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Report No. 185

Section 113A

This section deals with 'Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman'. It reads as follows:

"113A: When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative or her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.

Explanation.- For the purposes of this section, 'cruelty' shall have the same meaning as in section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860."

This section was introduced by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act 46 of 1983. the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Evidence Act were amended keeping in view the dowry death problems in India.

The section requires proof that (1) that her husband or relatives subjected her to cruelty and (2) that the married woman committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage.

If these facts are proved, the court 'may' presume. The words are not 'shall' presume. Such a presumption can be drawn only after the court has taken into account all the circumstances of the case. The inference would then be that the 'husband or relatives' abetted her suicide.

If there is no evidence of cruelty, the section does not apply. State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh: AIR 1991 SC 1532. In State of Himachal Pradesh v. Nikku Ram: AIR 1996 SC 67, it was held that in the absence of any evidence to show that the diseased was being harassed within the meaning of Explanation I(b) of section 498A IPC, the presumption under section 113A cannot be raised.

The Supreme Court, in State of West Bengal v. Orilal Jaiswal AIR 1994 SC 1418 considered the question as to 'standard of proof'. It observed that in a criminal trial, the degree of proof is stricter than what is required in a civil proceeding. In a criminal trial, however intriguing may be the facts and circumstances of the case, the charges made against may be in the realm of surmises and conjectures. The requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt does not stand altered even after the introduction of section 498-A in the Indian Penal Code and section 113-A in the Evidence Act.

Although, the 226 Court's conscience must be satisfied that the accused is not held guilty when there are reasonable doubts about the complicity of the accused in respect of the offences alleged, it should be borne in mind that there is no absolute standard for proof in a criminal trial and the question whether the charges made against the accused have been proved beyond all reasonable doubt must depend upon the facts and circumstances of the cases and the quality of evidence adduced in the case and the materials placed on record.

The doubt must be of a reasonable man and the standard adopted must be a standard adopted of a reasonable and just man for coming to the conclusion considering the particular subject matter. Reasonableness of the doubt must be commensurate with the nature of the offences to be investigated. Exaggerated devotion to the rule of benefit of doubt must not nurture fanciful doubts or lingering suspicions and thereby destroy social defence.

The court should be extremely careful in assessing evidence under section 113A for finding out if cruelty was meted out. If it transpires that a victim committing suicide was hyper sensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the Court would not be satisfied for holding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide was guilty.

The section has also been interpreted in Lakhjit Singh v. State of Punjab: 1994 Suppl (1) SCC 173 and Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana: 1998(3) SCC 309 and Shanta v. State of Haryana 1991(1) SCC 371.

Courts have held that from the mere fact of suicide within seven years of marriage, one should not jump to the conclusion of abetment unless cruelty was proved and the court, which has the discretion to raise or not to raise the presumption, because of the words 'may presume', must take into account all the circumstances of the case, which is an additional safeguard. See Nilakantha Pati v. State of Orissa: 1995 Crl LJ 2472 (Vol.3).

The legal presumption provided in section 113A clearly includes past instances of cruelty spread over a period of seven years (Vasanta v. State of Maharashtra: 1987 Crl LJ 901 (Bom).

The presumption, even if it is raised in a given case, is rebuttable: Prem Das v. State of Himachal Pradesh 1996 Crl LJ 951 (HP).

Having noted the case law and the problems which have come before the courts in the last 18 years, we do not find anything wrong in the section which requires amendment. While cases of cruelty and dowry death are rampant, a new phenomenon is the abuse of these provisions in some cases.

Some of these cases have come up before the High Courts and the Supreme Court. In some cases complaints are made against husbands in 228 spite of there being no cruelty. In some other cases, where there is material against the husband, the husband's parents or sisters living elsewhere or far away are all roped in. The result in some cases is that the entire case would fail due to over zealousness of the complainants or the police. But, in our view, the words 'may presume' and the requirement that 'all the other circumstances' of the case will provide sufficient ground for the court to deal with such false cases. We do not, therefore, think that any special amendment is necessary to prevent abuse of section 113-A.

In the result, section 113-A does not require any amendment.



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