Vs. Prem Chand & Anr  INSC 133 (20 April 1989)
S. (J) Natrajan, S. (J) Ahmadi, A.M. (J)
1989 AIR 1661 1989 SCR (2) 612 1989 SCC Supl. (2) 680 JT 1989 (3) 1 1989 SCALE
INFO : D 1990 SC 209 (41)
Penal Code--Sections 304B, 306 and 498A--Dowry Offences--Punishment for----What
would constitute instigation for commission of offence----Would depend on facts
of case----Act of abetment-To be judged in the conspectus of evidence of the
accused-respondent, had married Veena Rani, deceased, in the year 1973. Veena Rani
was then employed in the State Bank of Patiala. Soon after their marriage the accused resigned his job as Prosecuting
Sub-inspector and started his practice at Sangrut. Veena Rani got herself
transferred to Sangrur and the couple set up house there.
the very beginning Veena Rani had an unhappy married life because the accused
constantly tormented her to get more money from her parents. The accused was also
given to heating her frequently.
gave birth to a male child. Even after child-birth the accused did not stop iII-treating
to bear the iII-treatment, Veena Rani took leave on loss of pay and went away
to her parents. She later filed an application under section 9 of the Hindu
Marriage Act in the Court at Patiala for
restitution of conjugal rights. At this stage, a compromise was brought about
between the parties and Veena Rani came back to live with the accused at Sangrur.
But nothing changed, and the accused continued to torment her for money.
immediate provocation for the accused stepping up his illtreatment of Veena Rani
was his demand of Rs. 1,000 to pay the balance amount of the scooter price
which he had purchased. Veena Rani had no funds of her own. She, therefore,
wrote to her brother and mother narrating her woes and requesting them to send Rs.
1,000. In spite of Veena Rani writing to her brother and mother, the accused
did not relent in the immediate compliance of his demand.
15.9.1975, the day of the tragedy, the accused and Veena Rani had a quarrel and
thereupon both of them went to the house of Shri Hari Om, Advocate, who advised
the accused not to torment Veena Rani.
There, in the presence of Hari Om, the accused went to the extent of saying
that Veena Rani may go to hell but he should get the money forthwith. Veena Rani
reacted by saying that she preferred death to such life. The accused, far from
expressing regret for his conduct, drove her to despair by further saying that
she can provide him relief quicker by dying on the very day. Thereafter, the
accused left Veena Rani at their house and went to court at about 9.00 a.m. At 10.15 a.m.
shrieks were heard from their house, and when people rushed in, they found Veena
Rani lying on the ground with extensive burn injuries. Before her death in the
hospital, Veena Rani told the doctor that she had been tortured at home and
that she wanted to die as early as possible.
Additional Sessions Judge found the accused guilty under section 306, I.P.C.,
and sentenced him to undergo R.I. for four years. The Judge held that the
accused had been tormenting and also physically assaulting Veena Rani, and that
Veena Rani had committed suicide by reason of the accused's instigation.
High Court, on appeal, acquitted the accused holding that even though Veena Rani
had committed suicide on account of her unhappy married life, there was nothing
on the record to show that the appellant in any manner instigated the deceased to
this Court, two special leave petitions have been filed, one by the father of Veena
Rani and the other by the State of Punjab. On behalf of the appellants it was contended that the High Court had
completely erred in its appreciation of the evidence and in its application of
the law. On behalf of the accused it was contended that even if the prosecution
evidence was accepted in full, there was no material to show that the suicidal
death of Veena Rani was abetted in any manner by the accused.
the appeals and restoring the conviction of the accused under s. 306, this
Rani's death was undoubtedly due to suicide and not due to any accident or
There is overwhelming evidence in the case to establish that Veena Rani's life
was made intolerable by the accused by constantly demanding her to get him
money and also beating her frequently. [620G] 614
Viewed in the background of Veena Rani's plight during the few days preceding
her death and the events that took place on the morning of the tragedy, the
utterances by the accused to the effect that she can provide him relief quicker
by dying on the very same day would have certainly been seen by Veena Rani as
an instigation to her to commit suicide. [621D; 622B]
mother, however distressed and frustrated, would easily make up her mind to
leave her young child in the lurch and commit suicide unless she had been
goaded to do so by someone close to her [622B-C]
When the evidence is of so compulsive and telling in nature against the
accused, the High Court, it is regretted to say, has dealt with the matter in a
somewhat superficial manner and acquitted the accused on the basis of imaginary
premises. The High Court has failed to comprehend the evidence in its full
conspectus and instead has whittled down the evidence by specious reasoning.
to what constitutes instigation would depend upon the facts of each case.
