Ramifications of Amendments in Section 309, IPC in Light of Paradigm Shift in Social & Spiritual Benchmarks

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– Lt Col Atul Tyagi retd – 

Attempt to SuicideThe government informed Lok Sabha that the Law Commission of India in its report on “Humanization and Decriminalization of Attempt to Suicide” has recommended that Section 309 of IPC needs to be effaced from the statute book.

Section 309– 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. 18 states and 4 union territory administrations have supported that Sec 309 of the IPC may be deleted.

 In the Gian Kaur Case in 1996,[2] a five judge bench of the  Supreme Court of India had ruled that the section 309 was violative of article 21 of the Constitution of India.

 In ‘Aruna Shanbaug vs Union of India’, Supreme Court recognized that a person attempting suicide is in need of help rather than punishment, and recommended that Parliament consider the feasibility of deleting Section 309. The whole approach is based on the consideration that a person resorting to attempting suicide suffers either from mental disorder/ mental disabilities or subjected to unparalleled victimization due to misfortunes. As it is the person is under tremendous pressure of stress & ignominy; punishing him legally too is like compounding punishment. The Law Commission had also argued that attempting suicide was “manifestation of a diseased condition of mind” that called for treatment and care rather than punishment.

The Law Commission recommended that  such persons required medical support, social & psychological support, sympathy, counseling and appropriate treatment and not punishment  which will prevent a person from committing suicide.

Proceeding further, it is imperative to understand what is a suicide note is,  as the main thesis of the Article is the connectivity of proposed amendment in section 309 with  section 306 IPC which is as it is & relevance of suicide note as evidentiary value in Law of Evidence.

306. Abetment of suicide

If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Case 1:

The prosecution case was that on September 8, 2006 police received information a man (Tilak Raj) has lost his arm at Shakur Basti Railway Station. He was rushed to hospital and was found carrying a suicide note stating that he had borrowed some money from accused Raju Sharma which he had returned back but he was pressurizing him for repayment of the money with the help of two police officials. The note also said that the trio be held responsible for his death.

Raj, a vegetable vendor, had borrowed Rs. 2.5 lakh from Sharma in year 2003 and handed over the original documents of his flat to Sharma as security. Ram Kishan and Chanderhass were Sharma’s family friends and were aware of the money transaction. Raj’s widow Renu Bala told the court that the loan was taken by her husband from all the three accused cumulatively. She has also claimed that despite paying back Rs. 3 lakh, the two police officials in tandem with Sharma used to harass them and threaten them to demand more money.She said they had to flee from Delhi for eight months due to continuous harassment at the hands of the trio and even made a complaint to National Human Rights Commission in 2004 against them.

“Deceased was a poor vegetable vendor and he could not resist the threats extended by the accused persons which prima facie pushed him and instigated him to take his own life,” the court said and added the material available on record was sufficient at this juncture to prima facie make out the case of framing of charge against them.

Possibility: There were strong inclinations that Tilak Raj deceased under the influence of abject financial stress decided to get off his family from the liability of  debts which he had actually taken.

