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Author: Lipika, IV year of B.A.,LL.B(Hons.) From ICFAI University, Dehradun.


According to the World Health Organization, India has the highest suicide rate in Southeast Asia. Some of the reasons that influence a person's decision to take his or her life are depression, chronic ill health, fault, trauma, drug abuse, failure to pass examinations, and loss of loved ones.

In the understanding of a layman, an attempt to suicide seeks to kill oneself, here it can even be seen or called a failed suicide attempt, but this understanding is debated. But, we know that in the modern age there are many experts on the mental health issues and the whole cloud around them who called for the de-criminalization of suicide attempts and to remove Section 309 of the IPC.

Since the act on mental health, a continuous debate has been undertaken as to whether the act on mental health is fair in accordance with Section 309 of the IPC. Despite the fact that attempted suicide is a severe problem that necessitates mental health interventions, it is nonetheless classified as a criminal offence under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

If the Indian government meets the following three criteria, the death is classified as suicide:

• This is a death which is unnatural.

• The intention of death was born of the individual,

• There is a reason to end the person's life. The reason may or may not have been stated in a suicide note.

It is also important to note that in its 42nd and 210th reports, the Indian Law Commission has also recommended that suicide attempts be decriminalized.

Legality of attempt to suicide

In accordance with Article 21 of the Indian constitution, "no one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty unless the procedure laid down by the law is followed."

The constitution does not include the 'right to die,' although it covers the right to life or freedom. The attempts to take one's own life are not seen as being governed by the constitutional right to life.

Suicide help and attempted suicide are both illegal under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 309 states:

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.

The legal provision for attempted suicide is found in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. If someone is suffering from a mental illness or trauma, they should be provided reformative treatment rather than a punitive punishment.

Although Section 309 remains in effect, its application has been limited by the Mental Health Care Act of 2017 (enacted in July 2018).

The relevant clause of the new act states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts suicide shall be deemed, unless proven otherwise, to be suffering from severe stress and shall not be tried or punished under the said code”.

Cases related to Attempt to Suicide

There are two sections: one that advocates for penal provisions and the other that consistently demands that suicide attempts be decriminalized.

The court held "right to life is a natural right enshrined in Article 21," that those who prefer to enforcing the penal provision generally quote the judgment in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab (1996) but "suicide is an unnatural ending or extinction of life, and therefore inconsistent and inconsistent with the idea of the right of life."

Those who support this penal provision say that nobody should be allowed to finish his own life. "Right to Life" does not include "Right to Die" or "right to be killed" under Article 21 Indian Constitution, SC Stated in Gian Kaur V. State of Punjab.

Those who argue that attempting suicide should not be criminalized, on the other hand, cite Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra (1986).

Court mentioned, "For example, freedom of speech and expression includes the right not to speak and the right to remain silent. Freedom of association and movement also includes the freedom not to join any organization or move anywhere. If this is the case, it follows that the right to live must include the right not to live or not to be forced to live ", in Maruti Shripati Dubal V. State of Maharashtra (1986).

The Bombay High Court ruled in this case that Section 309 was unconstitutional.

The fundamental reason for the decriminalization of section 309 is that those who attempt to commit suicide suffer from serious stress or mental illness.

The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, was enacted after Parliament deliberated on the issue. According to this act, if a person commits suicide, he shall not be punished under Section 309 of the IPC. This act only applies to people suffering from mental illnesses. In the case of a suicide attempt, there is a presumption of severe stress.

If it is proven that the individual is not suffering from chronic stress or mental illness, he will be punished under Section 309 of the IPC. The Indian Penal Code Section 309 is not unconstitutional.


Section 309 IPC which deals with the punishment of attempt to suicide should be decriminalized. The IPC's section 309 dealing with suicide-fighting individuals was not only unsupportive but discriminatory.

In fact, the person who had already seen life as so painful and unbearable and the chances of gladness so slim had a further terrifying act to inflict suffering, that the person decided to take on death in order to finish life.

The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 seeks to solve the problem of stress sufferers. If someone attempts suicide, we have to move from penalizing suicide attempts to make those cases medically-legal and provide the person affected with psychological or mental treatment and support.

As the suicide attempt demands a reforming posture, a permanent solution is necessary, such as abrogating or striking down Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.


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