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Need A Solid Precedent To Decriminalize Attempt To Suicide In India

As we all know that life is a gift of God and no one is entitled to end that life even if that person is the owner of that life, Suicide is a topic that is frequently discussed in our society. There are numerous papers, books, articles, and other information that address the subject. Suicide is a attempt of a person to self-harm with a intent to die or to end their life. Wide Range of illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and mental illness is the leading cause of suicide.

It is such a serious topic which need attention for mental health care but still in India it has been criminalized under section 309 of Indian penal code. Since 1967, the National Criminal Records Bureau (NCRB) of India has published annual reports on suicides in various states, Delhi and union territories. Their report showed that the suicide rate per 100,000 people increased from 6.3 in 1978 to 8.9 in 1990.

Subsequently, the reported ratio fluctuated, increasing between 2006 and 2011, reaching 11.25. Arya et al.6 used data from the NCRB to calculate the age-standardized suicide rate in 2001-2013. In the past 13 years, the male incidence rate has been approximately 14 per 100,000, while the feminine incidence has decreased from 9 to 7 per 100,000. The NCRB reported that the entire number of suicides in India in 2015 was 133,623, a rate of 10.6 per 100,000 people and a male to female ratio of 2.2.

Attempt to suicide - Indian scenario
The Indian criminal law which is Indian penal code was drafted in the year of 1860 under Thomas Babington Macaulay and this was enacted in British ruled India in 1862. This law lasted in India for 150 years without any major Amendments but now there is a need for changes and amends in the current law of Indian penal code, just like we have abolished section 377 in India which talked about criminalizing any carnal intercourse by men, women and animal.

Article 21 of Indian constitution which talks about:
"No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty expect procedure established by law".

As Indian constitution gives right to life and personal liberty, but suicide is a criminal offence under section 309 of Indian penal code

Section 309 of Indian penal code contains "Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both."

There were several questions raised on the existence of section 309 of IPC. First, why suicide was still criminalized In India when the English law from where we took this law has abolished it in 1960? second, every other crimes in this category include those committed to the 'human body of another person,' and suicidal attempt is included in the same category. The act of attempting suicide is inferred based on intent, which is interpreted from the circumstances. However, in many cases, the intention is unclear or ambiguous. There are few supporters of treating attempted suicide as a crime against the state.

In the case of Gian Kaur V of Punjab argued that the basic principle of section 309 of the IPC violated Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which stipulates that everyone has the right to life. Therefore, based on this right, it has been further argued that if an individual has the right to life, he also has the right to take his own life. However, this premise was not well implemented, and it was immediately dismissed, arguing that the constitutionality of this argument could not be attributed, thereby rendering it invalid and void under the law.

On 7th April 2017 mental healthcare act 2017 was enacted with the goal of providing safety and much-needed relief to those suffering from mental diseases, which have now become as widespread as the common cold. Section 115 mentions the assumption of significant stress in the case of a suicide attempt, regardless of the prohibitions of section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, anyone who attempts suicide is presumed, unless otherwise proven, to be under severe mental distress and stress, and hence is not liable to any penalty.

It is the responsibility of the government to offer care, therapy, and rehabilitation to the people who is suffering from severe stress and attempted suicide. This is done in order to minimize the chances of a suicide attempt occurring again.

Despite the fact that the preceding two sections make it appear that Section 309 has been effectively repealed, this has not been the case. The restrictions imposed on the use of this section under the provisions of the mental care

health act, as opposed to the section being removed entirely from the statute, do not appear to be sufficient, owing to ongoing reports of its use by police forces across the country. Many senior police officers have also acknowledged that there is a significant lack of understanding of the relatively new Mental health care act among officers at the police station level, and they're more likely to rely on the provisions of Section 309 of the Indian penal code instead.

But the fact is that charges under section 309 of Indian penal code often gets drop on the basis of mental Healthcare Act As a result, even if the Section has not been deleted entirely from the legislation, the MHCA nevertheless provides safeguards for this Act.

