Vs. State of Kerala  INSC 1637 (8 October 2009)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL No.1198
OF 2003 MANKAMMA ... Appellant(s) Versus STATE OF KERALA ... Respondent(s)
This appeal is filed by the accused Mankamma challenging her
conviction for the offence punishable under Section 306, IPC on the allegation
that she abetted the suicide of her daughter-in-law, Bindu. All the three
courts below have found her guilty of that offence. The first two courts had
awarded her the rigorous imprisonment for two years with fine of Rs. 2,000/- in
default to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a further period of six months.
Court while confirming the sentence reduced the sentence to one year rigorous
imprisonment and also reduced the amount of fine from Rs. 2,000/- to Rs.
The prosecution case in extremely short conspectus is that Bindu
was married to Prakasan, son of the appellant and it was a love marriage. They
belonged to different communities and hence the marriage was not approved by
the -2- parents of Bindu. So much so, Bindu ran away with Prakasan to get
married . The prosecution case reveals that there is one son born out of the
wedlock. Bindu was married in the year 1987 and was residing in the matrimonial
house with her husband and the accused. The incident in question had taken
place on 15.06.1989 i.e. just within two years of their marriage. On the said
day at about 8.30 a.m. it was reported by PW1, Vijayan that Bindu had committed
suicide by pouring kerosene on her body and set herself ablaze. On that
information Crime No. 189/1989 was registered.
was held and post mortum was also conducted. PW9, the Assistant Commissioner
took up the investigation initially and thereafter PW11, Sub-Inspector of
Police, Jayendran K., completed the investigation and filed the chargesheet
before the Court. In all 11 witnesses were examined by the prosecution
including the father, brother, sister-in-law of the deceased as also her
friend, Ameer Jan.
allegation against the appellant are that because of her cruel treatment to
Bindu, she was ultimately driven to commit suicide and that is how the accused
had abetted her suicide and had committed offence under Section 306, IPC.
be no doubt that all the three courts below have held the appellant guilty on
the basis of the evidence led before them. Ordinarily we would not have
interfered in the matter by re-appreciating the evidence as this court normally
does not go into the task of re-appreciating the -3- evidence. However, when it
is found that the evidence has been appreciated in a mechanical manner and
without proper consideration of facts and circumstances on record we in the
interest of justice re-appreciate the evidence. That has happened here.
Mr. Jayanth Muthuraj, Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
accused painstakingly took us through the evidence. Besides the oral evidence,
the prosecution also relied on two letters, one written by Bindu to her husband
and the other written by her sister-in-law to her and her husband. In support
of his argument learned counsel points out that Bindu after her elopement with
her husband Prakasan was not in contact with her own family members because she
had married into a different caste.
We were taken through the evidence of the relation witnesses and
it is pointed out from that evidence by learned counsel that insofar as the
evidence of PW2, Kumaran, father of the deceased is concerned he is totally silent
about his personal knowledge regarding the treatment given by the accused to
the deceased. In his evidence he asserts that about two months prior to the
death of Bindu when she came to his house she had told about the ill- treatment
by the accused since no money was given to the baby of Bindu. Very strangely,
this witness kept quiet and did not bother to even ask his son-in-law about the
treatment meted out by his mother to Bindu. He admits that -4- after the
marriage for almost a year his family did not go to the house of Prakasan and
they visited her only after about a year and there was no correspondence
between the family. It was only after the delivery of Bindu that for the first
time this witness seems to have visited his daughter and son-in-law. In his
evidence he concedes "I was told that the accused had created trouble for
not paying money but the in-laws and husband of Bindu did not speak to him
directly in this regard." We are not much impressed by the evidence of
this witness particularly because it does not pin point that it was only
because of the cruel behaviour on the part of the accused that Bindu was driven
to commit suicide. Significantly enough in his cross- examination it was asked
to him as to whether his son-in-law Prakasan used to take drinks and smoke
ganja to which he replied that he did not know whether Prakasan used to take
drink or smoke ganja. Silence of this witness and his not making any complaint
to the police or anybody else put the question mark on the credibility of this
The other evidence is that of PW1 Vijayan, who turned hostile.
However, in his examination in Chief, he significantly admits that on 15.6.1989
in the morning when he was in the house the accused came running and crying and
told him that she heard some noise from the top of the house and she also
stated that Bindu was not to be seen. This version would clearly go against the
prosecution. If the -5- accused had strained relationship with the deceased,
there was no reason to make a hue and cry about Bindu's dis- appearance.
Moreover, she could not have any reason for crying before PW1. PW3, Satheeshan,
who is the brother of Bindu deposed that 18 days prior to the incident when he
had gone to the house of Bindu, she was crying. On his asking repeatedly he was
told that she was beaten by her mother- in-law.
we would have expected the witness to react and to complain atleast to his
father. However, his father also did not say anything complaining against this
beating incident. This is apart from the fact that PW3 also kept quiet and had
not chosen to lodge any complaint with the police. He admits that though he saw
deceased with injury he did not tell this to any body. That is very unnatural
and should have been so realised by the courts below. The other unnatural
feature of the evidence of PW3 is that he never talked about all these things
to his brother in law, Prakasan which would be a relevant circumstance.
