Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Did You Know ?

    If a person attempts to commit suicide but fails in his attempt then he is liable for punishment under Section 309 of the IPC.

    Section 309, IPC says that "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 with both."

    It is the only crime which is punishable in the stage of 'attempt' but nonpunishable if the act is completed.

    This provision was declared unconstitutional and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India (Right to Life) in the case of P. Rathinam Vs. Union of India (1994) wherein the Supreme Court declared this provision as void as (besides other reasons) it is cruel and doubly punishes a person who has already suffered a lot in life. But eventually this decision was overruled by Supreme Court in the case of Gian Kaur Vs. State of Punjab (1996). The Court rejected the argument that the right to live with dignity also includes the corollary right to die as and when one feels necessary on the ground that living with dignity may no longer be possible.

    Therefore the present position of law is that if a person attempts to commit suicide and does any ostensible or definitive act towards such attempt then he is liable to be punished u/s 309 of IPC. For example a man may buy kerosene and match stick, pour the kerosene on his body and light the matchstick. But he is not guilty of attempt to commit suicide. But the moment he lights himself, he becomes guilty under Section 309, IPC. Similarly if a woman runs to a well to jump in it & die and just at the mouth of the well people catch her. She is not guilty. But if she jumps and then people rescue her, she is liable under Section 309, IPC.

    The test is that if the relevant action would have led to the achievement of the purpose had there been no external interference, then that is the stage where attempt is said to be complete and irreversible. At that stage only an act becomes an attempt and the person becomes liable for punishment.


  1. Kinda obvious... if you commit suicide, you are dead - how can you be punished? But it is an interesting move; hopefully the suicide rate would go down.

    1. Ya, that's right. Thanks for reading Anupama

  2. Actually, this is quite sad.... a person who attempts suicide is already severely depressed.... jailing them makes no sense.... they should be put into therapy instead.

    1. That's why it is likely that the Court might set you free under the Probation of Offender's Act (just after rebuke and reprimand). It may not send you to jail.

    2. Well, lets hope so... a suicidal person needs support, not further oppression.

      Good post, though. Your posts are eye openers, I enjoy reading them. I like the way you analyze issues with reasons and esp. thru your conversations. Do stop by my blog sometime too! :)

    3. Thanks Ash. I did visit your blog. You have a very indulging and intriguing series of posts. My fav is "No country for women"

  3. Section 309 was in news few months back and I think after much discussion and debates and report of law commission Govt has now decided to delete it...
    Welcome news it is... :)

    Glad u brought this forward..
    Proceedings and all will take around a year.. but it'll be repealed soon

    1. But that 'll create its own myriad difficulties.

      That's a different debate altogether. Let's wait & watch.

      Thanks Jyoti for going through the post.

    2. of course it'll... which law in our beloved country doesn't :P
      and yeah its a different debate altogether... !!

      Though some countries does not treat suicide as a punishable offense... I think it should be punishable but a proper investigation of causes(which never happens) and proper measures should be taken to ensure that suicidal tendency is gone..
      and if person is in the process of psychological breakdown than he/she should be institutionalized...

      this is what we lack in our system.. !!

    3. That's why it's likely that most Courts would release a person accused u/s 309, IPC under The Probation of Offender's Act, 'cuz they realize that punishing the person would be rubbing salt on injury.

      But you see, the moot point with crimes is that each crime is a wrong against the public, that's why the system of punishment exists for crimes instead of only a system of compensation for the victim. Therefore, what on the surface may seem like an affair of one man with himself, is actually concerned with the society at large. If the State does not make suicide punishable, then it'll send the message that there's nothing wrong with committing suicide, which is unacceptable. Therefore I agree with your view that attempt to commit suicide should remain as a crime in our law books. But how you deal with the person concerned and each particular case, is what is really important.