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Republic TV promoter Arnab Goswami. (REUTERS)
Republic TV promoter Arnab Goswami. (REUTERS)

Arnab Goswami's case and criminal law on abetment to suicide in India

  • Abetment to suicide has been elaborated in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and provides for the punishment as well to control further commission of offences

New Delhi: Republic TV promoter Arnab Goswami and two others were recently remanded by a Mumbai court to a two-week judicial custody in a 2018 abetment to suicide case. The case has brought jurisprudence on the crime of abetment to suicide in public light. Abetment to suicide has been elaborated in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and provides for the punishment as well to control further commission of offences.

The death case of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput is also being investigated for the same crime among others.

According to the section 306 of the code, a person abetting the suicide of another person shall be punished with imprisonment up to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.

LiveMint spoke to some legal experts to shed some light on the criminal law pertaining to abetment of suicide and non-bailable offences.

“While dealing with the issue of grant of bail in non-bailable offences, the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down that the basic rule is bail, not jail, except where there are circumstances suggestive of fleeing from justice or repeating offences or intimidating witnesses and the like," said Shri Venkatesh, founding partner, SKV Law Offices.

"A person is entitled to his liberty even in case he/ she is accused of a non-bailable offence and the right of an accused person should not be dealt with by a court in a superficial manner. Therefore, unless the prosecution is able to establish that Arnab Goswami will meddle with the investigation, the court will have to enlarge Goswami on bail," he said.

In the Indian Criminal Justice System, the aim of arresting a person accused of having committed a crime is to ensure that he/she does not escape the rigours of law, when proved guilty or the prosecution evidence is not tampered with.

According to Salman Waris, managing partner at TechLegis Advocates and Solicitors, with respect to the law pertaining to abetment to suicide in India, while IPC lays down under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) whoever abets the commission of suicide is also liable to be punished. However, coming to the rescue of those accused, various High Courts in the recent past have said they cannot be held responsible for the acts of the weak-minded.

“In a recent judgment by Madhya Pradesh High Court under Section 306, held that “teachers cannot be liable for abetment if a student commit suicide. The Madras HC, too in a case having factual similarities to the Arnab Goswami‘s case has it was held “merely name of the accused mentioned in the suicide note the court must not jump to the conclusion that he is an offender under Section 306 IPC," said Waris.

“Sometimes, the decision to commit suicide might be taken by the victim himself/herself, unaccompanied by any act or instigation etc. on the part of the accused. This was in 2016 case of Manikandan vs State (2016)," he added.

Angad Sandhu, partner - PSL Advocates & Solicitors, explained that a person arrested cannot be kept in police custody for more than 24 hours and has to be produced before a magistrate. When Goswami was presented before The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alibaug, the court gave a categorical finding and observed that the police has failed to show a chain of circumstances which would warrant police custody in connection with the FIR filed over the suicide of Anvay Naik in 2018.

Goswami was arrested on 4 November from his residence in Mumbai for allegedly abetting the suicide of interior designer Naik and his mother Kumud Naik, directors of Concorde Designs Private Limited, for not paying 83 lakhs towards the Bombay Dyeing Studio Project.

“It is very likely to say that the procedure established by the Criminal Procedure Code will come into play and charges will be framed basis the FIR and a chargesheet will be filed in accordance with law so that a proper trial can be initiated against the allegations levelled against Goswami," Angad added.

On Friday, the hearing on Goswami's interim bail plea remained incomplete in the Bombay High Court and the division bench would continue the hearing on Saturday.

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