Section 309 of IPC – Suicide

Section 309 in The Indian Penal Code: Attempt to commit suicide —Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year 1 [or with fine, or with both].

Supreme Court in 1994 put forward the observation that all fundamental rights have both positive and negative connotation. For example, right to freedom of speech also includes right to remain silent, right to do business includes right not to do business, etc.
“Right to life” which is secured by the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, SC in P. Rathinam case for decriminalizing suicide stated that former should include also the “right not to live a forced life” or “right to die”. But section 309 of IPC states attempt to commit suicide is punishable with simple imprisonment up to one year and/or a fine.
The Government has decided to decriminalize ‘attempt to suicide’ by scrapping it from the Indian Penal Code. The decision comes six years after the Law Commission of India recommended the repeal of Section 309 saying the act of taking one’s own life should be treated as a manifestation of “deep unhappiness” rather than a penal offence.
“Right to die” as deemed to be established by the decriminalization of suicide is based on idea that it will promote cause of humanization. As exercise of this right is central to personal autonomy and bodily integrity and considered as of the precondition of humanization.
Some reservations argued by specialist:
  1. India has the highest suicide rate in world after China and decriminalizing attempt to suicide will only increase this number
  2. Bihar government urged caution, saying suicide-bombers would no longer be covered and deterred by law.
  3. MP government believed that the repeal would dilute Section 306 dealing with abatement to suicide.
It’s obvious, logic of suspension of “freedom of speech” under specific condition established by law and “allow to die” under Article 21 are not the same. For example, if the sole bread winner of his family commits suicide, his family would certainly be driven to destitution and thus suicide doesn’t remain a private affair.
Thus, decriminalizing suicide is a complex issue considering the unique socio-cultural conditions of India. We should find better options by wide public and parliamentary debate to smooth this issue.
In 1994 the Supreme Court gave a verdict that all fundamental rights had positive as well as negative connotations. Can the same logic be applied to ―Right to Life ? Critically examine in the light of Government’s recent decision to decriminalize section 309 of IPC which makes Suicide a criminal offence. (200 Words)



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