offence under section 306 I.P.C. abetment must be attract the definition thereof in section 107, I.P.C. Explanation which has been appended along with the Section 107 reads as: 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 facilitates the commission thereof, is said to aid the doing og that act.

In Mahendra Singh V. State of M.P. 1995 Supp(3) SCC 73, the allegation leveled were as under:(SCC P.731, para 1): “My mother-in-law and husband and sister-in-law (husbands elder brothers wife) harassed me. They beat me and abused me. My husband Mahendra wants to marry a second time. He has illicit connections with my sister-in-law. Because of these reasons and being harassed I want to die by burning”. The Court on the aforementioned allegations came to definite conclusion that by no stretch the ingredients of abetment are attracted on the statement of deceased. So instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act. Yet a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. A word uttered in the fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follows can not be said to be instigation.

Courts should always be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case. If it appears to the Court that a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide. Each persons suicidability pattern is different from the other. Each person has his own idea of self-esteem and self-respect. Therefore, it is impossible to lay down any straitjacket formula in dealing with all the cases of such nature.

Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction can not be sustained. The intention of the legislature and the ratio by which the cases decided by several Courts is clear that in order to convict a person under section 306, I.P.C. there has to be clear mens rea to commit the offence. It also requires an active or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he or she committed suicide. To bring home a charge under section 306, I.P.C. the prosecution is to prove that the victim of the offence committed suicide and that the accused abetted the commission of the said offence, such abetment being one under section 107, I.P.C.

The interpretation of Section 306 of The Indian Penal Code should be in a way to find out the mens rea and the facts and circumstances are such that the ingredients of section 107 I.P.C. are satisfied. True interpretation depends on the object of the Act and the object of the Act is hidden in its preamble. Preamble of Act defines its object that why this Act comes in force. So the object of section 306 I.P.C. defines punishment who abets the suicide which is committed by a victim. If there is no evidence than linking circumstantial evidence can help to constitute the offence.  

Case Law Referred:

  1. Supreme Court:-S.S. Chheena V. Vijay Kumar Mahajan &Anothers. Judgment passed on 08.12.2010 in Criminal Appeal No.1503/2010.
  2. Supreme Court:- Gangula Mohan Reddy V. State of A.P. Judgment passed on 01.05.2010 in Criminal Appeal No.1301/2010.
  3. (2002)5 Supreme Court Cases 177 Girdhar Shankar Tawade V. State of Maharastra.
  4. 1999(2) R.C.C. 1064 Rameshwar Dayal V. State of Rajasthan.

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