Attempt to suicide - International scenario
Suicide and parasuicide approaches have been researched by many workers in their individual jobs. Much research on the shifting patterns in suicide have been done, and the current situation has been compared to the past. A global overview of suicide methods and shifting patterns has been presented below

Countries who decriminalization attempted suicide


The act of suicide has not been criminalized in the penal law of the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, no one is Allowed to ask another to kill him/her. In addition, threatening to kill oneself is not an offense by the law, however if this act of threatening is done by a prisoner in a prison, then that would be considered as violation of the prisons 'regulations and the offender may be punished according to penal law. In IRAN suicide has been a growing a concern more than 13 people commit suicide in Iran every day the suicide trend in IRAN has been seen increasingly in teenagers


Suicide mortality rate was reported at 4.6 % in 2019, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.
Bhutan: crude suicide rate 2015 | Statista


Suicide in Australia has been legal euthanasia was legalized in Australia's Northern Territory, by the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. It passed the Northern Territory Parliament by a vote of 15 to 10. In August 1996 a repeal bill was brought before the Parliament but was defeated by 14 votes to 11 physician legal suicide is Legal, except for New South Wales, Northern Territory and Queensland voluntary euthanasia Legal in the state of Western Australia
Suicide in Australia: 6 Startling Facts


Switzerland had a suicide rate of 10.7 per 100,000 as of 2015. The actual rate was 12.5 (male 18.5, female 6.6) in 2014. Suicide is legal in Switzerland Physician aasisted suicide is also legal in Switzerland

Countries who criminalized attempted suicide
Asian countries like Japan´┐Ż China, North Korea has criminalized suicide.
  1. Japan:

    committing suicide is illegal in Japan in any way, but it is not punishable by the law. Assisted suicide is also illegal in Japan and anyone found assisting the person who is committing the suicide can be punished
  2. China:

    any kind of suicide is illegal in Japan and any form of assisted suicide is also punishable by law many individuals and teenagers have also protested against the law and demand its change
  3. North Korea:

    north Korea has criminalized suicide although the state can't punish dead person, but the relatives of the dead person might be penalized.
  4. European countries which have criminalized suicide Romania, Russia
  5. Romania

    suicide in Romania is not illegal but encouraging someone to suicide is punishable by law by 10 years
  6. Russia

    suicide is legalized in Russia but inciting someone to suicide by threats or cruel remarks is illegal

Psychological Reason For Decriminalizing Suicide

There had been many psychological reasons and views on decriminalizing suicide. Many jurists, society and culture Has criticized the act of suicide and called it as an act of coward, weakness, selfish etc. which is true, but many people are opposing the punishment for the act of suicide. so, we are going to talk about the views and Reasons for decriminalizing on the basis of society view, jurist view, and World health organization (WHO) view.

Society View

Delhi High Court in State v. Sanjay Kumar Bhatia6, a case under section 309, IPC:
"A young man has allegedly tried to commit suicide presumably because of over emotionalism. It is ironic that Section 309 I.P.C. still continues to be on our Penal Code. The result is that a young boy driven to such frustration so as to seek one's own life would have 1985 CriLJ 931 escaped human punishment if he had succeeded but is to be hounded by the police, because attempt has failed.

Instead of feeling ashamed that such societal tensions exist that a young man (the future of India) is driven to suicide, society compounds its inadequacies by punishing the youngster as a criminal. Instead of sending the young kid to a psychiatric facility, it sends him to interact with criminals, The majority of supporters of this verdict have stated that punishing such a vulnerable individual who already is going through psychological and emotional hardship is inhumane. Instead of going to jail, the person requires rehabilitation.

