Mahendra K C vs The State Of Karnataka on 29 October, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Mahendra K C vs The State Of Karnataka on 29 October, 2021

Author: Hon’Ble Dr. Chandrachud

Bench: Hon’Ble Dr. Chandrachud, B.V. Nagarathna

                                                                                            Reportable


                                       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                      CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                         Criminal Appeal No. 1238 of 2021


          Mahendra K C                                                            .... Appellant


                                                       Versus



          The State of Karnataka & Anr.                                          .... Respondents



                                                      And with

                                         Criminal Appeal No. 1239 of 2021




                                                  JUDGMENT

Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J

1 While exercising the jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal

Procedure 19731, a Single Judge of the High Court of Karnataka quashed (i) a

complaint dated 6 December 2016; and (ii) the proceedings initiated pursuant to the

complaint. The proceedings which have been quashed were registered as Crime
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Chetan Kumar
Date: 2021.10.29
14:56:02 IST
Reason:

1

“CrPC”

1
No. 565 of 2016 on 7 December 2016 at Police Station Maddur, Mandya District,

Karnataka and pending on the file of the IInd Additional Civil Judge (Junior Division)

and JMFC Maddur. The complainant, at whose behest the First Information Report2

was registered for an offence punishable under Section 306 read with Section 34 of

the Indian Penal Code 1860 3, and the State of Karnataka are in appeal against the

judgment of the High Court dated 29 May 2020. The Single Judge was persuaded to

quash the proceedings on the ground that the continuation of the prosecution “would

[be] a travesty of justice and be a sheer waste of time”, besides requiring the

accused-respondent “to undergo the rigors of a lengthy trial”.

A      Facts


2      On 6 December 2016, a complaint was lodged at Maddur Police Station at

20:00 hours by the appellant who is the brother of the deceased. The complaint

narrates that the appellant’s brother was working as a driver for the accused-second

respondent. The second respondent is an officer of the State of Karnataka and is

employed in the capacity of a Special Land Acquisition Officer 4. According to the

complaint, the deceased would travel from Bengaluru once in a month to visit the

family home and meet his family and friends. Among his friends was Shashi Kumar.

It is alleged that on 4 December 2016 the deceased met another friend, Shiva

Kumar at Bengaluru and went to the village. After enquiring about the welfare of his

parents, the deceased shared his anguish with the complainant and Shiva Kumar

2
“FIR”
3
“IPC”
4
“SLAO”

2
that the accused, who is an SLAO, has amassed disproportionate assets worth over

one hundred crores and had utilized the mobile and bank account of the deceased

to transfer funds to his relatives in the course of converting “black money into white”.

The complaint narrates that since the deceased was aware of the dealings of the

accused, the accused together with another driver, had been threatening him with

murder.

3 On 6 December 2016 at about 1:30pm, Shashi Kumar called the complainant

to inform him that the deceased was staying in a room in a lodge and was not

opening the door. When he attempted to call the deceased on his cell phone, the

deceased spoke in a drunken state and it was apprehended that he was in some

difficulty. The complainant alleged that he proceeded to the lodge at 3.00 pm and

met Shashi Kumar and found that the room was bolted from inside. The complainant

was informed that on 4 December 2016, the deceased had asked Shashi Kumar to

arrange a room at a lodge, where he stayed with Shashi Kumar. The deceased is

alleged to have informed Shashi Kumar that his life was in danger as the deceased

was aware of the illegal activities of the accused in amassing wealth as a result of

which he was being threatened with murder. The deceased asked Shashi Kumar to

leave the room as the deceased was expecting another friend of his, Suresh, to join

him, with whom he was going to discuss the activities of the accused. On 5

December 2016, the deceased called Shashi Kumar to bring him food at the lodge,

which was delivered. The deceased informed Shashi Kumar that his friend Suresh

3
had not turned up. He also told Shashi Kumar to return home as one of his other

friends would be staying with him.