Case 2: S.S.Chheena vs Vijay Kumar Mahajan & Anr on 12 August, 2010

Saurav Mahajan, deceased and Harminder Singh alias Montu were to submit their versions of the incident in writing. Saurav Mahajan , the deceased & Harminder Singh,Montu gave their written versions of the incident and thereafter handed over to M.D. Singh, security officer forwarded their versions to the University authorities for taking necessary action. Consequently, the enquiry was conducted on 13.10.2003. by the Security Officer of the University – the appellant herein. During the course of the enquiry, on 17.10.2003, the son of the complainant committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. Subsequently, during the search, a suicide note was recovered from the pocket of the deceased dated 16.10.2003. The suicide note is important for adjudicating and deciding this appeal. The said suicide note is reproduced as under:- “SUICIDE NOTE I am Saurav Mahajan a final year student of Department of Law of GNDU. Montu had levelled a false allegation upon me. I am very annoyed because a false allegation has been levelled upon me. I have a faith that this allegation is false, accused Montu and his accomplices will be arrested and I will be declared as innocent. The reason of my annoyance is that I am falsely taking this step on account of my insult. Harminder Singh and his accomplices are responsible for my suicide & MD Singh who did not take into account my faith and without consulting me. Suicide notes it is stated that he (Saurav Mahajan) did not commit the theft and he had committed suicide because he was falsely implicated in the theft case of a mobile phone. He further mentioned in the suicide note that Harminder Singh and his accomplices were responsible for this act. On the basis of the suicide note a FIR No.81 dated 17.10.2003 under section 306 of the IPC was registered at the Police Station, GRPS, Amritsar. The trial court clubbed the complaint case with the State case and ordered for framing of the charge under section 306 IPC. Accordingly, a charge-sheet  was filed against the appellant along with Harminder Singh @ Montu.  The matter was taken to the High court.The High Court observed that the material against the appellant was not just the suicide note but also includes threats, humiliating phrases etc. addressed to the deceased and his father over a period of few days.  According to the appellant, it may be significant to mention that if the threat or the humiliating phrases etc. by the appellant had any impact on the deceased’s mind or had led to the abetment to commit suicide then all these facts ought to have been mentioned in the suicide note. In the suicide note, nothing had been mentioned against the appellant. According to the appellant, a careful reading of the suicide note clearly leads to the conclusion that the appellant was not even remotely connected with the offence of abetment. When the appellant was in no manner connected with this case and there was no credible material to connect the appellant with the crime, in this view of the matter, according to the appellant, it would be a futile exercise to compel him to undergo the rigmarole of a criminal trial.

Possibility: How dreadful can be the consequences in the light of suicide note recovered when the law recognizes that the person who succeeded in committing suicide may not be carrying stable psychological mental order evident from proposed amendments in section 309, IPC?

 

Suicide Note: It is an important, may be the most importance piece of evidence,” the court said in its order while citing from a Supreme Court judgment. A suicide note or death note is a message left behind before a person has committed suicide  or who intends to commit suicide Connected with this is the relevance of suicide note based on which the person who is named may suffer lifelong. A suicide note is accorded significance based on the assumption that a person dying will not tend to speak a lie. It is estimated that 25–30% of suicides are accompanied by a note. When a person is not prepared with strong psychological makeup, he may have turned vindictive & unpredictable. The entire edifice around importance of Suicide note was founded on a firm morality based belief that a person who knew the end was inevitable, will not speak or write anything tantamount to falsifying evidence against innocent person.  since he decided, The content can be a plea for absolution or blaming family and friends for life’s failings  however, incidence rates may depend on ethnicity, method of suicide, and cultural differences, and may reach rates as high as 50% in certain demographics. A suicide message can be a written note, an audio message, or a video.

  • To ease the pain of those known to the victim by attempting to dissipate guilt.
  • To increase the pain of survivors by attempting to create guilt.[5][6]
  • To set out the reason(s) for suicide.
  • To express thoughts and feelings that the person felt unable to express in life.
  • To give instructions for disposal of the remains.
  • Occasionally, to confess acts of murder or some other offence.

Study: It is to be understood that with the paradigm shift, moral contours of evolving society may not be same as were in past & at best be taken into consideration for larger interest & best possible outcome of legal obligations. There was a time when it was deemed impossible that a person may falsify his statement before the death knowing well that he will be dying the next moment & social, religious & spiritual index embedded in his mind & subconscious prevailed upon him to remain truthful. Today the theory may not stand true to the test of scrutiny. In the same society, it was not ever imagined that a father could have established physical proximity with the daughter. It is established fact that the social & moral fiber are on changing course. The sensitivity index & acceptability threshold are hugely compromised & turned low resulting into unpredictable course of life. Spirituality is on waning & materialistic considerations on rising affecting the society from deep within. ty Most of the people today lead a compromised, paradoxical & stressful life, unsure of next moment & doubtful for future. People are getting away from reading scriptures & worthy literature hence are turning feeble in accepting challenges of circumstances. Money & material have become the guiding parameters. In this context, it is relevant to consider that if amendment is considered in section 309- Attempt to commit suicide, section 306- Abetment to commit suicide & related suicide note may also be

If the section 309 IPC is amended where the person attempts to commit suicide on the premise that an action of this type is resorted to by clinically depressed & mentally disturbed person.  If that is so, sustenance of evidentiary value of a suicide note in law of evidence need assessment on following counts:

a.      A suicide note written by mentally disturbed & clinically psychologically challenged person must not be accorded any significance.

b.      If the attempt to suicide gets converted to suicide, the same suicide note written by mentally disturbed, psychologically not tuned person may be thorn in the back of the person against whom the note is written.

c.       In recent times, to get rid of financial burdens & to ensure the family does not undergo financial hardship, there are suspected cases where the person committing suicide falsely implicated the person who loaned the money to him.