Many people praise the move to decriminalize suicide since those who attempt to commit this "crime" deserve empathy and love, not punishment. Despite the fact that the majority of states have supported the central government's decision to decriminalize suicide under the Mental Health Act, section 309 remains in the Indian penal code, preventing the application of section 115 of the mental healthcare act

Jurist view
There were several case laws in which jurist gave their view to decriminalize attempt to suicide in India. they are as Follows:
  1. In 1985 Delhi High Court in the case of State v. Sanjay Kumar Bhatia held Section 309 to be "unworthy of human society
  2. In 1987 Bombay High Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Satpati Dubal held Section 309 to be ultra vires the Constitution as it violated Article 14 and Article 21.
  3. In 1988 Andhra Pradesh High Court in the case of Chenna Jagdeshwar v. State of Andhra Pradesh upheld the constitutionality of Section 309 and stated that right to life doesn't include right to die.
  4. In 1994 the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India (2-judge bench), Supreme Court upheld the view of Delhi and Bombay High Court and declared the Section 309 unconstitutional.
  5. In 1996 Smt. Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, Supreme Court (5-judge bench) again held the Section 309 constitutional and thus overruled P. Rathinam's judgment.
  6. In 2011Supreme Court in the case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India & Ors recommended Parliament to consider the decriminalization of Section 309 of IPC while laying guidelines of passive euthanasia.
  7. In 2022 simi CN vs. state of Kerala According to a recent decision by the Kerala High Court, decriminalizing the crime of attempting suicide under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a more compassionate and practical solution to the problem.

At the end supreme court gave the authority to decriminalize section 309 of Indian penal code to parliament because of which mental healthcare bill was introduced in 2013 and it was passed in 2017 but still after commencement of this act section 309 of IP C was not removed

World health organization view
Suicide is a kind of violent death. Suicide is a significant public and mental health concern globally, according to the World Health Organization's recent study, World Report on Violence and Health. "Do people have a right to suicide and/or attempted suicide?" asks the author of this article. The conclusion is that there is no universal answer to the question, although there are certain commonalities that affect problems of rights.

Treating suicide as a taboo, a criminal, or a sin, for example. Suicide requires a worldwide reaction so that it is no longer viewed just as a criminal, but as a multifaceted mental-health issue that can be addressed. Therefore, it there is no clear answer on right to die but it is clear that attempt to suicide should not be treated as crime rather it should be treated as a mental health concern and the accused person should be counseled by a psychiatrist provide by government rather than punishing him.

The modern doctrine law is meant to rehabilitate the accused person rather than punishing him for his crime. So, Punishing the person for the act of suicide is against the modern doctrine law.

Rehabilitation of suicide victim in India
"The relevant Government shall have a duty to offer care, treatment, and rehabilitation to a person who has severe stress and has attempted to die by suicide, to decrease the likelihood of recurrence of an attempt to die by suicide," according to Part 2 of Section 115(2) of the MHCA 2017.

The following procedures can be used by healthcare personnel in any hospital to handle a person who has tried suicide:
  • Step 1: Assessment and triaging in the emergency room
  • Step 2: Stabilize the patient medically and/or surgically by providing necessary treatment
  • Step 3: Medicolegal case registration, and depending on the severity, admission if required
  • Step 4: Mandatory psychiatric referral for required assessment (making a diagnosis and assessing the severity of stress and suicidal intent) and treatment
  • Step 5: Inform the patient regarding Section 115 of MHCA 2017
  • Step 6: Inquiry by the health team and police regarding Sections 108, 109, and 116 IPC
  • Step 7: Discharge planning and follow-up care with medical, surgical, and psychiatric teams as per guidelines
According to the MHCA 2017 recommendations, the individual can get rehabilitation that may involve medical, surgical, and short psychiatric interventions as well as aesthetic procedures, in addition to frequent follow-up care in the community. The focus should be on the patients' eventual incorporation into appropriate vocational, familial, and social rehabilitation.

It is insufficient to decriminalize suicide. To minimize its occurrence, a thorough health program is required. Furthermore, the stigma associated with suicide can only fade if the government and the social sector play a deliberate role in raising anti-suicide awareness. And section 309 of Indian penal code should be removed from the suicide law as punishing the person who is suffering from agony will not improve anything for him/her.

Let's all hope that the government doesn't really rest here and continues to make efforts in improving mental health in general.

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