Therefore, in order to decide whether a person has abetted by instigation the
commission of an offence or not, the act of abetment has to be judged in the
conspectus of the entire evidence in the case. The act of abetment attributed
to an accused is not to be viewed or tested in isolation. [627A-B]
Such being the case, the instigative effect of the words used by the accused
must be judged on the basis of the distraught condition to which the accused
had driven Veena Rani. [627B-C]
the instant case, the abetment of the commission of suicide by Veena Rani is
clearly due to instigation and would therefore fail under the first clause of
section 107, IPC. [626E-F]
The degradation of society due to the pernicious system of dowry and the
unconscionable demands made by greedy and unscrupulous husbands and their
parents and relatives resulting in an alarming number of suicidal and dowry
deaths of women has shocked the Legislative conscience to such an extent that
the Legislature has deemed it necessary to provide additional provisions of
law, procedural as well as substantive, to combat the evil and has consequently
introduced Sections 113A and 113B in the Indian Evidence Act, and section 498A
and 304B in the Indian Penal Code. [627E-G] 615
It is not a case where Veena Rani had wanted to commit suicide for reasons of
her own and the accused had facilitated her in the commission of suicide, as
would attract Explanation II to Section 107 IPC. [626A] Sri Ram v. State of U.P.,  2 SCR 622; distinguished.
Taking all factors into consideration including the fact that more than 11
years have elapsed since the High Court acquitted the accused and the accused
is now leading a settled life, the Court considered the plea of leniency, and
while restoring the conviction of the accused under section 306 modified the
sentence to the period already undergone and enhanced the fine to Rs.20,000,
out of which Rs. 18,000 were to be given to the father of the deceased for
being utilised for the maintenance of Veena Rani's son. [628E]
APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 477 of 1978.
the Judgment and Order dated 23.11.1977 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Criminal Revision No. 880 of
Appeal No. 288 of 1989.
the Judgment and Order dated 23.11. 1977 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Crl. A. No. 670 of 1976.
and J.K. Nayyar for the Appellant in Crl. Appeal No. 477 of 1978.
and R.S. Suri for the Appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 288 of 1989.
Mehta, Dhuru Mehta and Atul Handa for the Respondent.
Judgment of the Court was delivered by:
J. Appeal No. 477 of 1978 by Special Leave and Appeal No. 288 of 1989 by
Special Leave arising out of Special Leave (Crl.) Petition No. 250 of 1980 are
directed against a judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Criminal
Appeal No. 670 of 1976 616 whereunder a learned single Judge of the High Court
had set aside the conviction of respondent Prem Chand and acquitted him of the
charge under Section 306 I.P.C. The former appeal has been filed by the father
of the deceased Veena Rani while the latter appeal has been filed by the State
of Punjab. The facts of the case are in brief
Veena Rani who died of burn injuries on 15.9. 1975 was married to the
respondent Prem Chand (hereinafter referred to as accused) in the year 1973. Veena
Rani, who had passed the M.A. and B .Ed. degree examinations was employed in
the State Bank of Patiala and was earning about Rs. 600 to
700 per month. The accused, who had obtained a degree in law was a prosecuting
Sub-Inspector and soon after marriage he resigned his job and set up practice
in his native place Sangrur. When the accused resigned his job and set up
practice in Sangrut, Veena Rani obtained a transfer to Sangrur from Patiala and the couple set up house in a
building owned by PW 5 Krishan Dutt. From the very beginning Veena Rani had an
unhappy married life because of the accused constantly demanding her to get
more money from her parent's house. Even though the accused had joined the
office of a senior advocate by name Shri O.P. Singhal, his earnings were meager
and consequently the house-hold expenses were borne by her from out of her
salary. Besides tormenting Veena Rani to get more money from her parents, the
accused was also given to beating her frequently. Veena Rani complained to her
parents, brother and brother-in-law about the cruel treatment meted out to her
by the accused.