4 On finding that the deceased was not opening his room on 6 December 2016,

a ladder was used by the complainant to access the window of the deceased’s

room, with the help of the Manager of the lodge. The deceased was found to be in

“sleeping mode”. The Maddur Police Station was informed and when the door of his

room was opened at 18:00 hours, the deceased was found to have died. On a

teapoy next to the cot, a bottle of liquor, poison and a suicide note written by the

deceased were found. The suicide note was uploaded by the deceased on his

Facebook account through his mobile. The complaint narrates that the suicide note

has referred to the illegal activities of the accused in amassing wealth in excess of

Rs. 100 crores, converting black money into white and transferring funds from the

bank account of the deceased through his mobile to the accounts of the relatives of

the accused. The complaint alleged that the accused had threatened the deceased

with death and harassed him as a result of which the deceased, having suffered

mental stress, committed suicide by consuming poison.

5 The FIR was registered at 20:00 hours on 6 December 2016. The second

respondent-accused, an SLAO for Bengaluru City, and another driver of his car were

named as accused. The suicide note recorded by the deceased allegedly in his own

handwriting contains a detailed narration of the properties alleged to have been

illegally acquired by the second respondent. Besides detailing the properties which

were acquired by the accused in paragraphs 1 to 13, the suicide note refers to:

4

(i) The transfer of funds in several lakhs of rupees by the accused to his relatives

by using the cell phone and bank account of the deceased;

(ii) The conversion of approximately Rs. 100 crores into currency notes of Rs.

2,000/-, Rs. 100/- and Rs. 50/-;

(iii) The knowledge of the deceased in regard to the transactions of the accused

as a result of which he had been threatened to be killed “by rowdies”;

(iv) A raid conducted against the accused by the establishment of the Lokayukta

of Karnataka while he was posted in the Housing Board;

(v) The involvement of judges to whom presents or gifts were made;

(vi) The payment of salary to the deceased having been stopped at the behest of

the accused;

(vii) The accused having used the deceased for changing currency worth over Rs.

75 crores; and

(viii) The deceased being in knowledge of “all the information”, and when a

shortage of an amount of Rs. 8 lakh was found, the deceased had been

directed to make good the deficiency, failing which he was threatened to be

killed by rowdies.

6 In this backdrop, the deceased recorded that he had been threatened by the

accused and hence was ending his life by consuming poison. Both the second

respondent and his “house driver” were specifically named as responsible for this

death.

5
7 The second respondent-accused was arrested on 11 December 2016. On 12

December 2016, based on a complaint made by BT Suresh, a friend of the

deceased, an FIR was registered against the accused as Crime No. 128/2016 in Ijur

Police Station, Ramnagar District, under Sections 323, 324, 341, 342, 363, 506, 114

read with Sections 120B and 34 of the IPC.

8 On 18 April 2017, the accused instituted a petition under Section 482 CrPC

for quashing the FIR registered as Crime No. 565/2016. A Single Judge of the High

Court of Karnataka stayed investigation and proceedings in Crime No.565/2016.

After arguments were heard, judgment was reserved on 12 November 2019.

Eventually, by his judgment delivered nearly 6 months thereafter on 29 May 2020,

the Single Judge allowed the petition and quashed all proceedings relating to the

complaint and FIR registered as Crime No. 565/2016.

9 At the outset, it is necessary to elucidate the reasons which have weighed

with the High Court in quashing the FIR. The High Court has held that:

(i) The suicide note which consists of 21 numbered paragraphs gives a detailed

account of the transactions undertaken by the accused;

(ii) For a person who has made such a detailed account of twenty transactions in

the suicide note, it can be prudently expected that the deceased would have

furnished details of the threats administrated to him by the accused;

(iii) In the unnumbered paragraph of the suicide note “the totally different story” is

set out, stating that the accused threatened to kill the deceased since there

6
was a shortage of cash to the tune of Rs 8 lacs for which the accused

suspected the deceased to be responsible;

(iv) The deceased held the accused responsible for withholding his salary for

three months;

(v) Though a query was put to the Government Pleader and counsel for the

complainant as to whether the investigation had thrown up any material which

corroborated the allegations set out in the suicide note, the GP submitted that

“they have not been able to unearth any material to corroborate any of the

allegations”;

