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Journal of Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine
Year : 2005, Volume : 27, Issue : 2
First page : ( 108) Last page : ( 111)
Print ISSN : 0971-0973.

Is attempted suicide an offence?

Dr. Yadwad B.S., Professor & Head, Dr. Gouda Hareesh.S., Post Graduate student

Dept. of Forensic Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka State.


Life is a stage with one entrance but many exits. Among those, suicide is one exit having a long ancestry. In 1968, the World Health Organisation defined suicidal act as “the injury with varying degree of lethal intent” and that suicide may be defined as “a suicidal act with fatal outcome”. Suicidal acts with non fatal outcome are labeled by World Health Organisation as “attempted suicide.” Suicide has been an act of condemnation as well as commendation through the ages. The act of suicide is forbidden in Khoran and the Holy Bible. The common belief among Hindus is that a person who commits suicide will not attain “Moksha” and his Soul will wander around, haunting and tormenting people. In recent times, attempted suicide, though a failed act has gained more importance (than the suicide, a successful act) since it is considered as an offence and is punishable under Section 309 of Indian Penal Code. A lot of conflicting opinions have generated on the desirability of retaining or deleting Section 309 of Indian Penal Code because of some contrasting judgments given by our Courts. Article 21 of the Constitution of India is a provision guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty and by no stretch of the imagination can extinction of life be read to be included in protection of life. By declaring an attempt to commit suicide a crime, the Indian Penal Code upholds the dignity of human life, because human life is as precious to the State as it is, to its holder and the State can not turn a blind eye to a person in attempting to kill himself. Another set of people are of the opinion that the Section 309 of Indian Penal Code is cruel and irrational because it provides double punishment for a troubled individual whose deep unhappiness had caused him to try and end his life. It is cruel to inflict additional legal punishment on a person who has already suffered agony and ignominy in his failure to commit suicide. And also, what is the legal status of individuals who, by virtue of their religion refuse food and fast unto death? In India there are innumerable cases wherein religious ascetics fast to death without State intervening and are not punished though such acts amount to attempt to suicide.


Key words

Suicide, attempted suicide, Section 306 & 309 of Indian Penal Code, legal anomaly.


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