Section 309. Attempt to commit suicide

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It is considered that life of the mankind is the noblest of all creatures and undoubtedly it is the important phenomenon in the earth. Every society and religion consider the concept of suicide as an act of cowardliness and looked as a worst decision a person could ever make. As every human being’s lives are eccentric and immeasurable, they are given Right to life as their fundamental right.

No person in the right mind would ever encourage suicide, but even then, there is a constant spike in the rate of suicide. As per the 2019 reports of (The National Crime Records Bureau)NCRB there has been a 3.4 percent spike in India’s suicide rate[1]. Some people tend to end their own life when they face trauma, depression, ill mental health, etc. But is it legal for a person to take his own life? does the right to life include right to kill themselves? These are the questions which arises to people when they hear about suicide. It has always been a debateable issue.

Section 309: Attempt to commit suicide ( Explanation )

Suicide basically mean self-killing. It is considered as a suicide when a person intentionally tries to kill himself. Suicide if often considered as an impulsive decision taken by a person when he is in despair.

Section 309 of Indian Penal Code states that - “whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offense shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both”

This section implies that if any person attempts to commit suicide or any act to commit this offence shall be liable under this section. This section is a cognizable offence (police can arrest the offender without warrant), non-compoundable (offence in which the matter cannot be compromise or settled between parties) and bailable. The main elements for this section are:

· The person should be unsuccessful committing the offence as there can be no offender if they succeed.

· The attempt must be intentional. It must not be an accident or a mistake.

As it is the state’s obligation to protect its subject from any harm this section was enacted. The purpose of this section is to help the citizens to bringdown the suicide rate but it is evident from the NCRB report that this section has failed to do it.

Section 306: Constitutionality and Decriminalization

This section has received different views from different courts. It has always been a controversial issue. Some argue that this section violates article 21 in this article (Right to Life) of the Indian constitution, as it violates fundamental right this section should be struck down but on the other hand it is said that the article 21 does not include the Right to Die hence it is constitutional.

As stated before, this topic has always been a debatable issue in the Indian jurisprudence. The Bombay High Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Sripati Dubal[2] held that this section is unconstitutional as the ‘Right to Die’ is included under ‘right to life’ under article 21. Whereas in the Andra Pradesh High Court in the case of Chenna Jagadeshwar v. State of Andra Pradesh[3] stated that ‘Right to Die’ is not a fundamental right under Article 21 thus it is not unconstitutional.

This contradicting view between two different High Court was settled by the Supreme Court in the P Ratinam’s case[4] in 1994. The Bench held that the Bombay High Court’s decision in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Sripati Dubal was correct and stated that the person is entitled with the Right to Die under Article 21 thus the Section is unconstitutional. This judgement of Supreme Court faced many reproval and it had several loose ends. However, the Supreme Court in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab[5] upheld the judgement of Andra Pradesh High Court and overruled the its judgement delivered in P Rathinam’s case. It also settled the issue by stating that section 309 of IPC is constitutional as the right to die does not come under Article 21 of the constitution.

The current layout

Even though the government have not decriminalized the section 309, it took a major step by emphatically understanding mental status of the person who commits suicide. Instead of depending solely on the legal perspective it studied the mental status and understood that a person who attempts to commit suicide is already in deep pain, despair and suffering from mental health issues thus punishing the individual would lead to further suffering. They believed mental treatment and rehabilitation would be an apt solution for such type of issue hence the parliament passed an Act to replace ‘the Mental Health Act of 1987’ with ‘The Mental Healthcare act,2017’. Under this Act the Section 115 regarding suicide states that:

· Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of IPC any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed to be under severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said code.

· The appropriate government shall have the duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to anyone who attempts to commit suicide due to severe stress, to reduce the risk of reoccurrence of an attempt to commit suicide.

This Act promoted mental and emotional health of the people of India. It provides treatment to person who have mental issues, it does not discriminate between mental illness and physical illness.


Before the enactment of the Mental Health Care Act the Indian legal system had a faulty approach towards handling the suicide issue. It only focused on legal perspective and did not look at the real problem. Suicide was totally treated as a criminal offence hence the aim of the section i.e. to reduce the rate of suicide was failed. But now due to this Act the empathies of mental state of the person who is attempting to suicide, the needed measures are taken by improving their psychological strength. Thus, decriminalizing of the section is not need as this Act concentrates on the remedy. Also, it is known that not all attempt of suicide is due the agony or severe stress. Some may use this as a tool to blackmail or use it to their advantage and simply disrupt the law, so to punish those people this section shall remain unchanged.


[7] (1986) 88 bom LR 589

[8] (1988) cr LF 594

[9] (1994)3 SCC 394

[10] (1996)2 SCC 648

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