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Kajal Priya, Student, NUSRL RANCHI

Laws are made for the well-being of the people in the society, so laws should change according to the need of the time. There are two opinions with regard to Section 309 of Indian Penal Code. One view is that the state owe an obligation towards society for the well- being of the people, so it is right that penal provisions are attracted for a failed attempt to commit suicide . Whereas a second opinion is that a person who has failed in their attempt to commit suicide and then subjecting punishment will be like giving double punishment.


Life is a stage with one entrance but many exits”.

Suicide is among one of the ways to exit. The World Health Organisation has defined suicidal acts as “ the injury with varying degree of lethal intent and suicide may be definedas “deliberately killing oneself”. Attempted suicide are suicidal acts with non-fatal outcomes according to Wealth Health Organisation. The word “suicide” has origin from Latin phrase “sui cadere” meaning killing of oneself. Under Section 309 of Indian Penal Code,1860 attempt to suicide is punishable. According to the study of all the suicide attempters 93% were found to be mentally ill[1]. According to a study conducted by National Institute of Mental Health that 1 in 40 people are suffering from depression.

There are two opinions with respect to criminality of attempt to commit suicide as punishable.

Ø Firstly, by making attempt to commit suicide as punishable under Indian Penal Code. It is protecting the life of a person because state owe an responsibility to protect the life’s of people.

Ø On the other hand, Section 309[2] of Indian Penal Code,1860 is not rational because the person is already stressed and subjecting to punishment is not logical on the grounds of morality.

Section 309 of Indian Penal Code- 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 or for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both”.

Under Indian Penal Code suicide has nowhere been defined. Oxford companion defines it as “self -killing or taking one’s own life”.

The principle on which Section 309 of The Indian Penal Code,1860 is based is that it is the responsibility of the state to protect a person’s life.

For attempt to commit to suicide attempt has to be intentional. For example if a person due to mistake consumes excess of poison he/she won’t be liable under this section.

Arguments in favour of criminalisation of attempt to commit suicide-

Ø Due to terminal or incurable disease the person has moral right to die.

Ø A person is free to take their decision and therefore they can end their life.

Arguments which are against decriminalisation of attempt to commit suicide-

Ø According to Emmanuel Kant “man is an image of the God”, and they enjoy a special place in society and committing suicide degrades their position even below the level of animal.

Ø According to Jeremy Bentham , who propounded the theory of Utilitarianism “Pleasure and Pain concept”. According to him the pleasure of suicide is enjoyed by only one person but pain is suffered to family, society hence it’s wrong to commit suicide.

As attempt to commit suicide is already covered under Section 309 of Indian Penal Code so Section 511 won’t apply here. Section 511 of Indian Penal Code has application where no provision is made for the attempt of that offence in Indian Penal Code,1860.


According to the veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani- “If state is controlling life and death it is grotesque”.

According to Justice Markande Katju –“ The time has come to delete section 309 of Indian Penal Code”.


State v. Sanjay Kumar Bhatia

In this case The Delhi High Court opined in making Section -309 of Indian Penal Code as de-criminalised. The fact of the case was that a boy because of over emotionalism he attempted to commit suicide but could not succeed. The Delhi High Court held that sending the young boy behind the bars is not rational.

Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra

The Bombay High Court in this case observed that “ those who made the suicide attempt on account of the mental disorders require psychiatric treatment and not confinement in the prison cells where their condition is bound to worsen leading to further mental derangement. Those on the other hand who make the suicide attempt on account of physical ailments, incurable disease, torture or decrepit physical state induced by old age or disablement need nursing homes and not prisons”.

P. Rathinam v. Union of India

Hon’ble Supreme Court held that suicide has nothing to do with criminal instinct rather it is related to mental disorder.

Queen Emperor v. Ramakka

If a person due to loss of someone near and due to family problems attempted suicide and failed in it, can’t be punished. As the person needs consolation.



This report in the year 1971 recommended that Section 309 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cruel but abetment to suicide will attract penal provisions with imprisonment up to 3 years and fine is rational.


In the year 2008, the commission recommended-

1) Section 309 of Indian Penal Code is against morality.

2) The person who fails to commit suicide needs sympathy and not punishment.

After the Gian Kaur case v. State of Punjab, in 156th Report of the law commission recommended punishment for failed attempt to commit suicide.


In the case of Ram Sunder v. State – Accused was working in a hospital. He alleged that he has been suspended because of unfair discrimination and will go on a hunger strike. When his health degraded. When the matter went to the court the moot point was whether it was an attempt to commit suicide. The honourable Allahabad High Court held that it was not an attempt to commit suicide as he didn’t refused taking any nourishment. He was taking lemon juice. Hence there was no attempt.


The Lok Sabha in 2017 passed a bill regarding decriminalisation of Section 309 Indian Penal Code, 1860. This bill was passed on the basis that the person must be under severe stress and so requires sympathy. A specific clause in the bill mentions about the government will implement programmes which reduces attempt to commit suicide for people who comes under the Section 115(1) of the Act. Justice D.Y Chandrachud said the judgement in 1996 in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that right to life did not include the right to die, this judgement should be looked again. He further held that Parliament had enacted The Mental Health Act, 2017. In this act there is a section 115(1) which states 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 have severe stress not be tried and punished under the said code”.This is an exception to Section 309 of The Indian Penal Code.


The conclusion is that there is a stigma in the society regarding mental health and the need of the hour is to create awareness regarding this and punishment is not a solution. The requirement is sympathy to be shown to these people as was also mentioned in The Mental Health Act, 2017 for the stressful people.

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