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LAW OF CRIMES



ABETMENT OF SUICIDE: A CRITICAL STUDY


Submitted by:

Aiswarya Ray

INTRODUCTION

Abetment to suicide are as old as civilization itself. It is self-murder or self-destruction and it is done in many ways in which life itself can be destroyed. The reason for the same are also numberless. In case of suckles by the married women during early of the married life the dowry demands and consequent taunts and cruelty may be one of the major reasons. But it is not only the reasons. Now-a-days in most of unfortunate deaths of young brides in the matrimonial homes, dowry demands and their non-satisfaction by the parental side of the women is projected as the reason for the suicide. Suicide (self-annihilation) is a common incident affecting the people of all classes throughout the globe. It is a peculiar crime where both the accused and victim are same person. 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 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. Thus, even where the punishment for attempt to commit suicide is not considered desirable; its abetment is made a penal offence. In other words, assisted suicide and assisted attempt to commit suicide are made punishable for cogent reasons in the interest of society. Such a provision is considered desirable to also prevent the danger inherent in the absence of such a penal provision.



LEGAL INTERPRETATION

In the case of Sangarabonia Sreenu v. State of Andhra Pradesh the Supreme Court of India has stated that each cases has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances, and have established the nexus between Section 107 and Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, stating that the basic ingredient for both these sections is instigation or aiding, but for conviction under section 306 IPC, a reference has to be made to Section 107 IPC. In another case of Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi), the court dealt with the word “instigation” and have said that there should be a intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the other person. The court also said that the circumstances will be different in each suicidal case and the pattern too. Therefore, it is impossible to lay down how to deal with this case without any complications as the case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

This paper mainly aims to understand the concept of Attempt to commit Suicide in more practical and pragmatic way and to ensure that whether it can be impended peacefully in a country like India keeping all the legal dimensions in mind. The research is based on doctrinal study and secondary data collection method has been used. The researchers have tried to take the views from books, articles, commentaries, and other writings to incorporate the various view of the multitude of jurists, with the intention to present a holistic view. The researcher has also used the case laws as the reference, so as to understand the judicial procurement.

RESEARCH QUESTION

  1. What is the difference between Instigation and Abetment of Suicide?

  2. What is the Constitutional validity of attempt or Committing of Suicide?


LITERATURE REVIEW

  1. The first article is by Apurva Vishwanath ‘Explained: what is abetment of suicide, and how does the court determine if it took place?’. So, in the beginning of the article he has explained about the crime of abetment to suicide. Here he has mentioned about the IPC, 1860 that makes abetment of suicide and about section 306 of IPC. There is briefed about the seriousness if this offence. Here he has mentioned how will a court determine if the accused has abetted the suicide, he said about the two ingredients of the crime of abetment of suicide. The first ingredient is suicidal death the intension of the accused to abet such suicide. Lastly, he said is the intention to drive a person to suicide determined by the court. They said that the intention is discerned from acts of the accused in providing any crime. Here he has mentioned about the case of ‘Sanjay Singh vs. State of Madhya Pradesh’.

  2. The next article is by Krishnadas Rajagopal ‘Intention to abet suicide cannot be assumed, it has to be evident: Supreme Court’. In beginning he says that the intention to commit suicide cannot be assumed and it needs to be any valid proof the Supreme Court held in a judgment. The three Judges said said every crime should be backed by a “state of mind” or mens rea or intention.

  3. The next article is ‘What Constitutes Abetment of Suicide’ by Harsha Asnani. Here it talks about the protecting the sanctity of life. He also mentions here the section; the former is made punishable under section 302 and the latter under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Not only this but also a person who assists or abets any other person in commission of suicide is also subjected a certain term of punishment. Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code defines abetment of suicide as “If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punishable with such imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.” Here it is mentioned about the application of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code defines abetment of suicide as “If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punishable with such imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.” He came up with various cases here. He talks about Burden of Proof and Duty of the Court.

  4. The next article is ‘Neither is suicide a crime, nor can one be driven to it’ by Shashi Tharoor, Rhea Chakraborty and Arnab Goswami. Here its mentioned about the Historically, suicide has been a crime in almost all countries. Wikipedia lists hundreds of famous persons globally who died of suicide in the 21st century. Recent examples include actor Robin Williams, financier Jeff Epstein and chef Anthony Bourdain. The reason is almost always mental stress for some reason. “Driving to suicide” is a commonplace phrase but lacking in medical rigour or legal soundness. Thousands of students die of suicide every year after bad exam results. Should parents (who put pressure on their children) and teachers (who set exam papers) be accused of driving the students to suicide? Therefore, in sum, suicide is not a crime, and you cannot be driven to it. The Supreme Court needs to proclaim that the notion of driving people to suicide is medically and logically ill-founded, and anyway must not be confused with abetment.


