Legal Provisions Regarding “Attempt to Commit Suicide” in India – Section 309 of IPC

Sec. 309 IPC defines and prescribes the punishment for an attempt to commit suicide. The punishment for attempting to commit suicide has been discussed in India in Press, Bar and Bench.

William Hernest Horkey wrote:

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“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

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J.S. Mill wrote:

“Over himself and over his body and mind the individual is sovereign.”


Mahatma Gandhi wrote:

“Death is our friend, the trust of our friend. He delivers us from agony. I don’t want to die of a creeping paralysis of my father.”

The above quotations delivered by the eminent political leaders and philosophers show that every person shall have a right to remove his own life. Attempt to commit suicide is a last step of an aggrieved person. Such person struggles in the society for his existence.

The psychologists opine that the people, who commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide, do not have criminal intention. Such people commit this offence due to the defect of psychology.

Due to chronic diseases, failure in love, heavy bankruptcy, failure in life, dispute with spouse, etc., are the reasons behind the suicide. Hence such people, who attempt to commit suicide and fail in such attempt; require social help and remedies rather than punishment.


The Parliament of England enacted The Suicide Act, 1961. In that Act they treat the attempt to commit suicide as a psychological and social problem, but not as a criminal problem. Hence by the above Act, England Parliament abolished the punishment for attempt to commit suicide.

In 1971, the Law Commission of India recommended to remove Sec. 309 from the Indian Penal Code. The Bill was introduced in the Parliament for removal of Sec. 309 from I.P.C. However the Bill was not passed keeping in view of peculiar circumstances in India.

Sec. 309. Attempt to commit suicide:

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.


Important Points:

A. Nature of Offence:

Cognizable, bailable, non-compoundable and triable by any Magistrate.

B. In the State of Delhi vs. Sanjay Kumar Bhathia (1979) case, the Delhi High Court held that Sec. 309 should be removed from the Code. It also opined that Sec. 309 is unnecessary in the present day cultural society.

C. Channa Jagedishwar vs. State of A. P. (1988 Cr.L.J. 549)

In this case, the appellant was prosecuted under Sec. 309. The Andhra Pradesh High Court held that Sec. 309 is not ultra vires of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution as right to live in Article 21 impliedly includes right not to live that is right to die.

D. In State of Tamil Nadu vs. Sivarasan (1997 (1) Crimes 170) case the Supreme Court held that Sec. 309 is constitutionally valid.

E. P. Ratnam, Nagabhushan Patnaik vs. Union of India (1994) (3) SCC 394)

There were different judgments on Sec. 309 by the different High Courts. In 1994 in the above case the Divisional Bench of the Supreme Court held that Sec. 309 was against the Constitution and suggested the Legislature to delete Sec. 309 from the Code.

F. Gain vs. State of Punjab (AIR 1996 SC 946)

After two years after Rathnam’s case, i.e., in 1996 the Supreme Court again discussed the matter on attempt to commit suicide thoroughly and held that Sec. 309 is not against Constitution and also opined that no person has a right to finish his life.

Finally the Supreme Court upheld the retention of Sec. 309 in the Code. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court opined: “Attempt to commit suicide deserves treatment rather than punishment.”

Abetment of Suicide of Child or Insane Person

Sec. 305 explains and prescribes the punishment for abetment of suicide of child or insane person. Nature of offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Sec. 305. Abetment of suicide of child or insane person:

If any person under eighteen years of age, any insane person, any delirious person, any idiot, or any person in a state of intoxication, commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.


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