PW 4 Shanti
Devi and PW 14 Khem Chand, the mother and brother respectively of Veena Rani
and PW 17 Kuldip Rai, her brother-in-law have deposed about Veena Rani telling
them about the accused iII-treating her and physically assaulting her. Apart
from them, PW 5 Krishan Dutt, the landlord has also testified that the accused
was in the habit of beating Veena Rani and that on hearing her cries he used to
intervene and advise the accused to stop beating her. Since the accused did not
mend his ways and continued his beatings of Veena Rani. PW 5 Krishan Dutt asked
the accused to vacate his house.
conceived and gave birth to a male child. But even after the child birth, the
accused did not stop iIItreating her. Unable to bear the iII-treatment, Veena Rani
took leave on loss of pay and went away to her parent's house at Patiala. The separation had no effect on
the accused and hence Veena Rani filed an application under Section 9 of the
Hindu Marriage Act in the Court at Patiala for restitution of conjugal rights. As a counter move, the accused also
filed a 617 similar petition in the Court at Sangrur. However, the enquiry of
that petition was stayed by the Senior Sub Judge, Sangfur till the disposal of
the earlier petition filed by Veena Rani at Patiala. At that stage of matters, Shri O.P. Singhal, who was acting as the
counsel for the accused and PW 9 Shri Hari Om, another advocate at Sangrut who
was appearing for Veena Rani brought about a compromise between the parties and
in terms thereof Veena Rani came back to Sangrur to live with the accused. The
re-union, however, took place only after the accused's counsel Shri O.P. Singhal
had personally assured that their would be no danger to Veena Rani's life at
the hands of the accused.
time, the parties set up residence in a house belonging to PW 12 Nathu Ram.
Nothing changed, however because the accused started tormenting Veena Rani
almost from the day of re-union for money and continued beating her. PW 12 Nathu
Ram was a witness to the accused quarrelling with Veena Rani and beating her.
The immediate provocation for the accused stepping up his iII-treatment of Veena
Rani was his purchase of a scooter for Rs.3,500 from one A.N. Jindal. The
accused was able to obtain only Rs.2,500 from his father for buying the scooter
and for the balance amount of Rs. 1,000 he asked Veena Rani to get tile same
from her parents. Veena Rani had no funds of her own because she had been on
leave on loss of pay for several months and had joined duty at the Bank only on
13.8.1975. She was in a fix and therefore she wrote a letter on 10.9.75 to her
brother PW 14 Khem Chand as under:
brother, the day I came here he is asking for Rs. one thousand from the same
day to repay the loan of the scooter. He does not pay any expenses which are
required by me. Because I will receive my pay only on 26th September and all
things are as they were before." Again just one day before her death i.e.
14.9.1975, she wrote to her mother PW-4 Shanti Devi a pathetic letter as
I was to come to see Saroj in the evening but there is a quarrel in the house.
I have no money, if I have any requirement I must fulfil myself, otherwise no
alternative than to go on weeping and crying.
he is saying that I am to repay the loan of Rs. 1,000 and I am to pay Rs. 100
for the house rent. Dear mother, you know it very well that I have not received
my pay. It is therefore I am unable to pay anything for the household expenses.
It is therefore, I am in a very bad condition at my house. I do not understand
what to do. Whenever I talk to go to any 618 place, the same day there is an uproar
in the house and he does not turn up till 12.00 in the night and unhealthy
atmosphere develops in the house. Dear mother, please send me Rs. 1,000
immediately through Bhupinder. Dear mother, I am very sad on this account and
unhappy. The whole day I remain weaping.
(the child) is alright. You do not worry but please send me Rs. 1,000
immediately." In spite of Veena Rani, writing to her brother and mother
for a sum of Rs. 1,000 being sent immediately, the accused did not relent in
his insistence for immediate compliance of his demand. This led to a quarrel
between the husband and wife on the 15th morning and thereupon both of them
went to the house of PW-9 Shri Hari Om at 6.30 a.m.
