The frequency of suicide are preponderance in India. The attempt in this year increases twice that of the previous year. Though ‘life is a gift of god’, and therefore he alone have the right to take it off. But nowadays people under high mental agony and stressful pandemics decides to end their life by means of suicide. In order to prohibit such an awful way of ending their life Indian Penal Code came with the provision of penalising the attempt of suicide. Where the suicide was not itself a crime. Person who commit suicide cannot be prosecuted only the attempt and abetment is considered as an offence. But suicide was an outcome of mental disorder requires psychiatric approach and not a confinement in jail. As a normal rule a person have the right to enjoy the life and to cherish the fruit of it till the nature intervene. And also such a person cannot be forced to live the life that he/she hates. This debate of criminalizing and de-criminalizing the provision made to punish the attempt of suicide were herein discussed.

KEYWORD: Suicide, Criminalizing, De- criminalizing, Abetment.


‘Life’ a wonderful creation of god have a multiple tasks which is started and ended in a multiple ways but quitted only by a way of suicide. Suicide from a Latin word suicidium which means “the act of taking one’s own life”. Indian Penal Code criminalises attempted suicide and its assistance. Section 309 of IPC states that whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of said offence shall be punished with a simple term of imprisonment which may extends up to 1 year or with fine or with both. The above said section was in controversy in many cases. IPC also punishes a person under section 306 who makes the abetment of suicide of persons stated under section 305. In the said offence intention was the essential element. Most probably suicidal case judgement states that it is not a crime. Here comes the word ‘died out of suicide’ in place of ‘committed suicide’. Because the crime was committed by criminal. The word crime refers to the infringement of others rights. Whereas in case of suicide there was no infringement of others right, there is no crime here.


Attempt to suicide may of many reasons. At the same time it’s the duty of the state to prevent such suicidal attempts. Person’s lives are valuable to them. In order to preserve such valuable lives a provision under Indian Penal Code was passed which criminalises such an act of attempting suicide. Presently the punishment upon attempt to suicide was waived off. And sec 309 was decriminalized. Such a situation is sought not to promote suicide, it is to help the people who is suffering from depression. Sec 309 of IPC was thus restricted by the Mental Health Care Act, 2017. Where it also stated that it’s the duty of the state to treat the person with mental illness.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said code”

The Mental Health Care Act provides its presumption on mental illness rather repealing Sec 309. It also does not absolve anyone from abetting the attempt to suicide. In Maruti Shripati Dubal V. State of Maharashtra , a police who met with an accident was developed with schizophrenia attempts to suicide and charged under Sec 309. The High court of Bombay declared that the attempt of suicide was the result of mental illness, it necessary to have psychiatric rather than confinement. In such cases imprisonment serve no purpose and in some cases it may even prove self-defeating and counterproductive. In State V. Sanjay Kumar Bhatia , the court declared that Sec 309 which has no justification have no right to prevail in statutory book.


The constitutional validity of Sec 309 was in debate for past many decades. The Article 21 of Constitution of India states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. The question here arises that the articles which states about freedom and liberty, includes right to life. Whether it includes right to die? If a man enjoys liberty of life what would be the reason for criminalising the act of attempt to suicide? Whether de-criminalising of such an act promotes suicide? Or sec 309 would be considered unconstitutional? The article 21 lays down a protection towards the encroachment of person’s liberty and personal life. This protection applies only in case of state and not the individual’s encroachment towards the personal liberty. The individual’s encroachment is dealt under Article 226 of the Indian constitution. Whereas it is clear that sec 309 does not violate the Indian constitution. At the same time Article 21 includes right to life. The right to life in sense complete meaningful and dignified life. It also means to survival or existence of life it didn’t mean to exist of survival. Supreme Court also states that in order to treat a right as a fundamental right it’s not necessary that it should be explicitly stated. With this view the inclusion of right to die under Article 21 will not be a valid argument. The right to life under Article 21 even interpreted in the hands of judiciary rightly so follows.

The first case that gone under judicial process is Maruti Shripati Dubal V. State of Maharashtra . The issue here is whether the person has a right to die. The verdict of the court includes that the Sec 309 was ultra vires to Art.21. Where art.21 includes implied right to die. This judgement was followed by the high court of Delhi in State V. Sanjaya Kumar Bhatia. These verdict was overruled in Chenna Jagadishwar V. State of A.P . Again two petitioners assailed the validity of Sec 309 of IPC in P.Rathinam V. Union of India where the court approved the verdict of Bombay and Delhi High court in deciding the ultra vires nature of Sec 309. Same Apex court with five bench constitutional judges overruled its verdict on P.Rathinam case and upheld the validity of Sec 309 in Gian Kaur V. State of Punjab . Supreme Court held that right to life does not include right to die. Because both are inconsistent and the act which dignifies the life will be included and not the act which extinguishes it. It also plays a role in the hands of legislative body. Based on this an amendment was passed with decriminalising the attempt to suicide in 1972 in upper house and not in the lower house because of dissolution in the year of 1979. In the year of 2017 the Mental Health Care Act was passed to decriminalise attempt to suicide, where this act defines mental illness and restricts the Sec 309 rather than repealing it. This act replaced its parent act passed in 1987.


Hunger strike till death is suicide by starvation. Where a persons decided to commit suicide by starving till death it is hunger strike till death. This step is taken for various reason. History, states that freedom fighters followed this mode of struggle to get independence. The question here is whether the person going on hunger strike has committed attempt to suicide? The answer to such a question is quite confusing because the person going on hunger strike stating that strike will continue till the persons death cannot be made liable because the person’s mind can change at the mid. And in some cases the intention will not be towards suicide but to the acceptance of demands. Until such strike leads to mere danger to the man’s life he cannot be made guilty for the attempt of suicide.

In case of Irom Sharmila Chanu , the young poet who was going on continuous strike for 14 years considered to be an attempt to suicide so she was arrested. Even after her release she continued her fasting. During her second arrest the verdict came decriminalising the attempt to suicide. So she was left with her relatives. Her attempt of hunger strike was not a mere decision of suicide it was for some acceptance of demand. So it was held that the government needs to provide her necessary treatment.


Euthanasia can be classified as voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Where voluntary euthanasia is with the consent of the patient and involuntary euthanasia is when a person was not in a condition to give consent. Such an involuntary euthanasia may amounts to murder where voluntary euthanasia may amounts to suicide. Such a voluntary euthanasia is identified below. Euthanasia or mercy killing means hastening death particularly of a patient suffering from continuous incurable illness on their own request. It is said that life is a gift of god. Every human have a right to live. That right to live was a natural right. As a member of society every human have certain duties towards the society leaving such duties and ending the life abruptly will be an awful end. Only nature have such right to intervene life. But on the other hand if a person if suffering from incurable disorder that it is not a humanitarian attitude to force him to stay alive. If a person willing to die leaving the obligations towards society will leads to crime whereas if he was in a state of vegetative life then he cannot be compelled to live. Right to life means living with human dignity.

Suicide is not permissible but mercy killing is permissible. Mercy killing is not the case of extinguishing the life voluntarily but accelerating the natural death which is already being commenced. This was a verdict in Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug V. Union of India .


India Penal Code cannot be addressed as a modern code in every aspects. It’s necessary to make changes with respect to modern scenario. Section 309 was decriminalized rightly by legislature. Thus in no cases the punishment serve the purpose. No deterrence is going to hold back those who wants to die either by loss of interest in life or self-deliverance. Suicide should not be promoted at the same time it is cruel to inflict additional confinement who is already suffering from mental agony and ignominy in failure of accomplishment of suicide.



34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All