Reprimand of Student not tantamount to Abetting Suicide

Disciplining a student is not abetting suicide

The reprimand of a student by the teachers or authorities of the school for ensuring his discipline in the school would not amount to abetting or provoking him to commit suicide, unless there are specific allegations of deliberate harassment and insult without any justifiable reason. This is what the Supreme Court (SC) held in Geo Varghese v State of Rajasthan and Another (2022 (1) KLD 30 (SC).

A simple act of reprimand of a student for his behaviour or indiscipline by a teacher who is under moral obligation to inculcate qualities of a human being in a student would not amount to instigation or intentionally aid to the commission of the offence of suicide by the student.

Allegations in this case

The allegation in this case was that the nineth class student committed suicide due to mental harassment by the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) who was the member of the Disciplinary Committee of the school.

In this case, the student was bunking classes and was warned by the PTI who later reported the matter to the Head Teacher when it was continued. The Head Teacher asked the parents to come to the school on a specific day but the student committed suicide in the early morning on that day. In the FIR also, there was no allegation of abetment and the intention of the accused to abet the suicide of the student.

The student has left a three-page suicide note and it had a heading on its 3rd page referring to the PTI as Thanks to Geo PTI my school but there was no specific allegation of instigation to commit suicide attributed to him.

Suicide is no offence, but abetting is

Suicide is an act of self-killing. Suicide is not an offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) but an attempt to suicide is a crime under Section 309 IPC. The abetment to suicide is an offence under section 306 IPC. The offence of abetment is defined under Section 107 IPC.

To constitute the offence of abetment to commit suicide under Section 306 IPC there must be direct or indirect act of incitement to the commission of offence of suicide on the part of the accused which compelled the commission of suicide by the deceased.

If a hypersensitive person dies it is unsafe to charge abetment

If the student or person committing suicide is hypersensitive and the accused is not ordinary expected to induce a similarly situated student or person to take the step of committing suicide, in such a situation it would be unsafe to hold the accused guilty of abetment to suicide.

The SC added that examination of the facts which have a bearing on the offence including the surrounding circumstances and the psyche of the diseased is required to charge the offence of abetment to suicide on the accused.

Summing up

The SC held that if a student is simply reprimanded by a teacher for an act of indiscipline and bringing the continued act of indiscipline to the notice of the principal of the institution who conveyed the matter to the parents and if the student who is very emotional or sentimental commits suicide, the teacher cannot be held liable for suicide.

The SC highlighted that a sympathy for the disease and his parents cannot translate itself into a legal remedy of continuance of prosecution of the accused in this case.

Additional reading

  1. Geo Varghese v State of Rajasthan and Another: 2022 (1) KLD 30 (SC)