After-PW-9 Shri Hari Om woke up, he made enquiries and Veena Rani told him that
the accused was "demanding money from her and annoying her on that
account" in spite of her telling him that she had written letters to her
brother and mother. He advised the accused not to torment Veena Rani for money
but in spite of it the accused said he wanted immediate payment of the sum of
Rs.1,000. The accused went to the extent of saying that Veena Rani can go to
hell but he should get his sum of Rs.1,000 forthwith. Veena Rani reacted by
saying that because of the accused quarrelling with her every day over the
payment of money, she preferred death to life in this world. The accused, far
from expressing regret for his conduct, drove her to despair by further saying
that she can provide him relief quicker by dying on the very same day and that
she need not postpone her death to the next day. PW-9 Shri Hari Om then sent
the parties home saying that the matter can be talked over in the evening.
things had gone to such a pitch the accused and Veena Rani left the house of
PW-9 Hari Om at about 9.00
a.m. and went back to
their house. After leaving Veena Rani in the house, the accused went to the
Court. At about 10.15
a.m. PW-12 Nathu Ram
was informed by one Keemat Rai, advocate that shrieks were heard coming from
the house occupied by the accused and .Veena Rani. Both of them rushed to the
house and saw Veena Rani lying on the ground with extensive burn injuries on
her body. At once PW-12 Nathu Ram rushed on his bicycle to the Court and
informed the accused and 11 D.K. Jindal, about Veena Rani having sustained burn
injuries Thereupon all of them came to the house and the accused with the help
of PW-11 D.K. Jindal removed Veena Rani to the Civil Hospital at Sangrut. FW-9 Hari
Om on coming to know of Veena Rani having 619 sustained burn injuries, had
information sent to PW17 Kuldip Rai and also made arrangements for a phone
message being given to the parents of Veena Rani at Patiala. Thereafter he went to the hospital
but by then Veena Rani had died.
was seen by Dr. B.R. Dular at the hospital at 10.45 a.m. and the doctor found
her to have sustained severe burns and to be in a state of shock. Veena Rani
who was given treatment by PW19 Dr. J.K. Sharma told him that she had been
tortured at home and that she wanted to die as early as possible. At 11.30 a.m.
Veena Rani died. At the autopsy, it was noticed that she had sustained 19 burn
injuries. Her death was certified to be due to shock resulting from the burn
receipt of an intimation from the hospital entries were made in the general
diary and subsequently a case was registered on the basis of representations
made to PW-18, the Deputy Superintendent of Police by PW16 Kuldip Rai and
another relation. Investigation of the case resulted in a chargesheet being
laid against the accused under Section 306 I.P.C.
statement under Section 313 Cr. P.C. the accused denied having iII-treated Veena
Rani but admitted that he had asked her to give him a sum of Rs. 1,000 for
payment of the balance money for the scooter purchased by him. He however
stated that he had offered to repay the amount as soon as he received his
G.P.F., amount. He denied having told Veena Rani at the house of PW-9 Shri Hari
Om that she may go to hell and that she can put at an end to her life the same
day without waiting for the morrow. He has also stated that Veena Rani was of
an irritable nature and would get agitated for no reason whatever. Lastly, he
has stated that on coming to know of her having sustained burn injuries, he had
rushed home and taken her to the hospital to save her life but unfortunately
she could not be saved.
a detailed consideration of the prosecution evidence and the statement of the
accused, the Additional Sessions Judge, Sangrur, found the accused guilty under
Section 306 I.P.C. and sentenced him undergo R.I. for four years. The learned
Addl. Sessions Judge held that the accused had been tormenting and also
physically assaulting Veena Rani and that Veena Rani had committed suicide by
reason of the accused's instigation.
accused preferred an appeal to the High Court and a learned 620 single judge of
the High Court has acquitted the accused holding that even though Veena Rani
had committed suicide on account of her unhappy married life "there is
nothing on the record to show that the appellant in any manner instigated the
deceased to commit suicide." Aggrieved by the judgment of the High Court
the father of Veena' Rani and the State have preferred the two appeals under
R.S. Suri, learned counsel for the State and Mr. S.K. Bisaria, learned counsel
for the father of Veena Rani took us through the evidence in the case and the
judgments of the Addl. Sessions Judge and the High Court and argued that the
High Court has completely erred in its appreciation of the evidence and in its
application of the law and therefore the appeals should be allowed and the
conviction and sentence awarded to the accused should be restored. Shri S.K.
