Criminalization of Attempt to Suicide
Whoever attempts to end his life but unfortunately fails to end it is liable for punishment. The offence is punishable under Section 309 of Indian Penal Code, a self contained section prescribing punishment. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code reads as:
“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.” Suicide
The term Suicide is not defined in the Indian Penal Code. Clift v Schwabe gives an apt definition of the term “to ‘commit suicide’ is for a person voluntarily do an act (or, as it is submitted, to refrain from taking bodily sustenance), for the purpose of destroying his own life, being conscious of that probable consequence, and having, at the time, ‘sufficient mind to will the destruction of life.” According to this definition intention is the essential ingredient. An act is intentional if it exists in idea before it exists in fact, the idea realising in itself is the fact because of the desire it is accompanied with. While, there is no punishment for the completed act but the law makes sure that the individuals who are not able to accomplish the act are punishable. The word suicide literally means “to kill oneself” (Sui-of oneself and Caedre –to kill). In 1968, the World Health Organisation defined suicidal act as the injury with varying degrees of lethal intent. According to this definition it is difficult to determine whether a particular death was suicide since it requires the injuries leading to death to be self inflicted. The “attempt to suicide” terminology is now recommended to be used only to denote events in which there has been a failure of conscious efforts to end life. Such people commit to end their life through suicide but somehow survive. Historical Background
Since the Middle Ages, society has used first the canonic and later the criminal law to combat suicide. Following the French Revolution of 1789 criminal penalties for attempting to commit suicide were abolished in European countries.In England, the Suicide Act 1961 abrogated the law, laying down that attempt to suicide is an offence. Religious view point
People have been killing themselves from the beginning of recorded history. Ramayna and Mahabharata have recorded instances of suicide. When Lord Rama relinquished his life, there was an epidemic of suicide in Ayodhya. Bhagvad Gita is against self torture and self killing. During the Vedic times, apart from Sati, Death from drowning at the confluence of rivers to achieve “Punya” (salvation in the next life), the self destruction for incurable diseases, ascetics undertaking a great journey towards terminal years of life, were allowed. Suicide in general was still penalised. A verse from Upanishad declares: “He who takes himself (his life) reaches after death Sunless regions covered with darkness.” The Holy Bible contains no law forbidding man to kill himself, but the taboo that is tagged on to suicide, coupled with denial of a decent burial was a deterrent to self destruction by suicide. Islam asks man and woman to wait for his/her destiny rather than snatching it from the hands of Allah. If he does not, he will be depicted as an unfaithful wretch. The common belief among Hindus is that a person who commits suicide will not attain “Moksha” and his soul will wander around, haunting and tormenting people. Morality and Ethics
Law presupposes a society of normal individuals with certain general instincts. Self preservation is the most general instinct of human beings. The urge to attempt to commit suicide runs contrary to the instinctive urge of the normal individuals who constitute a majority in the society. Those who attempt to commit suicide are a minority. It is the instincts of majority segment of society that give rise to ethics and...