(vi) Though the petition was instituted before the High Court on 18 April 2017, and

was pending for over three years, no corroborative material had been

produced before the Court by the investigating agency;

(vii) Even assuming that the accused has amassed huge wealth, that would not

constitute a good ground for a person to commit suicide since it was not the

case of the deceased that the accused had deprived him of his wealth;

(viii) The suicide note contains no incriminating statement or material except for a

bald and vague statement that the accused had threatened the deceased;

(ix) The complaint does not disclose details of the alleged threat nor does it state

that the deceased had on multiple occasions complained of having received

threats from the accused;

(x) The allegation in regard to the demand for repayment of Rs 8 lacs rings

hollow “as neither the prosecution nor the de facto complainant had placed an

7
iota of material that the deceased was or had in fact been in possession of

huge sum of money”;

(xi) No act proximate to the time of death is alleged against the accused;

(xii) If the allegation of the demand of Rs. 8 lacs was correct, it would have been

natural for the accused to restrain the deceased from leaving Bangalore to

ensure the recovery of the alleged sum;

(xiii) The investigation had not thrown up any material regarding the use of the

mobile banking facilities of the deceased for the transfer of funds;

(xiv) Neither the death-note nor investigation revealed a threat call to the

deceased;

(xv) The only witness who could have spoken about the veracity of the suicide

note was the deceased;

(xvi) If a threat had been administered to the deceased, he would have narrated

the incident to the complainant or his friends;

(xvii) Even if a threat was given, the nature of the threat would have to be

examined particularly on the question as to whether it was of such an

alarming proportion so as to drive a ‘normal person’ to contemplate suicide;

(xviii) If the deceased had felt threatened by the accused, this was belied by his

visits to his village to meet his parents and friends and the failure to lodge a

complaint with the police particularly when the Police Commissionerate was a

stone’s throw away. This casts doubt on the veracity of the suicide note;

(xix) Since the deceased had consumed alcohol, it is possible that in the grip of

intoxicants he had failed to act sanely;

8
(xx) The conduct of the deceased in attending a marriage in a different town is

indicative of the actions of a normal person; and

(xxi) How the deceased had sourced the poison was unknown.

10 The judgment of the Single Judge has given rise to two special leave petitions

under Article 136 of the Constitution: one by the complainant and the second by the

State of Karnataka.

B       Submission of parties


11      Mr Mahesh Thakur, has appeared for the complainant in support of his

appeal. In the appeal filed by the State of Karnataka, Mr V.N. Raghupathy has

appeared and made submissions. The respondent-accused has been represented in

the course of his submissions by Mr Sharan Thakur.

12 Mr Mahesh Thakur, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the complainant

urged the following submissions:

(i) The matter being at the stage of investigation and the second respondent

having been enlarged on bail, the Single Judge has manifestly erred in

quashing the FIR as a result of which the entire investigation has been

scuttled midstream;

(ii) The High Court has completely failed to notice the seriousness and gravity of

the allegations made against the accused;

9

(iii) The precedents of this Court indicate that in exercising its jurisdiction under

Section 482 CrPC, the High Court does not function as a court of appeal or

revision and the jurisdiction has to be exercised with care and circumspection;

(iv) The allegations in the FIR and the contents of the complaint, if taken on their

face and accepted in their entirety, clearly indicate the commission of an

offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC by the accused, in which

event it was improper for the High Court to quash the proceedings;

(v) Besides the suicide note, the deceased had informed both the complainant

and other witnesses of the harassment which he had suffered at the hands of

the second respondent-accused who had a position of influence as an SLAO

and with whom the deceased worked as a driver;

(vi) The nature of the threats and whether the deceased had received calls was a

matter for investigation;

(vii) The suicide note contains a detailed account of the illegal activities of the

second respondent-accused in amassing disproportionate wealth and the

manner in which the deceased had been utilized for transfer of funds; and

(viii) The High Court has despite the specific allegations in the suicide note and in

the complaint enquired into the veracity of the allegations, thereby conducting

a trial at the stage of considering a petition for quashing a criminal complaint.

