In India legal system attempt to commit suicide is punishable under section-309 of the Indian penal Code which reads as follows.
“whoever attempts to commits suicide and does any act toward the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with both”.
The word attempt as specified under the code is one which is conscious in nature else no offence stands made out. The same was explained in case of Emperor v/s Dhirajia AIR 1940 486 wherein it was opined that ‘the word attempts’ connotes endeavour to do the act which is the subject of the particular section. It was made out as a case lacking conscious effort, thereby led to acquittal under section- 309.
SECTION- 309 AND ITS CONSTITUTIONALITY
MARUTI SHRIPATI DUBBAL V/S STATE OF MAHARASHTRA (1986) 88 BOMLR 589
This is the case in which first time it came for the consideration before the court that whether a person has a right to die. The petitioner, a police constable, who became mentally ill after a road accident attempted to commit suicide by burning himself with kerosene, was prevented and prosecuted under section 309 of IPC. In 1987, the division bench of Bombay High Court struck down section- 309, IPC as ultra vires vide article 14 &21 of the constitution which guarantees right to life and personal liberty. The court said the right to life includes the right to live as well as the right to end one’s life if one so desires. It was pointed out that the Fundamental right has positive as well as negative aspects. The bench comprised of Hon’ble Justice BK Patil and Hon’ble Justice P Sawant.
P RATHIRAM v/s U.O.I
Subsequently, in this case, the constitutionality of section- 309 was again questioned wherein it was observed that ‘criminalization of the act of suicide was inhuman and the right to life, in essence, includes the right to die.
GIAN KUMAR V/S STATE OF PUNJAB AIR 1997 SC 411
The apex court clearly held that euthanasia and assisted suicide aren’t lawful in our country. However, references were made to the principles laid down by the Airedale case, where the house of lords accepted that withdrawal of life-supporting systems on the basis of informed medical opinion would be lawful because such withdrawal would only allow the patient who is beyond recovery to die a normal death, where there is no longer any duty to prolong life. The P.Rathinam judgement was overruled.
RECENT AMENDMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
Although section-309 is still in effect, the mental Health care Act, 2017 (enacted July 2018) has restricted its application. The relevant provision of the new act states. Notwithstanding anything contained in section- 309 of the IPC. Any person who commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said code. This was in addition to the 210th law commission Report which stated of repealing the anachronistic law under section-309.
COMMON CAUSE V/S U.O.I
This was one of the most remarkable judgment wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court stated about legalizing passive euthanasia. It was mentioned that was a need for legislation regarding patients who were terminally ill, as the elements of dignity is attached with the right to life.