Suicide or self – annihilation is a common incident affecting the people of all classes throughout the globe. It is an exceptional crime where both the accused and victim is the same person affecting himself. This crime has been elaborated in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and provides for the punishment as well to control further commission of offences. Attempt to suicide and abetment of suicide are two different concept which is punishable under Sec. 309 and Sec.306 of Indian Penal Code. Section 306 deals with the punishment for abetment of suicide while section 309 punishes for the attempt to commit suicide.
Abetment of attempt to commit suicide is outside the purview of section 306 and it is punishable only under section 309 read with section 107, IPC. Thus even where the punishment for attempt to commit suicide is not considered desirable, its abetment is made a penal offence in the interest of society. Such a provision is considered desirable to prevent the danger inherent in the absence of such a penal provision.
Abetment in its literal sense means, the instigation of a person to do (or not to do) an act in a certain way, or aid given by some person to another either on his own choice or circumstances arising out of joint and constructive liability. Abetment to suicide involves a mental process of instigating an individual or intentionally helping a person in taking his life on his very own.
This section is based on a reasonable public policy to prevent other person’s involvement, instigation and aiding in terminating one’s life. It takes care of the situation and threats imposed by death baiters. Section 305 under Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for the punishment of an individual who abets the commission of the suicide of a child, not being eighteen years of age, an insane or delirious or an idiot individual or a person being intoxicated which is death or life imprisonment, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
If A persuades B to kill himself by swallowing a rat poison tablet and B under his influence consumes it, then A would be liable as an abettor under this section.
Constitutional Validity of Section 306, IPC:
In Naresh Morotrao v Union of India, the validity of Section 306 was observed and the court held that section 306 constitutes an offence which is independent in character entirely. It is structured on the principle of public policy that no individual should involve himself in, or instigate, or aid the commission of a crime. It is in consonance with Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution and thus inviolative.
Abetment of Suicide
For conviction under this section, the prosecution has to prove –
1. commission of suicide by the deceased,
2. instigation done by the accused for committing suicide, and
3. mental state of the accused.
When the suicide is committed then only the liability arises for abetment. In case of an attempted suicide, provisions of Section 306 will not be applicable. In accordance with the definition of ‘abetment’ given in section 107 of the Indian Penal Code, the offence of abetment to suicide must be constituted. There must be instigation, or engaging in conspiracy, or assistance in the commission of the offence.
To convict a person under Section 305 or 306, IPC, there has to be a specific presence of intention (mens rea) to commit the offence and the accused actually made a positive move towards influencing the victim to take his or her own life.
To attract the ingredients of abetment, the intention of the accused to aid, instigate, or abet the deceased to commit suicide is necessary. Thus the basic constituents of an offence under section 306 are suicidal death and abetment along with direct involvement by the accused in such instigation is requisite and thus punished for a term which can exceed to ten years imprisonment or fine.
Case Laws Analysis
Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)
In this case the court analyzed the dictionary meaning of the word “instigation” and “goading”. The court opined that there should be intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter. Each person’s suicidal pattern is different from the others and has his own idea about self- esteem and self-respect. Therefore, no straight – jacket formula can be created and imparted in dealing with such cases as each case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.
Intention to commit suicide is essential in order to constitute an offence under this section. Where an accused jumped into a well to avoid the police and later came out of the well of his own accord, it was held that in absence of evidence that he jumped into the well to commit suicide; he couldn’t be convicted of an offence under this section, that is, Section 309[i].
The constitutional validity of Section 309 was initially struck down as a cruel and irrational provision and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution, in the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India[ii].However, in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab[iii], P. Rathinam v. Union of India was reversed and a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of section 309 by indicating that it does not violate Art 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian constitution.
In the case of Brij Lal v. Prem Chand[iv] it was held that creating worsening situations and conditions that provoked or forced wife to commit suicide attracts the offence under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code.
S.S. Chheena vs. Vijay Kumar Mahajan
In this case, the Supreme Court made observations on law pertaining to abetment of suicide under Section 306 of IPC. The Court ruled that:
- Abetment involves a mental process of instigating or intentionally aiding a person
- a positive act or an active participation towards commission of suicide by another individual
- mens rea to commit offence.
Sanju alias Sanjay Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh
In this case the Supreme Court held that words such as ‘go and die’ during the quarrel doesn’t constitute as mens rea and it is uttered due to heat of the moment and thus the accused was not held liable under Section 306 of IPC.
Ramesh Kumar v State of Chattisgarh[v]–
In this case, in a dispute between the husband and wife, the husband uttered to the wife, “You are free to do whatever you wish and go wherever you like”. As a result of this statement, the wife committed suicide. The Court interpreted the term “instigation “ again and declared that in order to satisfy the requirement of instigation, though the actual words must to be used for such a consequence, yet a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. A word uttered out of anger or emotion cannot be termed as “instigation”.
Randhir Singh vs. State of Punjab[vi]
The Supreme Court in this case enunciated on the pith and purport of Section 306 IPC and opined as under:
Abetment involves a mental process of instigating or intentionally helping any person in commission of an offence with active participation in influencing the victim.
King Emperor v. Vidya Sagar Pande –
A person assisting widow to become sati is guilty of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of IPC.
Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab[vii]
The Apex Court in this case pronounced the landmark judgement and held that Section 306 renders a person punishable of abetment to suicide only if the condition of commission of suicide is fulfilled. This is essential because it is possible to abet the commission of suicide and not a mere attempt in furtherance of same. It would be preposterous if law would penalize such attempts also.
International Scenario of laws regarding abetment to suicide–
Several countries and jurisdictions around the world like Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda and Singapore had its stringent laws regarding the offence of suicide which can be attempted suicide also. In England and Wales, the Suicide Act of 1961 has abrogated the rule of law whereby it is a crime for a person to commit suicide (S.1). Section 2(1) of the Act imputes criminal liability for complicity in another’s suicide and makes the abettor liable for the imprisonment which is for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
In African countries like Botswana, aiding or abetting the suicide of another person constitutes a criminal offense as specified in Chapter 08:01, Section 222 of the Penal Code titled “Aiding Suicide” and is liable to imprisonment for life.
Gambian law prohibits attempted suicide. The country’s anti-suicide laws are covered under Chapter 21, Sections 205 and 206 of the Gambian Penal Code in which Section 205 deals with “Aiding Suicide,” and makes person liable for life imprisonment.
Ghanaian law criminalizes the abetment of suicide whether executed or not as first degree felony which is provided in Act 29, section 57, subsection 1 of the penal code.
Thus, abetment to suicide is made punishable in most of the countries and suicide is not a personal choice until influenced by other individuals and hence the stringent laws threatens the society and controls the commission of offences.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)-
1. What is the punishment provided in United Kingdom in relation to abetment to suicide?
According to Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961, the abettor who aids in any form, to the person who wants to commit suicide is made liable for the offence and shall be convicted on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
[i] Emperor v. Dwarka Poonja, (1912) 14 BOMLR 146
[ii] AIR 1994 SC 1844
[iii] AIR 1996 SC 946
[iv] AIR 1989 SC 1661
[v]  9 SCC 618
[vi] (2004)13 SCC 129
[vii] AIR 2001 SC 2826
- Report No. 210, Law Commission of India, titled ‘Humanization and Decriminalization of Attempt to Suicide’ dated 17th October, 2008) available at http://law commission of india.nic.in/reports/report210.pdf last accessed 03-January-2009.
- Gaur, K.D. Text Book On Indian Penal Code, 4th edition, Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd.(2012)
- Indian Penal Code , 1860, No. 45