New Delhi: With 25 out of 29 states favouring decriminalisation of the attempt to commit suicide, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court that it is willing to consider repealing suicide bid as a penal offence.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was apprised of the Centre's willingness to consider repealing section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes suicide bid a penal offence, by its Standing Counsel Jatan Singh.
Singh stated this during hearing of a public interest lawsuit by Mental Health Foundation, an NGO, seeking decriminalisation of suicide bid.
"The IPC being a major criminal law, piecemeal amendment to the act may not be practical proposition. Therefore, the recommendation of the Law Commission in its 210 report for deletion of Section 309 of IPC will be given due consideration while considering the next batch of comprehensive amendment to IPC," Singh told the court.
He indicated a time frame of over a year for the move, saying "the government plans a comprehensive amendment to IPC, CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) and Evidence Act in a year."
The Union Ministry of Law and Justice, in an affidavit, told the court that the criminal law is a Concurrent List subject and it has received various states' opinions on the issue of repealing Section 309 of the IPC. The government has decided to consider their opinion as maximum number of states have supported repeal of Section 309 IPC (attempt to commit suicide), the affidavit said.
"25 Indian states out of 29 have favoured striking down Section 309 of the IPC that criminalises attempt to commit suicide by making it punishable with imprisonment. They have agreed to the recommendation of the Law Commission for deletion of the provision," said the affidavit.
"The government of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Sikkim are not in agreement with the recommendation and Jammu and Kashmir states that the law is not applicable to it," said the affidavit, filed in response to the Court’s notice on the lawsuit seeking deletion of the provision.
Under Sec 309, anyone who attempts to commit suicide — or does any act towards committing such an offence — is liable to be punished with a one-year simple imprisonment or fine or both.
The Mental Health Foundation's lawsuit has sought repeal of Sec 309 contending that it is "inhuman" and against the Fundamental Right to life under the Constitution.
"A person, if convicted for attempting the suicide, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both, the penal provision prescribed," the lawsuit stated.
"It is a manifestation of a diseased state of mind and it's unfair to punish persons who had already taken a decision to take the extreme step," it said seeking direction to the government to comply with the Law Commission recommendation.