The mere assignment of work to a subordinate is not enough to establish criminal intent on the part of the superior officer for the purpose of proving abetment of suicide, the Supreme Court held in a recent judgment.
This decision was rendered by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit, while hearing a criminal appeal from a decision of the Bombay High Court.
In this case, one Kishore Parashar, who was the Deputy Director of Education Aurangabad, committed suicide in August 2017, without leaving behind a suicide note. His wife filed a police complaint against his superiors, stating that her husband was “suffering from mental torture” on account of superior officers who were assigning her husband a heavy workload.
She alleged that her husband sometimes had to work twelve hours a day and would also get called in to work at odd hours or on holidays. The wife of the deceased also claimed that the appellant, Vaijnath Kondiba Khandke, had stopped her husband’s salary and often threatened to stop his increment.
Naming another one of her husband’s co-workers, Vidya Ghorpade, for allegedly getting her work done from Parashar, the wife held these two people responsible for her husband’s suicide.
Based on this complaint, an FIR under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 506(criminal intimidation), read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code was registered against the appellant.
The two accused filed applications under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) seeking quashing of the FIR against them. In due course, the FIR against Ghorpade was quashed, but the High Court dismissed Khandke’s application in its judgement delivered on January 23 this year. The judgement of the Bombay High Court said,
“The facts herein indicate that, there was no direct abetment and the applicants cannot have any intention that the deceased should commit suicide. Even when the accused persons have no such intention, if they create situation causing tremendous mental tension so as to drive the person to commit suicide, they can be said to be instigating the accused to commit suicide…..”
An appeal against this decision was subsequently filed in the Supreme Court. While the appellant was represented by Advocate Shankar Chillarge, the state was represented by Advocate Deepa M Kulkarni.
After hearing the case, the Supreme Court delivered its judgement on May 17. Justice Lalit stated in the judgment that given that there is no suicide note, the only material on record is the assertions made by the wife of the deceased before the police. Justice Lalit writes,
“It is true that if a situation is created deliberately so as to drive a person to commit suicide, there would be room for attracting Section 306 IPC. However, the facts on record in the present case are completely inadequate and insufficient. As a superior officer, if some work was assigned by the applicant to the deceased, merely on that count it cannot be said that there was any guilty mind or criminal intent.”
The judgement also notes that sometimes situations arise wherein a superior officer has to withhold salary of his juniors but that action alone “cannot be considered to be a pointer against such superior officer.” Thus, the Court observed that the allegations alone do not satisfy the requirements of Section 306 of the IPC.