There are following reasons which may be the immediate causes of provocation & even deliberate causes of decision to end the life:

–          Stressful life

–          Material consideration

–          Rising aspirations

–          Competitive environment

–          Cosmetic coloring

–          Technology oriented

–          Sensitivity down

–          Acceptability down

–          Psychological causes

–          Falling codes of morality

–          Instant pleasure

–          Mental disorientation

–          Feeling victim due to misfortune

It is intriguing not to read section 306 & section 309 IPC together & also consider the relevance of evidentiary value of a suicide note. If the amendment is made in one section, the suitable balancing amendments are inevitable in other provisions of the law.

Lt Col Atul Tyagi retd invc newsLt Col Atul Tyagi retd
Certified Trainer

M.Sc, Masters in Management,LL.B
A retired Army officer possessing 26 years of rich & insightful experience in Indian Army, education & training management & Corporate. Presently working in Bhushan Steel limited, Orissa as General Manager-Administration. The officer is prolific in writing on subjects like Human values,Ethics, Human development, Soft skills & HR.

Publication / Participation

Subject contribution- Humanistic Growth in Annual edition of Bharat Institute of Technology, Meerut 2009.
Participated as guest speaker & panel member in National seminar on ‘Stress management’ organized by IIMT approved by AICTE.
Participated in seminar as guest speaker on ‘CSR – periphery to core’ organized by BIT, Meerut approved by AICTE.
Subject contribution- working with values in Vision 2011 of Radha Govind Group of Institutions, Meerut
Subject contribution- CSR from Periphery to core in The Horizon- A journal of social Sciences no II/2011 Vol II ISSN-0975-5535. Jan 2011.
Subject contribution-Back to basics in ‘The Horizon’ – A journal of social Sciences no II/2011 Vol II ISSN-0975-5535.Jul 2011.
Subject contribution – Leadership in the times of complexities & chaos in The Horizon – a journal of social sciences no II / 2012 Vol II ISSN – 0975-5535, Jul 2012.
Subject contribution- CSR from Periphery to core in The Horizon- A journal of social Sciences no II/2011 Vol II ISSN-0975-5535, Jan 2011.
Corporate Social Responsibilities – Issues & Challenges in India in International Journal of Management Research & Review Vol II /Issue 9/article 19/1656 -1667 ISSN 2249-7196, Sep 2012.
Corporate Social responsibility – Essential Pre requisite in Knowledge News- International journal of Ideas Vol IISSN 2231 – 0150 dated Feb 2012.
Participated as guest speaker & panel member in National seminar on ‘Stress management’ organized by IIMT, Meerut  approved by AICTE.
Participated as speaker & panel member on business strategies in ‘Post recession Era’ in IIMT, Meerut approved by AICTE.
Participated in National seminar ‘On creating value by embarrassing change’ & covered topic of Leadership during times of complexity & chaos organized by KITE group of institutions, Meerut approved by AICTE.
Delivered expert lecture in Faculty Induction Programme at Sharda Group of Institutions on Leadership, Impact of Attitude in life & Values & Ethics In teaching & management. 11 Jul – 4 Aug 2012.

Contact – :
Lt Col Atul Tyagi retd
General Manager – Administration  & Training
Bhushan Steel Ltd , 4L, 902, AWHO, Gr NOIDA – 201310
Mob    :  9437165396, 9540652090,  e mail :  atultyagi100@gmail.com

5 COMMENTS

  1. I did not know that Col Tyagi has equal intervention in legal field also. A well endowed,Honest,logical & conceptually clear head who can do good to the society.

  2. Another marvellous achievement for breaking ice with legal world. Col Tyagi has writing skills,analytical skills & argument /presentation skills to his sdie. What is he waiting for? He is not cut for doing job in private after having served in indian Army & acquiring vision of certain level.

  3. Col Atul has raised a relevant legal contradiction presently plaguing law environment in context of amendment to sec 309. Strange legal luminaries have been found oblivious to this. Congratulation to Col Atul & INVC. I think great combination of versatility & commitment.

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