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New Delhi: Attempt to commit suicide will no longer be a crime. The government has decided to delete section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, the union home ministry informed the parliament on Wednesday.
As per the law applicable at present, the person/s found guilty of attempting suicide is punished with one year imprisonment and fine under IPC section 309.
The decision to decriminalise attempt to suicide is based on the 210th report of the law commission of India and responses in affirmative by 18 states and four union territories, minister of state for home Haribhai Parathibahi Chaudhary said in a reply.
The Law Commission had said that attempting suicide is the “manifestation of a diseased condition of mind” that needs treatment and care rather than punishment.
However, the government’s yet to be made effective decision looks all set to initiate a stormy debate on the issue as there are voices both in favour and against it.
“Though there is much to be said on both sides, in my view it is a wrong and retrograde decision and leaves out larger issues. What about Sati? Will you say it an attempt to commit suicide or abetment to commit suicide. What about dowry deaths camouflaged as suicide? Truth is often manipulated,” says noted criminal lawyer, Nitya Ramakrishnan.
She also cautioned that all religion should be kept out of while taking such decisions as India is a secular state. Another senior criminal lawyer, Ashok Aggarwal said that going purely by the answer given in the parliament it should be applicable only to the person who tried to commit suicide but did not succeed.
“Just the answer that section 309 will be deleted leaves out several aspects unanswered as there are cases of allegations of dowry deaths being portrayed as suicide and then there are unanswered questions about euthanasia and assisted suicide.
However, implementing the decision may have far reaching repercussions. For example it will pave the way for the release of human rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on hunger strike against army atrocities for the past 14 years and is being forced fed by tubes to be kept alive.
Suicide rate is the highest in India with 1.34 lakh persons committing suicide in 2013. The World Health Organisation listed India as one of the countries with the highest suicide rates at 21.1 per 100,000 people in 2012.
Among the few dissenting states Madhya Pradesh pointed out that such a step would dilute section 306 dealing with abetment to suicide and the matter should be left for the courts to deal with as they generally do not punish person attempting suicide.
It also said that deletion of section 309 will leave no provision for the police to book anti-social elements who threaten government by sitting on fast unto death or self-immolation.
Raising a bizarre point, Bihar said that “the section should not be omitted as these days, suicide bombers who fail in their attempt to blow themselves up and other terrorists who consume cyanide pills with the intention to wipe out evidence.” The state government, perhaps, forgot that they (suicide bombers) attract several other stringent provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Arms Act and IPC.