SCOPES AND OBJECTIVES

  1. To understand the meaning of the Abetment to commit to suicide.

  2. We will get the scope to critically analyze the cases of Abetment to commit suicide.

  3. We will get the scope to analyze the sections under Abetment to commit suicide.

  4. The researcher’s objective is to investigate on the cases of Abetment to commit suicide.

  5. We will get to understand here Constitutional validity of attempt of Suicide.

HYPOTHESIS

Abetment of Attempt to Commit Suicide is against the social interest and should be treated as heinous crime.

CONCEPT OF ABETMENT

Abetment in gist is an indirect participation or involvement in a punishable offense and hence that act or omission also considered as a punishable offense. Abetment is discussed under section 107 of the Indian penal Code (IPC). While chapter 5 of the IPC, 1860 covers all the offense in relation to abetment. The concept basically deals with instigating, encouraging or promoting a person to commit an offense. It also includes aiding the person while committing the crime.

Section 107 of the IPC governs abetment. While having some requirements

  1. First it needs someone to abet the commission of an offence which may occur in any of the three methods mentioned below.

This Section tells that, abetment in general comes into play when someone abets the doing of a thing by:

  1. Instigating someone to try to that thing

  2. Engaging with another person (or persons) in an exceedingly conspiracy to try to that thing; or

  3. Intentionally aiding someone to try to that thing.

When any of the above condition exists, the offence of abetment is considered to be completed.

ABETMENT OF SUICIDE:

Abetment of certain offences is forbidden under particular Sections of IPC or under other codes of law. Similarly, abetment of suicide is punishable under Section 306. However, when no specific provision exists, the abettors are going to be punished with the punishment prescribed for that individual offence he has abetted.

  1. Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: Makes abetment of suicide a punishable offence and prescribes either a jail term of up to ten years or a fine or both.

  2. Section 306 mentions that if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

  3. Section 108 of the IPC defines the abettor. Abetment is defined as including instigating, engaging in a conspiracy or assisting in committing the offence.

Is the abetment of suicide same as murder?

  1. The abetment of suicide is different from murder. The Supreme Court clarified this issue in 1997 in the case of ‘Sangarabonia Sreenu v State of Andhra Pradesh’.

  2. Despite the intention of the accused to drive a person to commit suicide, abetment of suicide is not the same as murder.

  3. In the case of a murder, the final ‘act’ of causing the death of a person is committed by the accused which is not the case in abetment of suicide.

SUICIDE AND THE RIGHT TO DIE:

What is the key difference between euthanasia and suicide? Though the concepts are very closely related, they are still separated by a very thin set of medical morals. While euthanasia comes from the Greek words ‘eu’ which stands for good or well and ‘thanatos’ meaning death and is commonly called ‘mercy killing’. Where euthanasia involves causing the death of an incurably ill patient, the meaning of suicide is universally known. If while trying to commit suicide, if you fail you are punished under S. 309 of IPC. But under abetment to suicide should there be an inclusion of active euthanasia? Euthanasia and abetment to suicide are two different sides of a coin. Although both cause death but the ‘mens rea’ behind the two is completely different. Unlike suicide, euthanasia involves empathy towards a terminally ill patient.

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India, the Supreme Court in March 2011 held that passive euthanasia could be given a nod in case of exceptional circumstances and under strict monitoring of the apex court. Aruna Shanbaug had been in a vegetative state since 1973, and on her behalf, Pinki Virani, a social activist, journalist and writer, had filed a writ petition claiming that her right to life guaranteed by the constitution had been violated. The SC opined that such a decision regarding the death of an individual could not be solely left to the discretion of the patient’s relatives or the ‘next friend’like the nursing staff in this case.

In the case of Maruti Dubal vs. State of Maharashtra, a police constable was so despondent with the inaction of government authorities that he tried to immolate himself outside the office of Bombay’s municipal commissioner. When criminal charges were pressed against him, he challenged Section 309 of IPC in the Bombay High Court, saying that it violates Article 14- Right to equality and Article 21- Right to life and personal liberty. The court accepted the challenge and agreed that there was ‘nothing unnatural about the desire to die’ It also said that every man is the master of his own body and has the right to deal with it as he pleases. A person who attempts suicide, whether due to mental disorder or physical ailment, needs treatment and care, more than he needs imprisonment. The court concluded that the constitutional rights to live to include the ‘right not to live’ or the right to end one’s life.

