Context: The controversy surrounding the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput took a new turn as the actor’s father filed an FIR for abetment of suicide. 

About the crime of ‘abetment of suicide’:

  • Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: Makes abetment of suicide a punishable offence and prescribes either a jail term of up to ten years or a fine or both. Generally, the fine is paid to the kin of the deceased.
  • Section 108 of the IPC: Describes who is an abettor. Abetment is defined as including instigating, engaging in a conspiracy or assisting in committing the offence.
  • A Cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence: Abetment of suicide is a serious offence that is tried in a Sessions court.
    • A cognizable offence is one in which a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant from a court. 
    • A non-bailable offence means bail is granted to the accused at the discretion of the court, and not as a matter of right.
    • A non-compoundable offence is one in which the case cannot be withdrawn by the complainant even when the complainant and the accused have reached a compromise. 

Comparing abetment of suicide and murder:

  • Sangarabonia Sreenu v State of Andhra Pradesh (1997): The Supreme Court had clarified that despite the intention of the accused to drive a person to commit suicide, abetment of suicide is not the same as murder
    • Although in both cases, causing the death of another person is a common factor, the two are distinct offences.
    • In the case of a murder, the final act of causing the death of a person is committed by the accused which is not the case in abetment of suicide.

There are two primary ingredients of the crime of abetment of suicide: 

  • That will help a court to determine if the accused has abetted the suicide are
    • A suicidal death: In common parlance, the word suicide is liberally attributed to every case of self-destruction, but suicide is never presumed.
    • The intention of the accused to abet such suicide: Once such a determination is made, then the intention of the person accused of abetment of suicide is looked into.
      • Sanjay Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh (2002): The SC held that a comment or a statement uttered in haste, anger would not amount to abetment of suicide.
      • In a recent ruling (2017): The apex court also said that instigation, involvement of the accused must be connected strongly and any remoteness in these features would be insufficient to charge the accused with the offence.
        • Instigation has to have certain continuity, happen continuously over a reasonable period of time. 
        • Additionally, if the deceased person is found to be very sensitive compared to a reasonable person, the court has said that the charge of abetment to suicide would weaken.
  • The only exception: It is the abetment of the suicide of a woman married for seven years or less. 
    • Through an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1983, the law was changed to presume that the husband is guilty if his wife commits suicide within seven years of the marriage. 
    • The amendment was made to curb rising dowry deaths that were categorised as suicides.

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