Mehta, learned counsel for the accused contended that even if the prosecution
evidence is accepted in full, there is no material to show that the suicidal
death of Veena Rani was abetted in any manner by the accused and hence the
judgment of the High Court does not call for any interference.
have considered the evidence and the arguments of the counsel in great detail.
The evidence brings out with telling effect the distressed life that Veena Rani
was leading almost from the day of her marriage with the accused. Since the
accused had resigned his job and set up practice as an advocate at Sangrur, she
got herself transferred from Patiala to a
branch of the Bank at Sangrur. The parties lived as tenants in a portion of the
house of PW-5 Krishan Dutt and Veena Rani was meeting the household expenses
from out of her salary because the accused had no income as a lawyer. In spite
of Veena Rani spending her entire salary on the household, the accused was
constantly demanding her for money and made her life miserable by frequently
beating her. These matters have been spoken to by PW-4 Shanti Devi, PW-14 Khem Chand
and PW-17 Kuldip Rai. Besides them, independent witnesses viz. PW-5 Krishan Dutt,
PW-9 Shri Hari Om and PW-12 Nathu Ram have also spoken about the iII-treatment
of Veena Rani and their evidence has gone unchallenged. There is thus
overwhelming evidence in the case to establish that Veena Rani's life was made
intolerable by the accused by constantly demanding her to get him money and
also beating her frequently.
considering the question whether the accused had abetted Veena Rani in her
committing suicide, we must point out that 621 Veena Rani's death was
undoubtedly due to suicide and not due to any accident or homicide. When Veena Rani
had set fire to herself no one else except her one and half year old son was in
the house. Hearing her shouts PW-12 Nathu Ram and Keemet Rai rushed to the
house and found her lying on the ground with burn injuries. The accused was at
once informed in the court and he removed her to the hospital along with
others. Despite treatment, she succumbed to her injuries by about 11.30 a.m.
The autopsy revealed that her death was due to severe shock resulting from the
burn injuries sustained by her. In such circumstance, the suicidal death of Veena
Rani is an incontrovertible factor.
crucial question for consideration is whether Veena Rani put an end to her life
of her own will and volition or whether her committing suicide had been abetted
in any manner by the accused.
determine this question, we must see the plight of Veena Rani during the few
days preceding her death and the events which had taken place on the morning of
15.9.75 itself. It is an admitted fact that the accused was wanting a sum of Rs.
1,000 for paying the balance of sale price for the scooter purchased by him and
that he was demanding Veena Rani to get him the amount from her parents. The
accused has himself admitted in his statement under Section 313 Cr. P.C.
fact but has stated that he wanted it only as a loan and not as a gift. Besides
the letter, (annexure 3) written by Veena Rani to her brother and mother
respectively throw considerable light on the matter. In the letter to the
brother dated 10.9.75, Veena Rani has stated that even on the day she came to Sangrur
the accused began demanding a sum of Rs. 1,000 for being paid for the scooter
purchased by him. The accused would not wait and hence she had again to write a
letter to her mother on 14.9.75. Therein she has stated that she was in a very
bad condition and that her mother should send her Rs. 1,000 immediately. These
two letters written in quick succession reveal fully the amount of pressure the
accused must have been applying on Veena Rani to get him a sum of Rs. 1,000. So
constant should have been his demand for money that on the morning of 15-9-75 even at about 6.30 or 7 a.m. the accused and Veena Rani had to go to the house of PW-9 Shri
Hari Om to seek a solution.
in front of PW-9 Shri Hari Om, the accused had insisted that Veena Rani should
get him a sum of Rs. 1,000 forthwith.
Rani pleaded inability to make immediate payment, the accused told her that he
did not care even if she went to hell but he wanted immediate payment. When Veena
Rani stated in despair that she had enough of torment and that she preferred
death to living, the 622 accused added fuel to fire by saying that she may put
an end to her life the very same day and she need not wait till the next day to
quit this world. Such an utterance by the accused would have certainly been
seen by Veena Rani as an.
