Author: Shubham Mahajan, IV year of B.A.,LL.B from Shoolini University, Solan.
Co-author: Pallavi Mehta, IV year of B.A.,LL.B from Shoolini University, Solan.
Although attempted suicide is a severe problem that necessitates mental health services, it remains a criminal offence under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. The essay examines the worldwide legal perspective from many countries of the world, explores the unintended implications of Section 309 IPC, and emphasises the necessity for attempted suicide to be decriminalised in India. The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, which is still being debated in the Rajya Sabha (upper house), proposes that attempted suicide should not be penalised criminally. Decriminalization of suicidal attempt will reduce the unnecessary stigma and avoidance of penalty in the wake of the act, as well as lead to more accurate gathering of suicide-related statistics. From a policy standpoint, it will underscore the critical need to create a framework for providing mental health care to all persons who attempt suicide. Suicide is banned in India because aiding and abetting suicide are both criminal acts that are punished. The constitutional validity of IPC Section 309 was challenged in the Supreme Court in 1994, and IPC Section 309 was pronounced unlawful under Article 21 of the Indian constitution: - Right to life. The court ruled that Article 21 of the constitution's right to life does not encompass the right to die, and that aiding and abetting suicide is an unlawful and criminal violation.
Suicide law enforcement
Historically, the legal status of suicide was unclear. Some kinds of suicide were tolerated, while others were condemned. The criminal law encompassed all sorts of life implosion, and the distinction between commendable and condemnable types of suicide was destroyed. The criminal law established a rule that according to the law, the lives of men are vital to them as well as to the State that secures them, and that the State owes its actuality to the insurance of the person's lives. As a result, the State protects individuals from ending their own lives just as much as it protects them from killing and taking the lives of others. In cases of attempted suicide, the courts have been highly sympathetic to the accused, both in terms of conviction and punishment. In terms of punishment, the court viewpoint has been highly fair and consistent with societal opinion and feelings.
Even after independence in 1947, India kept and preserved numerous laws made during the British Raj. Section 309 is one such example, despite the fact that the British government decriminalised attempted suicide in the Suicide Act in 1961. The Law Commission of India undertook to update the IPC along with other central legislation, and as a result, it proposed that Section 309 be repealed. “We are, however, definitely of the view that the penal provision is harsh and unjustifiable and it should be repealed”. It rather suggested a new Section which reads as “309. Whoever, by persistent acts of cruelty, drives a member of his family living with him to commit suicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of the term which may extend to three years, and may also be liable to fine” The repeal bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 1972, however it did not pass through Lok Sabha since the legislature was dissolved at the time, thereby killing the bill. Later, in its 210th report, the Law Commission proposed that "Section 309 be repealed from the law book since the provision is cruel, whether constitutional or unconstitutional." The crime of attempting suicide under Section 309 should be removed from the Indian Penal Code." "Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code stipulates double penalty for a person who has already grown tired of his own life and wishes to terminate it," it added.
Finally, the Mental Health Care Act 2017, which went into effect in 2018, reduced the scope of Section 309 without deleting it from the IPC. "Notwithstanding anything stated in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide will be assumed, until proven otherwise, to be under extreme stress and shall not be prosecuted and punished under the said Code," the relevant section states. India has recently decriminalised suicide attempts and regards the problem as one that requires therapy rather than punishment. The act's passage was not without controversy, and there was opposition to it. The following sections focus on the causes and arguments for and against decriminalisation.
Is aiding and abetting suicide a crime? Suicide attempts are no longer a criminal offence, and the survivor is not punished. As a result, section 309's scope is confined to section 115 of the Mental Health Care Act. The initial question that emerges is whether or not aiding and abetting suicide is a crime. Suicide attempts are the consequence of significant mental stress, which is not the case with suicide abetment. A person who helps another person commit suicide has a bad purpose, which must be reported and punished. If the purpose is materialised through threat, it is this ill-intention that causes great tension or anxiety. Abetment does not always imply pressuring someone to commit suicide, but rather assisting that person in the process.
The Indian court and parliament have both acknowledged the need to remove the clause, and multiple attempts have been made since 1970. In 1970, the Supreme Court suggested to Parliament that it consider decriminalising suicide attempts, stating that the provision had become archaic. It was eventually incorporated into a few parts of the recently prepared Mental Health Care Bill 2013, which was just brought to Rajya Sabha and is now awaiting approval before becoming law. Some experts believe that the Indian Penal Code should be modified separately, rather than as part of the Mental Health Care Bill.
Mental Health Care Bill
Mental health is an important component of overall health and is more than just the absence of mental diseases. In India, there has to be a discussion on mental health. In India, mental health is a widespread issue. There has been a tremendous increase in mental disease in India, where it is under-recognized. While there are several causes for this, one is a lack of understanding about the necessity of psychologists and treatments. The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), approved by the government in 2017, was regarded as an important step in assisting the millions of Indians in need. It seeks to protect, enhance, and fulfil the rights of those suffering from mental illnesses, as well as to place the onus on the state to provide affordable mental healthcare to its population.
Even if the planned Mental Health Care Bill becomes legislation in India in the near future, several concerns must be addressed in greater depth. According to Section 124, the individual may be immune from 'penalty' but not 'prosecution.' Because the assumption of the law is that the 'person with attempted suicide has a mental disorder,' the police can hold a person who tried suicide in prison and bring them before a magistrate.
A Magistrate has the authority (under Section 111 of the Bill) to order that any individual suffering from mental illness be transported to a public mental health facility for assessment/treatment for up to ten days. As a result, people who have tried suicide may continue to be hesitant to seek medical treatment following a suicidal attempt due to a perceived fear of institutionalisation against their choice.