Govt decides to decriminalise attempt to suicide, to scrap Sec 309 IPC

Govt decides to decriminalise attempt to suicide, to scrap Sec 309 IPC

Attempt to suicide that is punishable by a one-year jail term will no longer be a crime with the government deciding to remove Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC) to decriminalise the offence.

The move by the Government came after it got the backing of 22 states and union territories.

Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary while giving this information in the Rajya Sabha today said the Law Commission of India, in its 210th Report, had recommended that Sec 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of IPC needs to be effaced from the statute book.

Chaudhary said since law and order is a state subject, views of all states and union territories were sought on the recommendations of the Law Commission.

"18 states and 4 union territory administrations have supported that Sec 309 of the IPC may be deleted. Keeping in view the responses from the States/UTs, it has been decided to delete Sec 309 of IPC from the Statute book," he said in reply to a written question.
Previously, suicide attempts in India were punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine, or both.

According to government data, 134,799 people committed suicide in 2013 compared to 135,445 in the previous year. There was no official data on the number of attempted suicides.

The Law Commission that recommended repealing of Section 309 of IPC in its 210th report in 2008 said that sympathy, counselling and appropriate treatment and not punishment will prevent a person from committing suicide.

It called Section 309 a "stumbling block in prevention of suicides and improving the access of medical care to those who have attempted suicide."

The five states which did not fully support the move to delete Section 309 are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim and Delhi.

Reacting cautiously to the government's move, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chief Justice (rtd) K G Balakrishnan said there are various factors and he will wait for "views from all directions".

"There could be another view. Suicide is for various reasons. We had seen the draft legislation. It was also referred to NHRC. Let us see the reaction. Let us see the views coming from all directions," Balakrishnan said.

Asked whether NHRC supports it, he said, "It's not a question of supporting (government move). Suicide...people have got some mental depression, various reasons. Nobody will commit suicide simply. Various factors are there," he said.

To a query whether the NHRC had raised some concerns about the issue, he said that a question was raised in a NHRC conference but added, "Let us see the reactions."

Congress spokesperson and senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi backed the Centre's move but said it was his "personal view" and his party has not taken a position on the issue.

"I am for it. Personally I support it. Congress has not taken a position on it. This is not something for political parties to decide. This is a sociological debate. I do not think Congress is obliged to take a view on it," Singhvi said.

He said he was aware that there could be several views on this issue like that on death penalty but insisted, "I find some merit in it in my personal opinion."

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