10
13 Mr V.N. Raghupathy learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of

Karnataka has urged similar submissions. It has been submitted that:

(i) The suicide note which was recovered under a mahazar by the jurisdictional

police had also been uploaded by the deceased from his Facebook account;

(ii) The suicide note was submitted to the Forensic Science Laboratory for

analysis but the High Court stayed the investigation while entertaining the

proceedings under Section 482 CrPC and scuttled the investigation;

(iii) The allegations in the complaint and the suicide note contain a clear and

detailed account of the harassment caused to the deceased at the behest of

the second respondent-accused which on its face establishes a case of

abetment of suicide; and

(iv) Another complaint filed by a friend of the deceased which was registered at

Ijur Police Station in Ram Nagar District (Crime No.128/2016) corroborates

the averments made in Crime No.565/2016 of Maddur Police Station.

14 On the other hand, Mr Sharan Thakur, learned counsel appearing on behalf of

the second respondent – accused submitted that:

(i) Abetment postulates an instigation and in the context of Section 306, the

instigation must be to an extent where there is no option but to commit

suicide;

11

(ii) The allegations in the complaint and in the suicide note fall short of the

ingredients to establish a case of abetment and hence the essential

requirements of the offence under Section 306 have not been established;

(iii) The Single judge of the High Court had furnished reasons for indicating that

the allegations contained in the suicide note are inherently improbable;

(iv) The version of the complainant is full of contradictions and inconsistencies;

(v) The suicide note fails to mention any overt act by the accused which would

have driven the deceased to commit suicide. During the period between 11

December 2016, when the accused was taken into custody and 29 December

2016, when he was enlarged on bail by the Sessions Court at Mandya,

extensive enquiries and investigation were carried out by the investigating

agency including the State Police and ACP Karnataka, in spite of which no

incriminating evidence has been found; and

(vi) It is a well settled principle of law that in cases involving abetment of suicide

there must be a number of direct or indirect acts of incitement to the

commission of suicide. In other words, a mere allegation of harassment would

not suffice unless the action on the part of the accused compels the person to

commit suicide.

15      The rival submissions now fall for analysis.




                                            12
C     Analysis


16    On reading the judgment of the Single Judge, it would appear that the Single

Judge has failed to notice the distinction between a petition for quashing under

Section 482 (which was being considered) and a criminal trial or an appeal against

a conviction on a charge under Section 306. The Single Judge has transgressed the

limits of the jurisdiction under Section 482 of the CrPC. The judgment is replete with

hypothesis and surmises on the basis of which the Single Judge has reached an

inference on facts. The Single Judge has tested the veracity of the allegations in the

criminal complaint and in the suicide note left behind by the deceased without

having the benefit of an evidentiary record which would be collected during the trial.

At the stage when the High Court considers a petition for quashing under Section

482 of the CrPC, the test to be applied is whether the allegations in the complaint as

they stand, without adding or detracting from the complaint, prima facie establish the

ingredients of the offence alleged. At this stage, the High Court cannot test the

veracity of the allegations nor for that matter can it proceed in the manner that a

judge conducting a trial would, on the basis of the evidence collected during the

course of trial. The High Court in the present case has virtually proceeded to hold a

trial, substituting its own perception for what it believed should or should not have

been the normal course of human behavior. This is clearly impermissible.

13
17 The complaint in the present case on the basis of which the FIR was

registered contains a detailed account of:

(i) The knowledge of the deceased in regard to the illegal activities of the

accused;

(ii) The accused having used the deceased’s bank account for transfer of funds

to his relatives;

(iii) The deceased having been threatened by the accused and by his “house car

driver” with death; and

(iv) The recovery of the suicide note which was also uploaded on the Facebook

account of the deceased;

The suicide note in turn provides a detailed account of

(a) The wealth amassed by the second respondent-accused who was an

SLAO, worth over Rs. 100 crores;

(b) The second respondent-accused having converted approximately Rs.