Insofar as the other evidence is concerned it is of PW4 Ameer Jan
who was the class-mate of Bindu. Her evidence has been used for getting EX-P2
which is alleged to be a letter written by Bindu to her husband, as she claimed
that she was conversant with the hand-writing of Bindu. In her
cross-examination, this witness admitted that Bindu had loved Prakasan very
much and she was under the impression -6- that Prakasan was the person without
bad habits and Bindu used to hate people who had bad habits. She also admitted
that after marriage Bindu had not told that Prakasan had bad habits and that
her life with Prakasan was very happy.
admitted that Bindu had the habit of becoming upset with any unusual incident.
PW4 does not appear to be helping the prosecution excepting proving the letter
which is EX P-2. We will consider that letter a little later.
The evidence of PW10 Thankam is the only other evidence of the
relation of the deceased. She significantly is the daughter of the appellant.
She only proved the letter EX-P8 written by her to both Bindu and Prakasan.
the contents of the letter. We will consider the letter a little later along
with EX-P2. In her cross- examination PW10 admitted that Bindu had never told
her that accused assaulted her and she understood that the accused was very
cordial with Bindu and Bindu was unhappy in the beginning as she had to leave
her house. Significantly this witness was not declared hostile and therefore
her version that the relationship of the accused with Bindu was very cordial
goes unchallenged. Considering the evidence of all these witnesses, it does not
come out that Bindu committed suicide only and only because of the so-called
ill-treatment by the mother-in-law. What was that ill-treatment, how often she
was ill-treated by the mother-in-law has remained -7- mystery and has not been
brought out in evidence of any of these witnesses.
Learned counsel then took us firstly to the EX-P2 on which the
prosecution has relied heavily. This appears to be in the nature of suicide
note or put it more correctly it happens to be the last letter written by Bindu
to her husband. The following contents of Ex P-2 are very relevant.
beloved Prakasan, You need not worry, you should look after my child better.
You have not done anything wrong but one thing is there, I asked you many times,
shall I serve rice? Shall I serve Tea? How many times, how many time I asked.
You have not even said yes or no to me. If you do not like me, you can marry
someone else, but you should look after my child properly, that is enough. You
do not like me for the last many days.
Now, I am
not required. I must get this. I had been told everybody in the past that I
should not go with him. My parents had told me, that he may leave me after
did not obey their words and came on my own decision.
Now, I am
getting this gift. I got my child, and now, I got a gift bigger than that.
Prakasan, you need not obey me, need not fear me, you can live whatever way you
like. When you came lat night, I would not disturb you by asking, where were
you. Now onwards, my disturbance would not be there.
not able to do anything due to my existence. So I leave according to my wishes.
Your mother is more horrible.
I do is wrong for her. You should not given my child to her. You can give my
child to Thankamma sister I know that she will look after my child
portion that we find in this letter against the accused is that the accused has
been called a horrible lady and that she did not approve of anything done by
the deceased. The deceased had also written that the child should not be given
in the custody of the accused. The letter clearly suggests that the deceased
Bindu was completely dis-illusioned about her husband with whom she had eloped
much against the will of her parents and further that her husband did not take
notice of her very existence and did not bother about her at all. Insofar as
the reference to the accused is concerned, the reference is by way of the
instruction to her husband that her child should not be given in the custody of
the accused as she was horrible. We do not think that this expression is such a
strong expression that the courts could come to the conclusion that it was only
and only because of the behaviour and the treatment of the accused to the
deceased that she was driven to commit suicide. This takes us to the other letter
namely the EX-P8 which has been proved by its author. When we see that letter
it becomes clear that Prakasan, the husband of the deceased had become a
This is a
letter written by a loving sister to her younger brother and his wife to mend
their ways. She had advised her -9- brother not to drink and not to start
humiliating quarrels and fighting. True, it is stated to the effect that the
mother should be comfortable and she should be made happy and the mother did
not know how to talk and all of them had suffered the pain because of the talks
of their mother.
the daughter is careful enough to write that it should not be taken seriously
and nobody should feel about it, and being the mother she should be ignored.
This witness has written in the letter that Amma may say something without
knowing consequence of the same. We do not think that this letter which has
painted the accused with black brush is sufficient to hold that she was so bad
and she ill- treated the deceased so much that the deceased was driven to
commit suicide only because of these factors.
In the matter of offence under Section 306, IPC we would expect
much stronger evidence than what is presented.
is that the evidence about what happens within the four corners of walls is not
available to the Investigating Agency. But in this case, very strangely, the
Investigating Agency has not proceeded against the husband against whom there
was a very strong suspicion. The Investigating Agency has instead made a
scapegoat of the old mother perhaps trying to rely on the age old concept of
bickerings between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. That is not the
universal truth. The courts below should have therefore in such a matter
appreciated the evidence with discerning eyes.
evidence should have been weighed with more care and the finding should have
been arrived at that for but such ill- treatment by the accused, the deceased
would not have committed suicide. Such would be the standard of proof in the
matter under Section 306, IPC. It is indisputable true that the court has to
appreciate the evidence with open mind and not being driven by the age old
concepts. Applying all these principles we find that the evidence falls short
of the required standard of proof. We are, therefore, not in a position to
agree with the courts below in so far as their findings are concerned. In our
opinion, the evidence in this case fell miserably short of the required
standard of proof. In that view we would allow the appeal and acquit the
accused. The judgments of the courts below are set aside and the accused is
acquitted. Her bail bonds are cancelled.
....................J. (DEEPAK VERMA)
October 8, 2009.