In the case of Gian Kaur vs. State of Punjab in 1994, a married couple appealed against their conviction for abetting suicide under 306. They argued that since the ‘right to die’ fell within the ambit of right to life under Article 21 a person who helped another person to commit suicide would merely be facilitating the enforcement of a fundamental right. It was held that both- assisted suicide and euthanasia were unlawful. But what about situations involving medical emergencies? Should medical practitioners, physicians, and doctors be allowed to carry forward active euthanasia under strict guidelines? Should active euthanasia be made an exception to Section 306 of I.P.C.?

RELATION BETWEEN SECTION 107 AND SECTION 306

As defined under the section 107 i.e., instigation of an offence, it is merely related to section 306 as abetment of suicide involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in committing suicide. Without mens rea or act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide the convict cannot be accused. It has been clear from the ratio of the cases that has been decided in the Supreme Court that, in order to convict a person under Section 306 of IPC, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence and the act must be an active act which let the person to commit suicide seeing no option and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.

There has always been a grey are to proof whether there has been instigation or abetment to commit suicide. In certain cases, direct evidence may not be available in regard to instigation which may have direct relationship between section 306 and Section 107 of the IPC. In such circumstances, the court has to draw an inference to determine whether it had been such that it created the situation that a person committed suicide. The court from different cases has made clear that to convict a person under the Section 306 of IPC, there has to be mens rea to commit the offence.

ABETMENT OF SUICIDE OF CHILD OR INSANE PERSON

Section 305 of the Indian Penal Code states that if any person under the age of eighteen or any insane person or any person in the state of intoxication, if, he commits suicide and it was further proved that the committed suicide was a result of abetment, whoever commenced the abetment sha be punished with death or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding than 10 years, and shall also be liable for fine. In other words whoever abets the commission of a child or an insane person shall be punished under the Section 305 reading with Section 306 in it.


CONCLUSION

With the changing time, pattern of the society is changing vastly, calling for new and amended laws and provisions, as already enacted laws and legislations are falling short of the purpose for which they were enacted. Over a period of time, the ways of commission of offences have changed in such a way that they have gone beyond the ambit of the enacted provisions. There arises need for such laws that does not restrict the judgments to mere pigeon hole patterns of the criminal laws. Each case should be decided on its own merits keeping in mind the facts and circumstances of such case so that the justice is administered in its true sense. In today’s emerging society, people face many problems relating to their homes or workplaces, and few people, who are unable to deal with such pressures tends to end up their life and thus, suicides are becoming very common. Moreover, along with an increase in the number of suicidal cases, there has been a steady rise in cases of Abetment of suicide, be it a case of abetment by instigating or by aiding the victim in committing suicide. The accused can easily defeat the penal provisions dealing with such offence as the ambit of the provision is limited to three categories, only. Thus, there is a dire need to amend the provisions dealing with the offence of abetment, in such a way that the criminals are not able to bypass the legislations and mend the cases suiting their own desires and escape the punishments. Also, the laws are needed to be interpreted not strictly in a confined manner. But according to the facts and circumstances of each case so that justice prevails. The current definition of abetment falls short. The section covers abetment by way of aid, instigation and conspiracy, but there are instances where the actions of the person do not strictly fall in these three categories but pressurize a person to commit suicide.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cases

  1. Sangarabonia Sreenu v. State of Andhra Pradesh

  2. Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)

  3. Sangarabonia Sreenu v State of Andhra Pradesh

  4. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India

  5. Maruti Dubal vs. State of Maharashtra

  6. Gian Kaur vs. State of Punjab

Statutes

  1. The Indian Penal Code, 1860

  2. The Constitution of India

Journals

  1. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/tag/section-306-ipc/ (accessed on 25th November 2020)

  2. http://www.legalservicesindia.com/law/article/1144/5/Mere-Allegations-of-Harassment-Without-Proximate-Positive-Action-Not-Sufficient-For-Conviction-U-S-306-IPC (accessed on 25th November 2020)

  3. https://www.indialegallive.com/delhi-high-court/u-s-306-ipc-not-ipso-facto-amount-acquittal-discharge-u-s-498a-ipc-delhi-hc/ (Accessed n 25th November 2020)

  4. IAS TNEXT, “Section 306 IPC: Abetment of Suicide” (NEXT IAS - Current Affairs Blog July 31, 2020) <https://blog.nextias.com/section-306-ipc-abetment-of-suicide> accessed November 20, 2020

  5. IAS TNEXT, “Section 306 IPC: Abetment of Suicide” (NEXT IAS - Current Affairs Blog July 31, 2020) <https://blog.nextias.com/section-306-ipc-abetment-of-suicide> accessed November 20, 2020

  6. Sehgal DR, “Active Euthanasia – Scope and Validity under Abetment to Suicide” <https://blog.ipleaders.in/active-euthanasia-scope-validity-abetment-suicide/> accessed November 21, 2020

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