SUICIDE, ITS ABETMENT AND THE LAWS SUROUNDING IT

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By Shreeya Pathak from Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida

  • Introduction

The sudden demise of Sushant Singh Rajput, a renowned Bollywood actor, who ostensibly and allegedly perpetrated suicide on June 14, 2020, has left the nation in disturbance and shock, and has once again began the arguments and discussions over the much descended and subsided matter of the importance of mental health. there was much speculation over the fact that whether the actor was battling or suffering from depression, as per the experts and sources.

As compared to past incidents, the majority of suicidal demises are being committed by the youth of the nation and the rate of suicides are rising every year in India. For the delegation or commission of suicide, depression is a dominant and leading cause.

The Indian Penal Code, criminalizes attempted suicide as well as the assistance in the perpetration of the act in Section 309.

  • Section 309 of Indian Penal Code  

Whoever endeavors or attempts to commit suicide and does any act or action towards the commission of such crime or offence, shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.

However, Section 309 of IPC is still in effect, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 (enacted in July, 2018) has restrained its application.

The relevant application of the new act states: notwithstanding anything accommodated in Section 309 of the IPC, any person who endeavors to commit suicide shall be assumed, unless proven otherwise, to have serious or severe stress, and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.

  • Suicide

The willful step of taking one’s own like is known as Suicide. Every year, approximately 8,00,000 people take their own lives, and there are many more persons who attempt to commit suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that disturbs and affects families, communities and on the whole, the nation. It has long lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide was the second dominating cause of death in the age group of 15 to 29 all over the world in the year 2016.

Approximately, 1.5% of people in this nations die committing suicide, due to stress of financial problems, personal relationship issues, bullying, and so on. 

In some parts of the world, suicide is a crime. However, taking one’s own life has been decriminalized in many Western countries. There can still be consequences related to the treatment of the corpse and the fate of the property of the deceased in regards to the members of the family. Some other countries in this world criminalize the attempt to suicide, as well as the associated issue of assisting a suicide. These issues are dealt by the rules and regulations of their jurisdictions.

Historically, the laws against self-destruction and mercy killing have evolved from religious doctrines. For instance, the claim that the only God has the right to determine when an individual will die.

Suicide or self-annihilation is an occurrence affecting people of all class throughout the world. It is an offence where the accused, who committed the offence, is also the victim, who is getting affected themself.

The offence has been explained and elaborated in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and provides for the punishment as well as the administration of further legislations in commissions of such offences. The attempt to commit suicide and the abetment of suicide are two different concepts which are punishable under the Section 309 as well as Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. Whereas Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code punishes for the attempt to commit suicide, Section 306 deals with the punishment for the abetment of suicide. The abetment of attempt to commit self-annihilation is punishable under Section 309 read with Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code.

Thus, even where the retribution for the attempt to commit suicide is not considered, its abetment is considered to be a Penal crime in the interest of the society. Such an arrangement is considered desirable to prohibit the danger inherent in the absence of such Penal provisions.

  • Abetment and the Laws

Abetment in its authentic and literal sense means the instigation of an individual to another to do or no to do an act in a certain way; or the providing of assistance or aid by a person to another, in one’s decision to perpetrate the commission of suicide. The instigator is held liable and constructively accountable. Instigating the idea of suicide in the mind of the other person involves deliberately and intentionally helping a person in taking his own life either by mentally harassing the person or provoking such sentiments. This section is based on a justifiable public policy to forbid the involvement of a person in termination of one’s life. 

It takes extreme care of the circumstances and danger imposed by the death abettors. Section 306 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, equips for the punishment of an individual who abets the commission of the suicide of a child, a teenager under the age of eighteen, a mentally disturbed person, or an intoxicated person, with death or imprisonment ranging from ten years to an imprisonment for life.  

  • Illustration

If X instigates Z to kill himself by swallowing rat poison, and Z, under the influence of X, consumes the poison, X would be held liable as an abettor under this section.

  • The Indian Penal Code, section 306, The Constitutional Validity

In the case of the Naresh Marotrao V. Union of India, the validity of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code was examined and the court held that Section 306 conducts and constitutes the crime which is unconventional and independent in nature as well as in character, entirely. It is structured on the principle of public policy that no individual should involve themselves in, or instigate or aid, the perpetration of a crime. It is in consonance with Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, and thus cannot be deferred.

  • An Abetment of the Suicide 

For a judgement in favor of conviction under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, the prosecution has to prove certain clear points that are given below:

  1. The commission of the suicide by the deceased
  2. The solicitation or instigation by the accused for the commission of suicide
  3. The mental health as well as the mental state of that person. (the Accused).
  • Conclusion

Although attempting to commit suicide is no longer a crime, a provision is created in the Mental Healthcare Act to assume that the person committing suicide is under serious stress or tension, and state a responsibility upon the Government of India to provide care, rehabilitation and treatment to the aggrieved individual in order to reduce the chances of a repetition of the act of attempting self-destruction. Under the Indian Penal Code, the abetment to commit suicide remains to continue as a crime.

It is fundamentally essential for Mental Health to be a part of the academic curriculums in institutions like schools and colleges. There should also be experts or counsellors appointed for students to talk to and seek valuable advice from, keeping in mind the rising problem of mental health in the youth these days. There should also be meetings of people suffering from mental health illnesses Depression and Anxiety, so that they can speak out their emotions and can empathize with the problematic situation of other patients, thus getting a sense of hope that can help them to rehabilitate.

There are also numerous helpline numbers provided by the Government of India and NGOs for people harboring thoughts of committing suicide to call on the helpline numbers and seek mental and emotional help, rather than succumbing to their suicidal urges.

Suicide and Mental Health go hand in hand and with the rise in the deaths by suicides and patients with mental illnesses, it is essential that the move must be taken so as to protect the people from falling prey to the catastrophic effects of such illnesses.

  • References
  1. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2837-the-law-surrounding-depression-and-suicide.html
  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-abetment-suicide-sushant-singh-rajput-rhea-chakraborty-6531014/lite/
  1. https://lawtimesjournal.in/abetment-to-suicide/
  1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_309_of_the_Indian_Penal_Code

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