The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi
comprising the Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, today took up the Writ Petition No. 3135/2011 in the nature of Public Interest Litigation
filed by Mental Health Foundation
seeking to accentuate/expedite the process of implementing the 210th Report of the Hon’ble Law Commission of India
seeking to repeal/abolish Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 309 has been defined as the following in the Indian Penal Code:-
“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)”.
The Lawyer for the Petitioner Foundation, Mr. Aditya Shankar, argued before the Hon’ble High Court that such a provision was not only anachronistic, it was arbitrary & oppressive to the welfare of human beings. In view of the recommendations of the Hon’ble Law Commission, in its 210th Report on Humanization and Decriminalization of Attempt to Suicide
, such a provision deserved to be sacrificed at the altar of law on cardinal principles of humanity.
Any person who attempted suicide for any reason either social, economic, physical, emotional and personal causes did not attempt the same out of any personal thrill or innate desire to commit it. It is only due to unforeseen circumstances that shape an individual’s life that such an act is attempted by any person of any standing.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice enquired from the Learned Additional Solicitor General of the Union of India, Mr. Amarjit Singh Chandiok, as to what should be done when any Recommendation has been made by the Hon’ble Law Commission, especially in the wake of the fact that the Law Commission itself has been created by the Union of India.
The Hon’ble High Court according gave 6 weeks time to the Union of India to file their reply so as to assist the Hon’ble Court in formulating what directions should be passed in this matter. The next date of hearing is 13th July 2011.
It must be stated that the following parties have been arrayed as Respondents in the Present Matter.
- 1. Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India.
- 2. Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Union of India
- 3. Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, Union of India
- 4. Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs.
It must be stated with impunity, that neither of these Respondents collect any data pertaining to convictions of those individuals who have attempted suicide.
There is also no data regarding the number of people who attempt suicide in India on a yearly basis.
Some of the eminent nations that have decriminalized attempt to suicide Laws are as follows: –
10. Ireland – 1993
11. Sri Lanka – 1998
12. United States of America – 1990s
- 1. Germany – 1751
- 2. France – 1791
- 3. Netherlands – 1810
- 4. Austria – 1852
- 5. Sweden – 1864
- 6. Denmark - 1868
- 7. Finland – 1910
- 8. England - 1961
- 9. Hong Kong – 1967
With regards to Sri Lanka
, it must be stated that before the abolition of punishment for suicide and attempt to suicide, rigorous penal punishments were prescribed for those found guilty of committing such a crime. However, punishments are not prevalent now.
The United States of America (USA)
does not treat attempt to suicide as a crime under any state laws. However, under the modern US Laws, some states, however classify attempted suicide as a criminal act, but prosecutions in such cases are a rarity if the offender especially is terminally ill. Instead, some jurisdictions require a person who attempts suicide to undergo temporary hospitalization and psychological observation.
Six states of the US namely North and South Dakota, Washington, New Jersey, Nevada
still considered attempted suicide as a crime till 1963.
However, they were all repealed by the year 1976
. By early 1990’s
attempted suicide was listed as a crime by only 2 US States. However, as of now has been removed by them. However, in some US states, attempt to suicide is still considered an unwritten “common law crime”
, as stated in Blackstone’s Commentaries as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Virginia in Wackwitz v. Roy in 1992
The laws for attempt to suicide in Australia
vary from each state. The Northern Territory is the only exceptional territory in Australia where attempt to suicide is considered illegal, unlike the rest of the country where attempt to suicide is legalized. Otherwise, the suicide laws have been abolished in South Australia in 1935 under Section 13 A
of the Criminal Consolidation Act, and in Victoria in 1958 under the Victorian Crimes Act.
does treat attempt to suicide as a Breach of Peace. However suicide is not treated as an offence Scottish Law. A proper legislation dealing with this subject was enacted only in 1961 in England and Wales when the Suicide Act was passed.
It is time that India repeals this anachronistic, arbitrary and oppressive piece of law.