to her to commit suicide. Otherwise, she would not have set fire to herself
within a short time after she reached home. One significant factor to be
noticed is that but for being spurred to action, Veena Rani would not have
,easily reconciled herself to forsaking her one and a half year old son and
commit suicide. No mother, however distressed and frustrated. would easily make
up her mind to leave her young child in the lurch and commit suicide unless she
had been goaded to do so by someone close to her. Yet another factor to be
borne in mind is that there is no evidence as to what transpired between the
accused and Veena Rani after they had left the house of PW-9 Shri Hari Om. The
only two persons who could speak about it are the accused and Veena Rani and
since she is dead it is only the accused who can throw some light on the
matter. Strangely enough, the accused has not said anything about it in his
statement under Section 313 Cr. P.C. He has not said a word that he had
assuaged the wounded feelings of Veena Rani before he left for Court. His
silence on this aspect of the matter would therefore mean that he had not
changed his stand subsequently.
now look to the relevant provisions of the law.
306 I.P.C. under which the accused was charged reads as under:
I.P.C. 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 I.P.C. sets out as to what constitutes abetment. The Section reads as
A person abets the doing of a thing, who-First. Instigates any person to do
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 takes 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
Explanation I.--A person who, by wilful misrepresentation, or by wilful
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.
(omitted) Explanation Il--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 of that act." The learned Additional Sessions Judge has in the
course of his judgment observed that Explanation-II to Section 107 I.P.C. would
also be attracted to the facts of the case.
relevant portion in the judgment reads as under:
when the circumstances attending this case are read alongwith the aforesaid
Explanation No. II given under Section 107 I.P.C., it is clear that the accused
prior to the commission of the suicide by Veena Rani, had constantly committed
certain acts and that has facilitated the commission of suicide and thus he had
aided in the committing of that said act by Veena Rani." A few lines below
the Sessions Judge has given his finding as under:
question of abetment actually depends upon the nature of the act abetted and
the manner in which the abetment was made. The offence of abetment is complete
when the alleged abettor has instigated another to commit the offence. It is
not necessary for the offence of abetment that the offence must be committed.
It is only, in the case of a person abetting an offence by intentionally aiding
another to commit that offence and the uttering of hot words by the accused to
his wife in the presence of Shri Hari Om PW 9 clearly indicates that the
accused had abetted an act complained of." From the portion extracted
above, it may be seen that though the Addl. Sessions Judge has observed that
Explanation II would have 624 relevance to the case, he has in fact awarded
conviction to the accused on the basis that the accused had instigated Veena Rani
to commit suicide and had thereby abetted the commission of suicide by Veena Rani.
regard to the evidence in the case, there can be no doubt whatever that the
Addl. Sessions Judge was perfectly right in holding that the accused had
instigated Veena Rani to commit suicide and therefore he would be guilty under
Section 306 I.P.C. A person can abet the commission of an offence in any one of
the three ways set out in Section 107. The case of the accused would squarely
fall under the first category, viz. instigating a person to do a thing. In such
circumstances, the need to invoke Explanation I1 does not arise. Mr. Mehta
contended that since Explanation II to Section 107 I.P.C. has no application to
the facts of the case and since the Addl. Sessions Judge has convicted the
accused on the premise that Explanation H is attracted, the High Court was
right in setting aside the conviction of the accused. We are unable to accept
this argument because the Addl. Sessions Judge: though he has referred to
Explanation II, has actually found the accused guilty only on the ground he had
abetted the commission of the offence by instigation.
the evidence is of so compulsive and telling a nature against the accused, the
High Court, we regret to say, has dealt with the matter in a somewhat superficial
manner and acquitted the accused on the basis of imaginary premises. The High
Court has failed to comprehend the evidence in its full conspectus and instead
it has whittled down the evidence by specious reasoning. To mention a few, the
High Court has failed to give due weight to the letter Veena Rani wrote to her
brother on 10.9.1975 merely because in the last line she has written "in
any way there is nothing to worry. This time everything will be alright."
This one sentence in the letter cannot efface the frantic nature of Veena Rani's
appeal for money to satisfy the demand of the accused. As regards the last
letter dated 14.9.75, the High Court has totally lost sight of it. The High
Court has failed to see that unless Veena Rani was very desperate, she would
not have written to her mother for money within four days of the letter to her
brother. As regards the happenings on the morning of 15.9.75, the High Court
has failed to grasp their gravity. Unless a serious quarrel had taken place,
the accused and Veena Rani would not have gone to the house of PW 9 Shri Hari Om
in the early hours of the morning itself to seek a solution to the problem.
