Decriminalization of Attempt to Suicide

Decriminalizing Attempt to Suicide


By Priyam Jain,New Law College,Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune

According to section 309 of IPC:

“Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with a fine, or both.”

Before getting into the goodness or badness of the above section, let us have a deep insight into what compels one to commit suicide. After reading so many blogs on suicide I have concluded that it is usually not just one thing that compels someone to feel suicidal. It’s a combination of lot of things including: pain, loneliness, rejection, abuse, deep sadness, guilt, depression, helplessness. For a person who wants to commit suicide, the fear of unknown in death is less than the fear of living in pain for the rest of their lives. It is a ultimate pain-reliever for them.

Some people believe that since the life that they are ending is their own; and are thereby not harming anybody else; the law should not have any objections. It is further argued that since every individual has the right to live with dignity, he/she should also have the right to die with dignity. Also, today suicide and attempted suicide are no longer treated as criminal offences in many countries- which indicate that the central importance of individual self-determination   has been accepted.

But in India, the Supreme Court has held, “The right to live with dignity cannot be construed to include within its ambit the right to terminate natural life.”

The Supreme Court of India in P. Rathinam’s case observed:
“The principle is that the sole end for which mankind is warranted individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others… In the part which merely concerns him, his independence, is of right, absolute.”

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But it was in Gian Kaur’s case, which overruled P. Rathinam’s case , the Supreme Court of India held, “Right to life is a natural right embodied in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, but suicide is an unnatural termination or extinction of life and is incompatible and inconsistent with the concept of the right to life”.

However, a person who has made up his mind and is determined to end his life at all costs and regardless of all repercussion that his actions may have on those that care about him, cannot be stopped by law because he/she is going to end his/her life sooner or later.
Therefore persons contemplating or thinking of suicide are not in any way going to be helped, nor is the society at large going to be benefited by the provisions of the law- which seek to penalize such persons. What needs to be done is that the reasons forming the root cause of such suicidal thoughts should be ascertained and understood. And such persons should be given psychiatric and emotional help, instead of further penalizing them and adding to their agony.

Hence I strongly support decriminalizing of the above section.


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