Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code

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Rajput women burning themselves in Jauhar ceremony, during the siege of Chitor. From Akbarnama.

The Section 309 in the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for attempted suicide.

There have been appeals to remove the section from different sources. In the Gian Kaur Case in 1996,[1] a five judge bench of the Supreme Court of India had ruled that the section 309 was not violative of article 21 of the constitution of India. The law commission of India had also recommended removal of the section from the statute. A bill in this regard was introduced in the parliament, but was not made into law.[2] The Supreme court in 2011 recommended to Parliament to consider the feasibility of deleting this section from the statute.[3] Even though the section has not been removed, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and Rules under the act have effectively decriminalized attempted suicide with effect from July 2018.

Text[edit]

309. Attempt to commit suicide: 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.[4]

Decriminalization[edit]

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was set to be limited in effect by the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013.[5] The Mental Health Care Bill was introduced to the Rajya Sabha on 19 August 2013 and provides, in article 124, that "Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness at the time of attempting suicide and shall not be liable to punishment under the said section." It also provides that the Government shall have the duty to provide medical care to any such person attempting suicide. The Bill, therefore, does not repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, but merely provides the presumption of mental illness.[6][7][8]

The bill was referred by the Rajya Sabha to a Standing Committee on 18 September 2013, which submitted a report on 20 November 2013.[9] In its report, the Standing Committee had three concerns on this provision: firstly, that the presumption of mental illness would subject persons to 'mental health treatment', secondly, concerns about the consequences on Section 306 of the Penal Code, which concerns abetment to suicide, and thirdly, concerns regarding the "institutionalization in silencing victims of domestic violence." In response, the Ministry proposed amendments which would change the language of this provision to one concerning the "presumption of severe stress in case of attempt to commit suicide".[9] The Committee accepted this recommendation, noting that there was still ambiguity regarding the stage at which this presumption would operate.

In response to a question by Vivek Gupta in the Rajya Sabha on decriminalization of suicide on 10 December 2014, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Chaudhary replied that "it has been decided to delete Section 309 of IPC from the Statute book."[10] However, pending the passage of the Mental Health Care Bill 2013, Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was yet to be limited or repealed.

On 24 February 2015, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, said that a proposal to delete Section 309 from the Indian Penal Code had been sent to the Legislative Department of the Ministry of Law and Justice for drawing up a draft Amendment Bill.[11]

Attempted suicide was decriminalized with the passage of the Mental Healthcare Bill. The Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on 8 August 2016,[12] and the Lok Sabha on 27 March 2017.[13] The relevant provision of the Mental Healthcare Bill states, "Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code."[13]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Smt. Gian Kaur vs The State Of Punjab on 21 March, 1996". Indian Kanoon. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  2. ^ Jai, Janak Raj (2003). Commissions and Omissions in the Administration of Justice. p. 501. ISBN 8187498870. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  3. ^ Venkatesan, J. "'Time for Parliament to delete IPC Section on attempt to suicide'". 8 March 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Indian Penal Code". India Kanoon. Retrieved 2017-03-28.
  5. ^ "The Mental Health Care Bill 2013" (PDF). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Union of India. 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  6. ^ "After deleting Section 309". The Indian Express. 2014-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  7. ^ "Government decriminalizes attempt to commit suicide, removes section 309 - The Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  8. ^ Attempt to suicide no more an offence in India, Available at Learning the Law.
  9. ^ a b "74th Report on the Mental Health Care Bill 2013, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare" (PDF). Parliamentary Research Service India. PRS. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Decriminalisation of Section 309 IPC". Press Bureau of India. Government of India. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Attempt to Suicide". Press Bureau of India. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  12. ^ Attempt to suicide no more an offence in India, Available at Learning the Law.
  13. ^ a b "Mental health bill decriminalising suicide passed by Parliament". The Indian Express. 2017-03-27. Retrieved 2017-03-27.