Write a short note on the offence of attempt to commit suicide given under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The most celebrated article of Indian Constitution i.e., article 21 provides a very basic right of life and personal liberty. According to this article, every person has right to live a dignified life and on the other hand, being a guardian of each and every citizen of this country, it is duty of state to protect this right of every individual. So, if any person tries to violate this right of another person, then it is a duty of state to punish that person and provide adequate relief to an aggrieved person.
According to the criminal jurisprudence, if any third person tries to violate the right of life of another person, then to punish that person, legislature has enacted a very stringent law that has been prescribed under section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
But the main question which arises here is, if a person himself tries to breach his own right i.e., tries to commit suicide but fails to achieve the desired result, then whether can he be punished by the state?
According to the section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, if any person attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence but fails to achieve the desired result, then in such a case, that person will be held liable for having committed the offence of attempt to commit suicide given under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
In the leading case of M. Mohan vs State (SC 2011), the Hon’ble court defined the term suicide and stated that the term suicide has been made up of two words, “sui” which means “self” and “cide” which means “killing”, thus implying an act of self- killing.
In the whole Indian Penal Code, 1860, there is no section which punishes the offence of suicide. There is one section which punishes the attempt to commit suicide. It is just because, if any person commits suicide and dies, then to whom the law will punish. That is why, there is no section which punishes the offence of suicide. But if a person attempts to commit suicide but fails, then in such a case, he can be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.
In the leading case of P. Rathinam vs Union of India (SC 1994), the constitutional validity of section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, was challenged before the Hon’ble Supreme court and stated that this section is violating the provisions of article 21 of the Indian Constitution which provides a right of life and personal liberty. In this case, Hon’ble Supreme Court declared this section unconstitutional and held that right to life includes right to die. So, if any person wants to end his life and commits any act towards ending his life and fails, then in such a situation, law cannot punish him because if he has right to life then he has right to die also.
But this judgment was overruled in the leading case of Gian Kaur vs State of Punjab (SC 1996) and in this case, Hon’ble Supreme Court held that right to life does not include right to die. Right to life is not only a fundamental right but it is also a natural right and associated with the rights of another people.
So, if a person commits suicide, then he affects the rights of another people like his/ her mother, father, sister, brother etc. So, section 309 not only protects the right of an accused but it also protects the rights of other people related to the accussed. Hence, section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is constitutionally valid.