Despite PW 9 Shri Hari Om counselling patience, the accused refused to relent
and insisted upon immediate payment of 625 Rs. 1,000 and made it clear that the
money was more important to him than Veena Rani's life and that if Veena Rani
wanted to die, she may put an end to her life the very same day and give him
relief forthwith. The High Court has viewed the accused's conduct and
utterances as of no consequence because PW. 9 Shri Hari Om has stated in crossexamination that he thought it
was "an ordinary quarrel between the husband and wife as they had been
doing so previously also." The High Court has failed to realise that the
effect of the accused's utterances on Veena Rani's mind should be assessed in
the context of the overall evidence in the case and not on the basis of the
opinion of PW 9 Shri Hari Om about the nature of the quarrel. PW 9 Shri Hari Om
despite his having been the counsel for Veena Rani, could not have realised the
effect of the utterances of the accused on the mind of Veena Rani. Furthermore
the High Court has failed to notice that the accused has not thrown any light
as to what transpired between him and Veena Rani after they had left the house
of PW 9 Shri Hari Om. The fact that Veena Rani had forsaken her young son and
had set fire to herself within a short time after reaching home will go to show
that she would not have acted in that manner unless she had felt instigated to
commit suicide by the utterances of the accused. The High Court, besides
unfortunately failing to give due weight to the evidence in the case, has drawn
certain inferences which are not at all warranted. For example, the High Court
has stated that since Veena Rani was an earning member, the accused would not
have stood to gain by instigating her to commit suicide. This inference is
totally wrong because the clear evidence in the case is that the accused had
placed greater value on the payment of the money demanded by him than upon the
life of his wife. Then again, the High Court has remarked that Veena Rani was
suffering from depression and a diseased mind and hence she would have
committed suicide. We are at a loss to know wherefrom the High Court derived
material to draw this conclusion. Far from there being any evidence, to show
that Veena Rani was having a diseased mind, PW 5 Krishan Dutt and PW 12 Nathu Ram,
have stated that Veena Rani was a woman of gentle and amiable disposition. She
was working in the Bank without any complaint whatever about her mental
condition. Even the accused has not stated that she was of diseased mind. We
are, therefore, more than satisfied that the judgment of the High Court suffers
from serious errors and infirmities and is therefore manifestly unsustainable.
Mehta relied upon the observations in Sri Ram v. U.P. State,  2 SCR 622
to contend that even if the accused had told Veena Rani that money was more
important to him than her life and that she 626 can put an end to her life the
very same day instead of waiting for the morrow, it cannot be construed that
the accused had done anything to facilitate the commission of suicide by Veena Rani
as would attract Explanation II to Section 107 I.P.C. We do not find any merit
in the contention. The facts in Shri Ram's case were entirely different.
question in that case was whether by shouting that "the Vakil has
come", Violet, one of the accused, had abetted the commission of the
offence of murder of one Kunwar Singh by the other accused persons who were
hiding behind a shisham tree and coming out of their place of concealment and
one of them shooting Kunwar Singh with a gun carried by him. Though the
Sessions Judge and the High Court had held that Violet's act would amount to
abetment of the commission of the offence of murder in terms of Explanation II
to Section 107 I.P.C., this Court held that "apart from the words
attributed to Violet, there is nothing at all to show that she was aware of the
nefarious design of Sia Ram and his associates." It was in that context
this Court observed as follows.
in order to constitute abetment, the abettor must be shown to have
"intentionally" aided the commission of the crime. Mere proof that
the crime charged could not have been committed without the interposition of
the alleged abettor is not enough compliance with the requirements of Section
107." In the instant case, we have already seen that the committing of
suicide by Veena Rani was due to the accused's instigation. It is not a case
where Veena Rani had wanted to commit suicide for reasons of her own and the
accused had facilitated her in the commission of suicide.
then urged by Mr. Mehta that since two views could be taken of the evidence we
should not allow the appeals and set aside the acquittal of the accused solely
on the ground that the view taken by the High Court does not commend itself for
our acceptance. We are fully alive to the position in law that where two views
could reasonably be taken of the prosecution evidence in a case, the Appellate
Court should not interfere with the acquittal of an accused merely because the
view taken by the Trial Court and/or the High Court was less acceptable than
the other view which could have been taken on the evidence. This principle will
however have no application where the evidence does not afford scope for two
plausible views being taken but still the Trial Court or the High Court acquits
an accused for reasons 627 which are patently wrong and the error leads to an
element of perversity pervading the judgment.
