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In the context of suicide as an offence, it would be worthwhile to refer to the decision of Bombay High Court in Maruti Shripati Dubai v. State of Maharashtra. In this case a police constable of Bombay City Police Force who was suffering from mental illness and schizophrenia due to a road accident in 1981, attempted to commit suicide outside the office of the Municipal Commissioner Bombay, at 10 a.m., on 27th April, 1985 by pouring kerosene on himself and trying to light his clothes. He was arrested and proceeded against under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. The learned JJ. Sawant and Kolse Patil of the Bombay High Court ruled that right to live as recognized by Art. 21 of the Constitution includes also a right not to live or not to be forced to live which in positive terms would mean right to die or end one's life. Section 309, I.P.C. was therefore, ultra vires and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Court placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in Olga Tellis & others v. Bombay Minicipal Corporation popularly known as Pavement Dweller's case wherein it was held that right to life also includes right to livelihood. The Bombay High Court, however, clarified that mercy-killing or euthanasia is not suicide and hence would not be covered under Section 309 IPC. The reason being that suicide by very nature is an act of terminating one's own life by one's own act without the aid and assistance of any other human agency. The Supreme Court in P. Rathinam Nagbhusan Patnaik v. Union of India distinguished suicide from euthanasia and observed that "the legal and other questions relatable to euthanasia are in many ways different from those raised in suicide". Therefore, justification for allowing persons to commit suicide cannot be played down or cut down because of any encouragement to persons pleading for legislation of mercy killing. The Court further clarified that self-killing is conceptually different from abetting others to kill themselves. The Supreme Court, in this case pointed out that "the causes of suicide are many and varying inasmuch as some owe their origin to sentiments of exasperation, frustration and resolution, some are the result of feeling of burden, torture and sadness, some are caused by loss of employment, reverse of fortune, misery due to illness, family trouble and thwarted love. Sometimes killing is in opposition to society and sometimes in opposition to particular persons. This happens when the person committing suicide nurses a feeling of unjust treatment, mal-treatment or cruelty. Therefore, what is needed to take care of suicide-prone persons, are soft words and wise counselling of a psychiatrist and not stony dealing by a jailor followed by harsh treatment meted out by a heartless prosecutor." The Court observed that one of the objects of punishment is protection of society from the depradation of dangerous persons; there is no question of protection of society from depradation of dangerous persons in case of suicide. Considered from this point of view, suicide is not an offence. Therefore, the arguments that by quashing Section 309 I.P.C. which makes attempt to suicide a penal offence, Section 306, I.P.C. would also not survive, is not tenable. The Supreme Court's ruling in P. Rathinam's case has, however, been overruled by a subsequent case, i.e., Smt. Gyan Kaur v. State of Punjab. In this case, appellants Gyan Kaur and her husband Harbans Singh were convicted by trial Court under Section 306, I.P.C. and sentenced to 6 years' R.I. and fine of Rs. 2,000/- or in default R.I. for 9 months for abeting commission of suicide by Kulwant Kaur. The conviction of both was maintained by the High Court except that the sentence of Gyan Kaur was reduced to 3 years' R.I. This appeal was against the conviction and sentence of appellants under Section 306, I.P.C. The Supreme Court held that right to life under Article 21 does not include right to die because extinction of life' is not included in 'protection of life'. Therefore, penalizing for an attempt to commit suicide under Section 309, I.P.C. is not violative of Article 21 and is not unconstitutional, and therefore, the provision contained in Section 306, I.P.C. is also not unconstitutional, and it is perfectly valid. Hence the appeal was disallowed.
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Essay on Suicide as an offence in India
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Essay On Suicide As An Offence In India

Words: 726    Pages: 3    Paragraphs: 10    Sentences: 65    Read Time: 02:38
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              In the context of suicide as an offence, it would be worthwhile to refer to the decision of Bombay High Court in Maruti Shripati Dubai v. State of Maharashtra. In this case a police constable of Bombay City Police Force who was suffering from mental illness and schizophrenia due to a road accident in 1981, attempted to commit suicide outside the office of the Municipal Commissioner Bombay, at 10 a. m. , on 27th April, 1985 by pouring kerosene on himself and trying to light his clothes.
             
              He was arrested and proceeded against under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. The learned JJ. Sawant and Kolse Patil of the Bombay High Court ruled that right to live as recognized by Art. 21 of the Constitution includes also a right not to live or not to be forced to live which in positive terms would mean right to die or end one's life.
             
              Section 309, I. P. C. was therefore, ultra vires and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Court placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in Olga Tellis & others v. Bombay Minicipal Corporation popularly known as Pavement Dweller's case wherein it was held that right to life also includes right to livelihood.
             
              The Bombay High Court, however, clarified that mercy-killing or euthanasia is not suicide and hence would not be covered under Section 309 IPC. The reason being that suicide by very nature is an act of terminating one's own life by one's own act without the aid and assistance of any other human agency.
             
              The Supreme Court in P. Rathinam Nagbhusan Patnaik v. Union of India distinguished suicide from euthanasia and observed that "the legal and other questions relatable to euthanasia are in many ways different from those raised in suicide". Therefore, justification for allowing persons to commit suicide cannot be played down or cut down because of any encouragement to persons pleading for legislation of mercy killing. The Court further clarified that self-killing is conceptually different from abetting others to kill themselves.
             
              The Supreme Court, in this case pointed out that "the causes of suicide are many and varying inasmuch as some owe their origin to sentiments of exasperation, frustration and resolution, some are the result of feeling of burden, torture and sadness, some are caused by loss of employment, reverse of fortune, misery due to illness, family trouble and thwarted love. Sometimes killing is in opposition to society and sometimes in opposition to particular persons. This happens when the person committing suicide nurses a feeling of unjust treatment, mal-treatment or cruelty. Therefore, what is needed to take care of suicide-prone persons, are soft words and wise counselling of a psychiatrist and not stony dealing by a jailor followed by harsh treatment meted out by a heartless prosecutor. "
             
              The Court observed that one of the objects of punishment is protection of society from the depradation of dangerous persons; there is no question of protection of society from depradation of dangerous persons in case of suicide. Considered from this point of view, suicide is not an offence. Therefore, the arguments that by quashing Section 309 I. P. C. which makes attempt to suicide a penal offence, Section 306, I. P. C. would also not survive, is not tenable.
             
              The Supreme Court's ruling in P. Rathinam's case has, however, been overruled by a subsequent case, i. e. , Smt. Gyan Kaur v. State of Punjab. In this case, appellants Gyan Kaur and her husband Harbans Singh were convicted by trial Court under Section 306, I. P. C. and sentenced to 6 years' R. I. and fine of Rs. 2,000/- or in default R. I. for 9 months for abeting commission of suicide by Kulwant Kaur.
             
              The conviction of both was maintained by the High Court except that the sentence of Gyan Kaur was reduced to 3 years' R. I. This appeal was against the conviction and sentence of appellants under Section 306, I. P. C. The Supreme Court held that right to life under Article 21 does not include right to die because extinction of life' is not included in 'protection of life'.
             
              Therefore, penalizing for an attempt to commit suicide under Section 309, I. P. C. is not violative of Article 21 and is not unconstitutional, and therefore, the provision contained in Section 306, I. P. C. is also not unconstitutional, and it is perfectly valid. Hence the appeal was disallowed.
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