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English Release 22-November 2014
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Ministry of Law & Justice 21-October, 2008 17:42 IST
Law Commission Recommends Humanization and Decriminalization of Attempt to Suicide
The Law Commission of India has in its 210th report has recommended Humanization and Decriminalization of Attempt to Suicide. The report has recently been forwarded by the Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Justice AR. Lakshmanan, former Supreme Court Judge to the Union Law Minister, Dr. Hans Raj Bhardwaj.

The Law Commission had undertaken revision of the Indian Penal Code as part of its function of revising Central Acts of general application and importance. In its 42nd Report submitted in 1971, the Commission recommended, inter alia, repeal of section 309. The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1978, as passed by the Rajya Sabha, accordingly provided for omission of section 309. Unfortunately, before it could be passed by the Lok Sabha, the Lok Sabha was dissolved and the Bill lapsed. The Commission submitted its 156th Report in 1997 after the pronouncement of the judgement in Gian Kaur, recommending retention of section 309.

However, it is felt that attempt to suicide may be regarded more as a manifestation of a diseased condition of mind deserving treatment and care rather than an offence to be visited with punishment. The Supreme Court in Gian Kaur focused on constitutionality of section 309. It did not go into the wisdom of retaining or continuing the same in the statute. In view of the views expressed by the World Health Organization, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, France, decriminalization of attempted suicide by all countries in Europe and North America, the opinion of the Indian Psychiatric Society, and the representations received by the Commission from various persons, the Commission has resolved to recommend to the Government to initiate steps for repeal of the anachronistic law contained in section 309, IPC, which would relieve the distressed of his suffering. It needs mention here that only a handful of countries in the world, like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and India have persisted with this undesirable law.

The criminal law must not act with misplaced overzeal and it is only where it can prove to be apt and effective machinery to cure the intended evil that it should come into the picture.

In our country, attempt to suicide is an offence punishable under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 309 reads thus:

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.”

Article 21 of the Constitution of India enjoins that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court in P. Rathinam v. Union of India (AIR 1994 SC 1844) held that the right to live of which Article 21 speaks of can be said to bring in its trail the right not to live a forced life, and therefore, section 309 violates Article 21. This decision was, however, subsequently overruled in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab (AIR 1996 SC 946) by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, holding that Article 21 cannot be construed to include within it the ‘right to die’ as a part of the fundamental right guaranteed therein, and therefore, it cannot be said that section 309 is violative of Article 21.

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ST/-
(Release ID :43986)

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