'No formula for inferring instigation in suicide cases'

A few harsh words did not amount to harassment of a magnitude that could be treated as abetment to suicide

No strait-jacket formula can be evolved to infer instigation in suicide cases, which varies from case to case depending on the circumstance, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench of justices B S Chauhan and F M I Kalifullah refused to quash charges of abetment of suicide against a man who used to scold and humiliate his subordinate, forcing the latter to commit suicide.

The apex court rejected his contention that a few harsh words did not amount to harassment or cruelty of a magnitude that could be treated as abetment to suicide. The court was also not impressed by the plea that there was no “mens rea (criminal intent)” in his conduct.

“It is apparent that instigation has to be gathered from the circumstances of a particular case. No straight-jacket formula can be laid down to find out as to whether in a particular case there has been instigation which forced a person to commit suicide. In a particular case, there may not be direct evidence regarding instigation which may have direct nexus to suicide,” the bench observed.

“Therefore, in such a case, an inference has to be drawn from the circumstances and it is to be determined whether circumstances had been such which in fact had created the situation that a person felt totally frustrated and committed suicide.”
Anurag Singh, an engineer at a factory in Uttarakhand, committed suicide on October 7, 2005, as his boss and petitioner Pravin Pradhan used to humiliate him before other staff.  Singh left a suicide note detailing how he was harassed.

“He had also been forced to work continuously for a long durations, often 16-17 hours at a stretch.  Such harassment, coupled with the utterance of words to the effect, that, ‘had there been any other person in his place, he would have certainly committed suicide,’ is what makes the present case distinct from other cases,” the court said.

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