Monday, October 18, 2021
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Suicide needs to be handled differently

Now, the government has decided to legalise “attempt to suicide” by deleting Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. I think this BJP led NDA government is running out of thoughts. Hence, it is doing meaningless amendments or emphasising on issues which are not worthy for the development of ‘thinkable’ India. They are debating on petty issues like making Bhagvad Gita a national scripture or banning of cow slaughtering, making Sanskrit National language or celebrating National Unity Day on Vallabhbhai Patel’s Birth Anniversary though it is death Anniversary of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Anyway, there are many issues which need more attention than these issues and they are food security bill, development, employment and empowerment.

Anyway, if government has decided to abolish section 309, then let us discuss the advantage and disadvantage of the same. Ethically, attempting suicide is wrong but it is certainly not a criminal act. If attempting suicide is a criminal act, then boozing, consuming drugs, smoking or literally anything that could endanger your life should be banned and punished. People who are under stress and mentally unstable (fleetingly) commit suicide and law is punishing people who are in a fragile state of mind; that is really ridiculous. Such people need companionship and help, not punishment. When an individual reaches to such a stage that he is totally dependent on others with no resources of his/her own, he/she decides to commit suicide.

Suicide attempt should have been decriminalised long back. Anyway, it is a good decision. Those who attempt suicide need counseling and not punishment. If Section 309 would remain, then suicide rates would not have increased. The person who is committing suicide does not think about the punishment he would have to bear if somehow he survives after the failed attempt. In the fit of rage and anger, they really don’t give a thought to whether what they are doing is right or wrong. They want to get rid of pain by putting an end to their life. They take such a drastic and life-threatening step when they lose hope in life. They even do not bother about what will happen if they survive or die. With this law, torturing him or his family members after the incident would come to an end.

A person who attempts suicide is in need of medical attention and not police action. The person is so distressed and disillusioned by his life that he/she thinks that death is the best option. In such cases, when a person survives a suicide attempt, prosecuting them and letting them go through another harrowing experience is a kind of cruelty. The person committing suicide is definitely neither discouraged by section 309 nor the repeal of this act would encourage people to commit suicide. The only thing that this section was doing is that it was punishing those who failed to punish themselves with a larger punishment. Moreover, this section was not serving any purpose of maintaining law and order. Suicide cases need to be handled differently. The causes need to be acted upon and not the outcome. Under the said Section 309 of IPC, a suicide bid is punishable with imprisonment up to one year, or with fine, or both.

The law panel, in its 210th report submitted in 2008, had noted that attempt to suicide may be regarded more as a manifestation of a diseased condition of mind, deserving treatment and care rather than punishment, and accordingly recommended the government to initiate the process to repeal of the “anachronistic” Section 309. Incidentally, at least five states — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab and Sikkim — expressed reservations against the move to de-criminalise suicide bids. Bihar wanted a distinction drawn between persons driven to suicide due to medical illnesses and suicide bombers who fail to blow themselves up or terrorists who consume cyanide pills to wipe out evidence, and wanted the former to be covered by a separate legislation. However, the home ministry officials clarified that they would still face charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, whether or not they succeeded in their mission. Law Commission of India, in its 210th Report, had recommended that Section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of IPC needs to be effaced from the statute book. As law and order is a state subject, views of States/UTs were requested on the recommendations of the Law Commission. 18 states and 4 Union territory administrations have supported that Section 309 of the IPC may be deleted.

Now, the biggest question is, were provisions of Section 309 inhuman and would repeal of the law relieve the distressed of their sufferings? Suicide is wrong thing to do, and hence there should be measures to stop it, and Section 309 is one of the things which works as a restrictive, and tells us that you are going to do something illegal, so do not do it. Repealing this law can increase suicide cases to some extent. There are two sides of arguments to one topic, but this is high time, before reaching some final conclusion, government needs to consider every pros and cons. Deleting Section 309 of the Indian Penal code may even lead to forced or provoked suicides in future.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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