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Decriminalization is a more humane way of dealing with attempt to suicide

Decriminalization is a more humane way of dealing with attempt to suicide

By Arshita Anand

[Simi CN v. State of Kerala] The Kerala High Court has ruled that decriminalising the charge of attempting suicide under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a more humanitarian and effective approach of dealing with the issue.

Instead of criminalising the act, Justice K Haripal believes that providing sociological and psychological help to people who attempt suicide would be good.

“From a societal perspective, decriminalization is a more sensitive and humane way of dealing with the problem compared to prosecution. Additionally, it will also help in improving the reporting and generation of better epidemiological data on suicidal behaviour. What is important is to give sociological and psychological support to the victim rather than trying to punish him,” the Court observed in its judgment. 

The Court also noted that decriminalisation of attempt to commit suicide is the general view of courts, legal luminaries and medical professionals.

 “It is believed that a large section of the society considers that suicidal behaviour is typically a symptom of psychiatric illness or an act of psychological distress, suggesting that the person requires assistance in his personal and psychological life, not punishment with imprisonment or fine. Medical circles also believe that it is not an offence against the State, but, on the contrary, the State itself may be indirectly responsible for the plight of the victim who is left with no other alternative, except to end his life” the judgement asserted.

The Court made these findings while hearing a petition filed by a village officer who was charged with attempting suicide under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. After being pursued by the de facto complainant and his men for the issuing of various certifications, she sliced her wrist. According to her, she committed such an act without intending to do so, but was compelled to do so by the circumstances in order to relieve severe mental tension, which does not constitute a crime under Section 309 IPC. 

Furthermore, it was stated that her act would not be covered by Section 309 IPC because of Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. Under this rule, anyone who attempts suicide is believed to be suffering from severe stress unless proven otherwise, and is not prosecuted or punished under the IPC. 

As a result, she asked for the charges against her to be dropped.

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