100 crores into currency notes of various denominations;

(c) The knowledge of the deceased with respect the illegal activities of the

accused;

(d) The accused having used the deceased for the conversion of currency

notes amounting to over Rs. 75 crores;

(e) The payment of the salary of the deceased, who was a driver having

been stopped for three months;

14

(f) A threat of murder being administered to the deceased following a

shortage in the currency; and

(g) The deceased having decided to end his life by consuming poison,

having suffered at the hands of the accused.

18 In this backdrop, it is impossible on a judicious purview of the contents of the

complaint and the suicide note for a judicial mind to arrive at a conclusion that a

case for quashing the FIR had been established. In arriving at that conclusion, the

Single Judge has transgressed the well settled limitations on the exercise of the

powers under Section 482 CrPC and has encroached into a territory which is

reserved for a criminal trial.

19 The High Court has the power under Section 482 to issue such orders as are

necessary to prevent the abuse of legal process or otherwise, to secure the ends of

justice. The law on the exercise of power under Section 482 to quash an FIR is well

settled. In State of Orissa v. Saroj Kumar Sahoo 5, a two judge Bench of this

Court, observed that:

“8. […] While exercising powers under the section, the court
does not function as a court of appeal or revision. Inherent
jurisdiction under the section though wide has to be exercised
sparingly, carefully and with caution and only when such
exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in the
section itself. It is to be exercised ex debito justitiae to do real
and substantial justice for the administration of which alone
courts exist. Authority of the court exists for advancement of
justice and if any attempt is made to abuse that authority so
as to produce injustice, the court has power to prevent abuse.

5
(2005) 13 SCC 540

15
It would be an abuse of process of the court to allow any
action which would result in injustice and prevent promotion
of justice. In exercise of the powers court would be justified to
quash any proceeding if it finds that initiation/continuance of it
amounts to abuse of the process of court or quashing of
these proceedings would otherwise serve the ends of justice.
When no offence is disclosed by the report, the court may
examine the question of fact. When a report is sought to be
quashed, it is permissible to look into the materials to assess
what the report has alleged and whether any offence is made
out even if the allegations are accepted in toto.”

These principles emanate from the decisions of this Court in State of Haryana v.

Ch. Bhajan Lal6 and State of M.P. v. Surendra Kori 7. In Surendra Kori (supra),

this Court observed:

“14. The High Court in exercise of its powers under Section
482
CrPC does not function as a Court of Appeal or Revision.

This Court has, in several judgments, held that the inherent
jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC, though wide, has to be
used sparingly, carefully and with caution. The High Court,
under Section 482 CrPC, should normally refrain from giving
a prima facie decision in a case where the entire facts are
incomplete and hazy, more so when the evidence has not
been collected and produced before the Court and the issues
involved, whether factual or legal, are of wide magnitude and
cannot be seen in their true perspective without sufficient
material.”

20 In Bhajan Lal (supra), this Court laid down the principles for the exercise of

the jurisdiction by the High Court in exercise of its powers under Section 482 of the

CrPC to quash an FIR. Justice Ratnavel Pandian laid down the limits on the

exercise of the power under Section 482 CrPC for quashing the FIR and observed:

6

1992 Supp (1) SCC 335
7
(2012) 10 SCC 155

16
“102. In the backdrop of the interpretation of the various
relevant provisions of the Code under Chapter XIV and of the
principles of law enunciated by this Court in a series of
decisions relating to the exercise of the extraordinary power
under Article 226 or the inherent powers under Section 482 of
the Code which we have extracted and reproduced above, we
give the following categories of cases by way of illustration
wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent
abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the
ends of justice, though it may not be possible to lay down any
precise, clearly defined and sufficiently channelised and
inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to give an
exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power
should be exercised.

(1) Where the allegations made in the first information report
or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and
accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any
offence or make out a case against the accused.

(2) Where the allegations in the first information report and
other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose
a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police
officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an
order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of
the Code.

(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or
complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same
do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out
a case against the accused.

(4) Where, the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a
cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable
offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer
without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under
Section 155(2) of the Code.

(5) Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so
absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no
prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is
sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of
the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which
a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and
continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a
specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing
efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
(7) Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with
mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously
instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on

17
the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and
personal grudge.”

