Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises attempted suicide as well as suicide assistance.

Section 309 states:

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.[1]

Although section 309 is still in effect, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 (enacted July 2018) has restricted its application. The relevant provision of the new act states:

Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.[2][3]

Path to repealEdit

In the 1996 Gian Kaur vs State of Punjab,[4] the appellant failed to convince the five judge bench that section 309 violated article 21 of the Constitution of India. A bill to strike the section was subsequently introduced in parliament, but failed to pass.[5]

On 7 March 2011, the Supreme Court recommended that Parliament consider deleting section 309 from the statute.[6]

On 10 December 2014, in response to a question by Vivek Gupta in the Rajya Sabha on decriminalisation of suicide, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Chaudhary replied that "it has been decided to delete Section 309 of IPC from the Statute book."[7]

On 24 February 2015, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, said that a proposal to delete Section 309 from the Indian Penal Code had been sent to the Legislative Department of the Ministry of Law and Justice for drawing up a draft Amendment Bill.[8]

Restriction by other acts of parliamentEdit

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was set to be limited in effect by the Mental Health Care bill,[9] first introduced to the Rajya Sabha on 19 August 2013.[citation needed]

Section 115 of the bill initially stipulated that "Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness at the time of attempting suicide and shall not be liable to punishment under the said section." The bill also stipulated that the Government would have a duty to provide medical care to persons that attempted suicide. The bill was referred by the Rajya Sabha to a standing committee on 18 September 2013, which submitted a report on 20 November 2013.[10] In its report, the standing committee expressed three concerns on article 124: firstly, that the presumption of mental illness would subject persons to 'mental health treatment', secondly, concerns about the consequences on Section 306 of the Penal Code, which concerns abetment to suicide, and thirdly, concerns regarding the "institutionalization in silencing victims of domestic violence."

In response, the Ministry proposed amendments which would change the language of this provision to one concerning the "presumption of severe stress in case of attempt to commit suicide".[10] The Committee accepted this recommendation, noting that there was still ambiguity regarding the stage at which this presumption would operate.[citation needed]

The bill was voted upon and passed by the Rajya Sabha on 8 August 2016,[11] and passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 March 2017.[2] The bill was subsequently enacted in July 2018 as the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

The Mental Health Care Act does not repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, but merely provides the presumption of mental illness.[12][13][11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Indian Penal Code". India Kanoon. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Mental health bill decriminalising suicide passed by Parliament". The Indian Express. 27 March 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  3. ^ THE MENTAL HEALTHCARE ACT, 2017 (PDF). New Delhi: The Gazette of India. 7 April 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Smt. Gian Kaur vs The State Of Punjab on 21 March, 1996". Indian Kanoon. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  5. ^ Jai, Janak Raj (2003). Commissions and Omissions in the Administration of Justice. p. 501. ISBN 8187498870. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  6. ^ Venkatesan, J. "Time for Parliament to delete IPC Section on attempt to suicide". 8 March 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Decriminalisation of Section 309 IPC". Press Bureau of India. Government of India. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Attempt to Suicide". Press Bureau of India. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  9. ^ "The Mental Health Care Bill 2013" (PDF). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Union of India. 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  10. ^ a b "74th Report on the Mental Health Care Bill 2013, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare" (PDF). Parliamentary Research Service India. PRS. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  11. ^ a b Attempt to suicide no more an offence in India, Available at Learning the Law.
  12. ^ "After deleting Section 309". The Indian Express. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Government decriminalizes attempt to commit suicide, removes section 309 - The Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 December 2015.