The body of Cafe Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha was found in a river in Karnataka Wednesday, a day after a purported letter, written by him to the Board of Directors, surfaced. Could this be considered a suicide note?
Any document where a person has specifically mentioned that he is planning to end his life can be considered a suicide note. If the contents of the letter reveal that the person had been pushed to commit suicide by someone, the police can conduct an inquiry to find out if the person can be booked under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that stands for abetment to suicide.
The section stated that if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to a fine.
Under what circumstances can someone be booked under Section 306?
Section 306 is considered a difficult section to prove in a court of law. It is applicable if the deceased specifically holds a person responsible for the suicide. Recently, in the case of suicide by Dr Payal Tadvi in Mumbai, three of her seniors were arrested and chargesheeted for abetment to suicide as her suicide note specifically named them, holding them responsible for the suicide.
Is naming someone in a suicide note enough for an FIR against that person?
No. It has to be established that the person was deliberately harassing the deceased. If in the current case, it turns out that the former DG Income Tax, who Siddhartha has blamed for harassment was merely carrying out his duty as per law, he cannot be held responsible.
It has to be proved that the perpetrator went out of his way to harass the person to the extent that he/she had no option but to commit suicide.
What is the course of action when police find a suicide note?
Normally whenever a death has taken place, the police file an Accidental Death Report (ADR). If there appears to be no foul play after the post mortem report — meaning it was not a murder trying to be passed off as suicide — the police under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) can conduct an inquiry without registering an FIR initially. If prima facie the allegations in the suicide note or those made by the family members turn out to have merit, the police register an FIR under 306.
Does an FIR under 306 necessarily mean prosecution of the accused?
No. At times, if family members insist, the police may instantly register an FIR and take their time investigating before filing a chargesheet.
An FIR under 306 soon after the suicide may not eventually be chargesheeted if the police feel there is not enough evidence to prove abetment. The FIR under 306 registered after Mumbai based musician Karan Joseph committed suicide at Bandra in September 2017 has till date has not been chargesheeted.