MENS REA MUST BE “VISIBLE AND CONSPICUOUS” FOR ABETMENT: SC

Setting aside a 2010 decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, the Supreme Court has ruled that to convict a person for abetment, “specific intention” to cause the victim’s death must be “visible.” The 1997 case relates to the abetment of suicide of a wife by her husband. The case was registered on the allegation of dowry harassment against the husband by the victim’s father. The accused was convicted for abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC by the trial court. Upholding the verdict, the High Court affirmed the sentence of 4 years imprisonment imposed by the trial court. Dismissing the findings, the Supreme Court held that in order to prove mens rea, required for committing the offence, it must be sufficiently established that the person’s actions were animated with a guilty intention and he had in furtherance of such guilty state of mind abetted the death of the victim. In the absence of direct evidence, indicative of cruelty by the husband or his in-laws, the accused was considered to be lacking the mens rea for committing the offence. The 3 Judge bench comprising J. NV Ramana, J. Suryakant, and J. Hrishikesh Roy emphasized that in order to satisfy the requirements of Section 107 of IPC, the state of mind must be “visible” for determination of culpability.

The bench headed by Justice NV Ramana observed that in the absence of incriminating evidence, “conjectures” cannot be drawn about the circumstances which compelled the woman to commit suicide. Accordingly, the charges pending against the man was quashed and set aside.

Reported By:

Lakshmi Raj C

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