The judgment in Bhajan Lal (supra) has been recently relied on by this Court in

State of Telangana v. Managipet 8.

21 Based on the above precedent, the High Court while exercising its power

under Section 482 of the CrPC to quash the FIR instituted against the second

respondent-accused should have applied the following two tests: i) whether the

allegations made in the complaint, prima facie constitute an offence; and ii) whether

the allegations are so improbable that a prudent man would not arrive at the

conclusion that there is sufficient ground to proceed with the complaint. Before

proceeding further, it is imperative to briefly discuss the law on the abetment of

suicide to determine if a prima facie case under Section 306 of the IPC has been

made against the respondent-accused.

22 Section 306 of the IPC provides for punishment of the abetment of suicide:

“306. Abetment of suicide—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.”

Section 107 of the IPC defines the expression “abetment”:

“107. Abetment of a thing- A person abets the doing of a
thing, who—

First.–Instigates any person to do that thing; or

8
(2019) 19 SCC 87

18
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 lakes 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.”

23 The essence of abetment lies in instigating a person to do a thing or the

intentional doing of that thing by an act or illegal omission. In Ramesh Kumar v.

State of Chhattisgarh 9, a three-judge Bench of this Court, speaking through Justice

RC Lahoti (as the learned Chief Justice then was), observed:

“20. Instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or
encourage to do “an act”. To satisfy the requirement of
instigation though it is not necessary that actual words must
be used to that effect or what constitutes instigation must
necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the
consequence. Yet a reasonable certainty to incite the
consequence must be capable of being spelt out. The present
one is not a case where the accused had by his acts or
omission or by a continued course of conduct created such
circumstances that the deceased was left with no other option
except to commit suicide in which case an instigation may
have been inferred. A word uttered in the fit of anger or
emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow
cannot be said to be instigation.”

9
(2001) 9 SCC 618

19
24 A two judge Bench of this Court in Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt.

of NCT of Delhi 10), speaking through Justice DK Jain, observed:

“19. As observed in Ramesh Kumar [(2001) 9 SCC 618 :
2002 SCC (Cri) 1088] , where the accused by his acts or by a
continued course of conduct creates such circumstances that
the deceased was left with no other option except to commit
suicide, an “instigation” may be inferred. In other words, in
order to prove that the accused abetted commission of
suicide by a person, it has to be established that:

(i) the accused kept on irritating or annoying the deceased by
words, deeds or wilful omission or conduct which may even
be a wilful silence until the deceased reacted or pushed or
forced the deceased by his deeds, words or wilful omission or
conduct to make the deceased move forward more quickly in
a forward direction; and

(ii) that the accused had the intention to provoke, urge or
encourage the deceased to commit suicide while acting in the
manner noted above. Undoubtedly, presence of mens rea is
the necessary concomitant of instigation.

20. In the background of this legal position, we may advert to
the case at hand. The question as to what is the cause of a
suicide has no easy answers because suicidal ideation and
behaviours in human beings are complex and multifaceted.
Different individuals in the same situation react and behave
differently because of the personal meaning they add to each
event, thus accounting for individual vulnerability to suicide.
Each individual’s suicidability pattern depends on his inner
subjective experience of mental pain, fear and loss of self-

respect. Each of these factors are crucial and exacerbating
contributor to an individual’s vulnerability to end his own
life, which may either be an attempt for self-protection or an
escapism from intolerable self.”

10
(2009) 16 SCC 605

20
This has been reiterated in the decision in Amalendu Pal @ Jhantu v. State of

West Bengal11, where it has been observed:

“12. […] It is also to be borne in mind that in cases of alleged
abetment of suicide there must be proof of direct or indirect
acts of incitement to the commission of suicide. Merely on the
allegation of harassment without there being any positive
action proximate to the time of occurrence on the part of the
accused which led or compelled the person to commit
suicide, conviction in terms of Section 306 IPC is not
sustainable.”

