Decriminalization of attempt to suicide has been a matter of debate since long. It has been considered as a felony even in ancient India. All the shashtras including Bhagvadgeeta have condemned it. But judicial pronouncements are divided on this issue and there is an approach that right to live includes right to die. While forwarding 210th report of Law Comission of India, it's Chairman Dr. Justice A.R. Lakshmanan in his letter dated 17 .10.2008, addressed to the Union Law Minister, has said:
"A Division Bench of the Supreme Court in P. Rathinam v. Union of India (AIR 1994 SC 1844) held that the right to live of which Article 21 speaks of can be said to bring in its trail the right not to live a forced life, and therefore, section 309 violates Article 21. This decision was, however, subsequently overruled in Gian Kaur v.
State of Punjab (AIR 1996 SC 946) by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, holding that Article 21 cannot be construed to include within it the ‘right to die’ as a part of the fundamental right guaranteed therein, and therefore, it cannot be said that section 309 is violative of Article 21.
The Law Commission had undertaken revision of the Indian Penal Code as part of its function of revising Central Acts of general application and importance. In its 42nd Report submitted in 1971, the Commission recommended, inter alia, repeal of section 309. The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1978, as passed by the Rajya Sabha, accordingly provided for omission of section 309. Unfortunately, before it could be passed by the Lok Sabha, the Lok Sabha was dissolved and the Bill lapsed. The Commission submitted
its 156th Report in 1997 after the pronouncement of the judgement in Gian Kaur, recommending retention of section 309.However, it is felt that attempt to suicide may be regarded more as a manifestation of a diseased condition of mind deserving treatment and care rather than an offence to be visited with punishment. The
Supreme Court in Gian Kaur focused on constitutionality of section 309. It did not go into the wisdom of retaining or continuing the same in the statute. In view of the views expressed by the World Health Organization, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, France, decriminalization of attempted suicide by all countries in Europe and North America, the opinion of the Indian Psychiatric Society, and the representations received by the Commission from various persons, the Commission has resolved to recommend to the Government to initiate steps for repeal of the anachronistic law contained in section 309, IPC, which would relieve the distressed of his suffering. It needs mention here that only a handful of countries in the world, like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and India have persisted with this undesirable law."
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