what would constitute instigation for the commission of an offence would depend
upon the facts of each case.
in order to decide whether a person has abetted by instigation the commission
of an offence or not, the act of abetment has to be judged in the conspectus of
the entire evidence in the case. The act of abetment attributed to an accused
is not to be viewed or tested in isolation. Such being the case, the instigative
effect of the words used by the accused must be judged on the basis of the
distraught condition to which the accused had driven Veena Rani. Full well
knowing her helpless state and frustration, if the accused had told her that he
set greater store on the sum of Rs.1,000 required by him than her life and that
she can die the very same day and afford him early relief, it is not surprising
that Veena Rani committed suicide a little later on account of the accused's
would not be out of place for us to refer here to the addition of Sections 113A
and 113B to the Indian Evidence Act and Sections 498A and 304B to the Indian
Penal Code by subsequent amendments. Section 113A Evidence Act and 498A Indian
Penal Code have been introduced in the respective enactments by the Criminal
Law (Second amendment) Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983) and Section 113B of the
Evidence Act and 304B Indian Penal Code have been introduced by Act No. 43 of
1986. The degradation of society due to the pernicious system of dowry and the
unconscionable demands made by greedy and unscrupulous husbands and their
parents and relatives resulting in an alarming number of suicidal and dowry
deaths by women has shocked the Legislative conscience to such an extent that
the Legislature has deemed it necessary to provide additional provisions of
law, procedural as well as substantive, to combat the evil and has consequently
introduced Sections 113A and 113B in the Indian Evidence Act and Sections 498A
and 304B in the Indian Penal Code. By reason of Section 113A, the Courts can
presume that the commission of suicide by a woman has been abetted by her
husband or relation if two factors are present viz. (1) that the woman had
committed suicide within a period of seven years from her marriage, and (2)
that the husband or relation had subjected her to cruelty. We are referring to
these provisions only to show that the Legislature has realised the need to
provide for additional provisions in the Indian Penal Code and the Indian
Evidence Act to check the growing menace of dowry deaths. In the present case,
however, the abetment of the commission of suicide by Veena Rani is 628 clearly
due to instigation and would therefore fail under the first clause of Section
light of our conclusions, the appeals have to be allowed and the conviction of
the appellant under Section 306 I.P.C. has to be restored. The question however
arises as to whether the sentence of 4 years R.I. awarded by the Sessions Judge
should also be restored. Mr. Mehta, learned counsel made a fervent plea for
leniency on the ground that more than 11 years have elapsed since the High
Court acquitted the accused and the accused is now leading a settled life and
that he and his family members would be ruined if he is to be sent back to
prison to serve any further term of sentence. Learned counsel also stated that
the accused has undergone imprisonment in connection with the case for a period
of about 10 months and, therefore, even if we are to restore the conviction, we
may reduce the sentence to the period of imprisonment already undergone. Shri Suri.
learned counsel appearing for the State submitted that the State was only
anxious that the error committed by the High Court in acquitting the accused
should be set right. He also added that in the event of the substantive
sentence being reduced, the accused should be called upon to pay a heavy fine.
all factors into consideration, we think that the ends of justice would be met
if we substitute the sentence awarded to the accused with the sentence of
imprisonment for the period already undergone by him and enhance the sentence
of fine from Rs.500 to Rs.20,000 with a direction that out of the fine amount,
if paid, a sum of Rs. 18,000 should be paid to the father of Veena Rani for
bringing up Veena Rani's minor son Manish.
High Court judgment is accordingly set aside and the appeals are allowed and
the conviction of the accused under Section 306 I.P.C. is restored but the
sentence is modified to the period of imprisonment already undergone and fine
of Rs.20,000 in default thereof to suffer R.I. for two years.
the fine amount if paid, Rs. 18,000 will be given to the appellant in Crl.
Appeal No. 477 of 1978 for being utilised for the maintenance of Veena Rani's
month's time from today is given to the accused to pay the fine.