Abetment of Wife’s Suicide under Section 306 IPC

Suicides lead to allegations on abetment

Every suicide by a wife usually ends up in allegations against her husband & his relatives, and consequent clamour for criminal action against them, irrespective of whether the suicide was abetted by them as defined in the law, or the consequence of the hypersensitivity of the victim or not.

The key provisions in this regard are Section 107 & Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act (IEA).

Abetment of wife’s suicide within 7 years of marriage

A man cannot be held guilty for abetment of suicide of his wife, under Section 306 of the IPC read with Section 113 A of the IEA, within seven years of marriage, unless there is cogent evidence of harassment or cruelty, the Supreme Court (SC) has said in Naresh Kumar v State of Haryana [2024 (1) KLD 427 (SC)].

The Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act (IEA) establishes the presumption of abetment by a husband and his relatives in cases where a woman’s suicide occurs within seven years of marriage when she has been subjected to cruelty.

Wife died soon after marriage

In this case, the wife consumed poison and died by suicide soon after the marriage. The husband was charged under Section 306 IPC for abetment of suicide. He was convicted by the Trial Court in 1998, and later the High Court dismissed the appeal, from where the case reaches the SC.

SC says mere demand for money is not cruelty

The SC, in the above case, held that the reason for suicide is not clear but mere demand of money from the deceased or her parents for running a business, without anything more, did not constitute “cruelty or harassment.”

The SC says the plain reading of the oral evidence of both these witnesses does not disclose any form of incessant cruelty or harassment on the part of the husband which would in ordinary circumstances drag the wife to commit suicide as if she was left with no other alternative.

The SC adds 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. In the absence of any cogent evidence of harassment or cruelty, an accused cannot be held guilty for the offence under Section 306 of IPC by raising a presumption under Section 113A of the IEA.

The SC says in this case, there was no clinching evidence of incessant harassment, on account of which the deceased was left with no other option but to put end to her life.

SC explains what abetment of suicide means

The SC recapitulated the legal position on abetment of suicide by citing many judicial precedents including Kashibai& Others v The State of Karnataka [2023 KHC 6194]. In the case it was held that to bring a case within the purview of ‘abetment‘ under Section 107 IPC, there has to be evidence with reference to “instigation, conspiracy or intentional aid on the part of the accused” and for proving a charge under Section 306, there has to be evidence with reference to “a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid to drive a person to commit suicide”.

Mens rea must be there in abetment of suicide

The SC says mere harassment is not sufficient to hold an accused guilty of abetting the commission of suicide. It requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide. The ingredient of mens rea cannot be assumed to be ostensibly present but has to be visible and conspicuous ( see SS cheena v Vijay Kumar Mahajan & Another [ (2010) 12 SCC 190] and Kashibai& Others v The State of Karnataka [2023 KHC 6194].

Presumption u/s 113 A is discretionary

The SC clarified that before the presumption under 113A is raised, the prosecution must show evidence of cruelty or incessant harassment and that the presumption is discretionary in nature, unlike the one under Section 113B (presumption regarding dowry death) of the IEA, which is mandatory.

The SC interpreted the Section 113A in Lakhjit singh v State of Punjab [ 1994 KHC 913], Pawan Kumar v State of Haryana [AIR  1998 SC 958] & Smt Shanti v State of Haryana [ AIR  1991 SC 1226].

Accused cannot be held guilty if the victim is hypersensitive

The SC adds that if a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive 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 court would not hold that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide was guilty.

Suicide note cannot be the basis of conviction

The Delhi High Court says, in Asha Rani v State of NCT of Delhi & Others, that mere mention of the name of certain individual(s) in the suicide note, stating therein that they are responsible for his death, cannot ipso facto be the sole basis for putting the accused to face trial or for conviction under Section 306 of the IPC.


In short, a close look at the legal provisions relating to abetment of suicide will reveal that abetment of suicide of a wife can be alleged or charged against her husband or his relatives only when there is clear instigation or urging on the part of the accused to force the victim to commit the act of suicide.

Further reading

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860
  2. Indian Evidence Act 1872