Is Attempt to Suicide a Crime or a Mental Health Issue?

“A nonfatal self-directed potentially injurious behaviour with any intent to die as a result of the behaviour”

More than 7 lakh people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds and almost 25 times as many do a suicide attempt. Over 139 thousand suicides were recorded in in in the year 2019.

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code: Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.

It says that anyone who survives an attempted suicide can be booked under it. The law, brought in by the British in the 19th century, reflected the thinking of the time, when killing or attempting to kill oneself was considered a crime against the state, as well as against religion.

Section 309 repealed a few years back?

No. The section continues to remain in the IPC. What has happened though, is that The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017, which came into force in July 2018, has significantly reduced the scope for the use of Section 309 IPC — and made the attempt to commit suicide punishable only as an exception.

Section 115 in the Mental Healthcare Act 2017

Title: Presumption of severe stress in case of attempt to commit suicide

Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.  The appropriate Government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

But this has not led to a good repeal of the IPC provision because “Not always that a person committing suicide is under stress”

As per Chief Justice of India “It is not always that a person who is committing suicide is under extreme stress or is of unsound mind. Some priests and monks have killed themselves in protest and they were found to be in complete calmness of mind,”


There are a lot of factors attached to suicide. According to the Indian Constitution, the state is assigned with the duty to support and protect the lives of its people, but this power doesn’t hold good because by retaining section 309, the state can interfere in an individual’s personal life and curb their freedoms.

Thus section 309 as a law should be amended suitably keeping in view the kind of people who attempt suicide. The section should be amended to punish only those who try to escape punishment due to other criminal liabilities excluding those who attempt it out of sheer frustration, depression or due to living in such circumstances that would invoke suicidal thoughts.

Hence it can be concluded that Right to life, with a right to live a life of dignity does not mean to live a forced life. Decriminalizing attempt to commit suicide would not actually result in increase in number of suicides but would only encourage the survivors to seek help.

“Right to live would, however, mean right to live with human dignity up to the end of natural life. Thus, right to live would include right to die with dignity at the end of life and it should not be equated with right to die an unnatural death curtailing natural span of life.


Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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