(See also in this context the judgments in Praveen Pradhan v. State of

Uttaranchal12, Vaijnath Kondiba Khandke v. State of Maharashtra 13, M. Arjunan

v. The State (Represented By Its Inspector of Police)14, Ude Singh v. State of

Haryana 15, Rajesh @ Sarkari v. The State of Haryana 16 and Gurcharan Singh v.

The State of Punjab 17. These decisions have been recently referred to in the

judgment of this Court in Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra 18).

25 While adjudicating on an application under Section 482 CrPC, the High Court

in the present case travelled far away from the parameters for the exercise of the

jurisdiction. Essentially, the task before the High Court was to determine whether the

allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are

11
(2010) 1 SCC 707
12
(2012) 9 SCC 734
13
(2018) 7 SCC 781
14
(2019) 3 SCC 315
15
(2019) 17 SCC 301
16
(2020) 15 SCC 359
17
(2020) 10 SCC 200
18
(2021) 2 SCC 427

21
taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety did or did not prima facie

constitute an offence or make out a case against the accused.

26 Instead of applying this settled principle, the High Court has proceeded to

analyze from its own perspective the veracity of the allegations. It must be

emphasized that this is not a case where the High Court has arrived at a conclusion

that the allegations in the FIR or the complaint are so absurd and inherently

improbable on the basis of which no prudent person could ever reach a just

conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. Nor is

this a case where the criminal proceeding is manifestly mala fide or has been

instituted with an ulterior motive of taking vengeance on the accused. On the

contrary, the specific allegations in the FIR and in the complaint find due reflection in

the suicide note and establish a prima facie case for abetment of suicide within the

meaning of Sections 306 and 107 of the IPC. The entire judgment of the High Court

consists of a litany of surmises and conjectures and such an exercise is beyond the

domain of proceeding under section 482 of the CrPC. The High Court has

proceeded to scrutinize what has been disclosed during the investigation, ignoring

that the investigation had been stayed by an interim order of the High Court, during

the pendency of the proceedings under section 482.

27 The High Court observed that a prima facie case for the commission of

offence under Section 306 of the IPC is not made out since: i) the suicide note does

not describe the specific threats; ii) details of the alleged demand of Rs. 8 lacs from

the deceased by the respondent-accused are not set out in the suicide note; and iii)

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no material to corroborate the allegations detailed in the suicide note has been

unearthed by the investigating agency. The High Court observed that since the

deceased took considerable time to write a twelve page suicide note, “it would have

been but natural for the author to set out the details”. The High Court has evidently

travelled far beyond the limits of its inherent power under Section 482 CrPC since

instead of determining whether on a perusal of the complaint, a prima facie case is

made out, it has analysed the sufficiency of the evidence with reference to the

suicide note and has commented upon and made strong observations on the suicide

note itself. Paras 32,33,34 and 39 of the order of the High Court are extracted

below:

“32. In paragraph no.21, a bald statement is made stating that
because he is aware of all the above transaction, he was
given a death threat. In the next sentence, he states that he
has been psychologically/emotionally trouble and hence, he is
consuming poison and that the petitioner and his driver alone
are responsible. For a person, who has detailed 20
transactions, it can be prudently expected of such a person to
give details of the threat.

33. In the next unnumbered paragraph, a totally different
story/note is set out as a reason for the petitioner threatening
the deceased. In the unnumbered paragraph, he states that
there was shortage in the cash to the tune of Rs.8 lakhs and
that the petitioner suspected him as being responsible for the
same and hence, threatened him that if the deceased did not
repay said Rs.8 lakhs, he would have the deceased killed at
the hands of rowdies. Thereafter, in the next sentence he
states that in view of the same, he has decided to consume
poison and that the petitioner and his driver are responsible
for the same.

34. In paragraph no.20, the deceased holds the petitioner
responsible for withholding the salary for the last three
months. The other paragraphs including paragraph no.20
detail the properties said to have been amassed by the

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petitioner and other illegal transactions. After having perused
and scrutinized the death note, a query was put to the learned
High Court Government Pleader and the counsel appearing
on behalf of 2nd respondent as to whether the investigation
has thrown up any material that corroborates any of the
allegations set-out in the death note. The learned High Court
Government Pleader would fairly submit that they have not
been able unearth any material to corroborate any of the
allegations.

