An Attempt to Commit Suicide- Legal Implications

Life is beautiful but not always easy, it has problems, too, and the challenge lies in facing them with courage, letting the beauty of life act like a balm, which makes the pain bearable, during trying times, by providing hope. Life is a stage with one entrance but many exist. Among those, suicide is one of the options of exiting having a long ancestry. Attempt to suicide can be defined as a nonfatal self directed potentially injurious behavior with an intent to die. Suicide has been an act of condemnation as well as commendation through the ages. In 1968, the WHO defined suicidal act as “the injury with varying degree of lethal intent”. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all death worldwide.

    Some are of the opinion that by punishing those who have attempted to commit suicide is cruel and irrational because it provide double punishment for a frustrated individual whose grievances had caused him to attempt to suicide and end his life. It is not justified to inflict additional legal punishment on a person who has already suffered agony and ignominy in his failure to commit suicide. By not punishing an attempt to suicide, it upholds the dignity of human life because human life is as precious to the state as it is to its holder and the state cannot turn a blind eye to a person in attempting to kill him. On an average, more than the 1,00,0000 persons commit suicides every year in the country during the decadal period from 2004 -2014 and there are many more who has attempted to commit suicide. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all death worldwide. Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that 79,773 men and 40,715 women had taken this extreme step. As per rounded off figures provided by the NCRB, on an average, 15 suicides an hour or 371 suicides a day had taken place. India is the country having highest suicidal rate in the world.  Now, whether attempt to suicide should be made punishable or not is a cause of concern not only for jurists but also for common man.

   The very first question arises is that what is suicide. Suicide means deliberate termination of one’s own physical existence or an act of voluntarily or unintentionally taking one’s own life. Attempt to suicide is the act of trying to commit the suicide; it can lead to either successful or unsuccessful outcomes. Now the question arises that what led to the suicide or attempt to suicide. What are factors behind screen which lead to these conditions? Social and Economic causes have led most of the males to commit suicides, whereas emotional and personal causes have mainly driven females to end their lives.

    Sometimes suicide is mixed with mercy killing and euthanasia. Suicide needs to be distinguished from euthanasia or mercy-killing. Suicide by its very nature is an act of self killing or self-destruction, an act of terminating one’s own life. Euthanasia, on the other hand, involves the intervention of other human agency to end the life. Euthanasia is nothing but homicide, and unless specifically accepted it is an offence. A priori, an attempt at mercy-killing is not an attempt to suicide. Throughout history, suicide has been both condemned and commended by various societies. Since the middle ages, society has used first the canonic and later the criminal laws to combat suicide. In India, not only abetment of suicide is an offence (vide section 306, IPC), but also attempt to commit suicide is an offence (vide section 309, IPC). Section 309, says that “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.”Thus, in India, attempt to commit suicide is constituted an offence punishable under section 309, IPC. There is great irony although completed act was not a crime, surprisingly, attempt to commit the act was made an offence.

     Suicide is one of the important factors contributing to premature or unnatural end of precious human lives. It is a global problem and the world health organization has in regard to attempted suicide expressed the view that punishing with imprisonment a behavior consequent to either a mental disorder or a social difficulty gives completely a wrong message to the population, and that who encourages efforts for the prevention of suicide. The international association for suicide prevention has also expressed the view that attempted suicide should be decriminalized and that suicidal individuals need to be helped and imprisonment only makes their problems worse. The said association on September 10 every year sponsors ‘world suicide prevention day’ as a part of its efforts to achieve effective suicide prevention. Each and every time the association or the government eagerously used to make any day or declare ay day as a world day for this cause or for that cause, what we need to do is to make that day a successful event.

           Let’s take a look on the reasons behind the suicide. The suicides point to two things: first, a serious agrarian crisis shaped by an increase in cultivation costs and a decline in agricultural income, which is pushing farmers into a debt trap; and second, the sociological pressures that farmers face because of the disparity between their income and those in urban areas. The problem is also sociological: farmers who aspire to the lifestyle of salaried persons end up taking loans, sometimes at 60-80 per cent interest rates, and become prey to loan sharks. Then, mono-cropping had been seen as a major cause for suicides. There is urgent need to address the issue of rising input costs when incomes stay stagnant. The problems are clearly multi-pronged. They have sociological, economic and agricultural dimensions. And while each suicide may have been the result of multiple factors, including personal reasons, the big picture they present is disturbing.

           One of the burning topics at present related to suicide is Santhara. Santhara is a Jain custom of embracing voluntary death – it involves practitioners taking an oath to stop eating until they die of starvation. According to Jains, this is a way to purge oneself of bad ‘karma’ and attain ‘moksha’. Practitioners contend that Santhara is not an exercise in trying to achieve an unnatural death, but is rather a practice intrinsic to a person’s ethical choice to live with dignity until death. It is a ritual act of purification, done in consultation with a guru, and follows the most detailed of procedures. According to religious texts, it is permitted and is an integral part of Jainism. The Rajasthan high court, in a judgment on the august 10, 2015, declared the Jain practice of Santhara, which involves a voluntary fast-unto-death, an offence punishable under the Indian penal code (IPC).this decision in Nikhil Soni v. Union of India, is likely to have far-reaching consequences, not only amongst the Jain community in Rajasthan but also across the country

           Individual may not be permitted to die with a view to avoiding his social obligations. He should perform all duties towards fellow citizens. At the same time, however, if he is unable to take normal care of his body or has lost all the senses and if his real desire is to quit the world, he cannot be compelled to continue with torture and painful life. In such cases, it will indeed be cruel not to permit him to die. Reduction of suffering – right to live would, however, mean right to live with human dignity up to the end of natural life. Thus, right to live would include right to die with dignity at the end of life and it should not be equated with right to die an unnatural death curtailing natural span of life. Hence, a dying man who is terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state can be permitted to terminate it by premature extinction of his life. Infact, these are not cases of extinguishing life but only of accelerating process of natural death which has already commenced.

  So attempt to suicide should be punishable because you have some duties towards your fellow citizens .if you cannot produce life then you don’t have authority to take away your own life. Life is a gift given by god and he alone can take it. Its premature termination cannot be approved by any society. At last lets think of a particular situation where all people of a country start committing suicide on the context that right to die is my individual  right. Then what will be the message of this largest democratic country on this earth. We will send a wrong image of independent judiciary. Its unimaginable hence, it is demand of time that the attempt to suicide should be made accountable.

Authored by Deepali Singh | Edited by Jasleen Kaur Dua



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