39. As discussed above, the death note contains no
incriminating statement or material except for a bald and
vague statement but that the accused had threatened him.
Even the complaint does not disclose any details of the
alleged threat nor does the complaint state that the deceased
had on multiple occasions complained of having received
threats from accused. Even the allegation of the demand for
repayment of Rs.8 lakhs rings hollow as neither the
prosecution nor the de-facto complainant have been able to
place an iota of material that the deceased was or had in fact
been in possession of huge sum of money.”

Further, the observation of the High Court that there is no material to corroborate the

allegations made in the suicide note is erroneous since it is not a consideration for

the High Court while exercising its power under Section 482 of the CrPC, particularly

in view of the fact that the trial has not begun and the Single Judge had stayed the

investigation in the criminal complaint.

28 The Single Judge, other than deciding on the merits of the case while

exercising the power under Section 482 of the CrPC, has also made observations

diminishing the importance of mental health. The mental health of a person cannot

be compressed into a one size fits all approach. In paragraph 37 of the impugned

judgment, the Single Judge observed:

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“37. It is not the case of the deceased that the accused had
deprived him of his wealth or have committed acts that have
shattered his hopes in life or separated him from his family
and friends.”

The Single Judge then makes the following observation in paragraphs 41 and 43:

“41. [..] It is not the case of the prosecution that the deceased
was running away from or escaping the petitioner or his
henchmen, but as is his habit, to visit his parents and to
spend time with his friends. If the deceased had really felt
threatened, he would have definitely approached the police. It
is not that he was naive or not worldly-wise. If his employment
with the petitioner was true, then the Police Commissionerate
was only a stone’s throw away. It is not that the deceased
was a weakling. The deceased by profession, is a driver. A
profession where, accidents causing loss of life and limb are
a daily occurrence and every driver is aware that he could be
involved in an accident at any time.

43. His act of attending a relatives marriage in a different
town and his interacting with friends and relatives are all
actions of a normal person and not of a person under severe
duress. The contention that this criminal case would
jeopardize his career progression also cannot be brushed
aside. It is also not forthcoming as to how he sourced the
poison.”

29 The Single Judge has termed a person who decided to commit suicide a

‘weakling’ and has also made observations on how the behavior of the deceased

before he committed suicide was not that of a person who is depressed and

suffering from mental health issues. Behavioural scientists have initiated the

discourse on the heterogeneity of every individual and have challenged the

traditional notion of ‘all humans behave alike’. Individual personality differences

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manifest as a variation in the behavior of people. Therefore, how an individual copes

up with a threat- both physical and emotional, expressing (or refraining to express)

love, loss, sorrow and happiness, varies greatly in view of the multi-faceted nature of

the human mind and emotions. Thus, the observations describing the manner in

which a depressed person ought to have behaved deeply diminishes the gravity of

mental health issues.

30 The High Court by its order has prevented the completion of the investigation

in the complaint registered as Crime No.565/2016 pending on the file of the IInd

Additional Civil Judge (Junior Division) and JMFC Court, Maddur, Mandya District.

The alleged suicide is of a person who was working as a driver of a Special Land

Acquisition Officer, who is a public servant and against whom serious and grave

allegations of amassing wealth disproportionate to the known sources of income

were made by the deceased. The suicide note contains a detailed account of the

role of the accused in the events which led to the deceased committing suicide.

These are matters of investigation and possibly trial. The High Court stalled the

investigation by granting an interim order of stay. If the investigation had been

allowed to proceed, there would have been a revelation of material facts which

would aid in the trial, for the alleged offence against the second respondent.

31 For the above reasons, we allow the appeals and set aside the impugned

judgment and order of the Single Judge of the High Court of Karnataka dated 29

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May 2020. In the circumstances, the petition for quashing the FIR instituted by the

respondent-accused shall stand dismissed.

32 Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.

……….………….…………………………………………J.
[Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud]

…..….…………………………………………………….J.
[B V Nagarathna]

New Delhi;

October 29, 2021.

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