Short Note on Abetment to suicide

This article has been written by Harsimran Kaur, a 4th-year law student from New Law College, BVDU (Pune).

Credits: Ava Blue

Introduction

Suicide or self-annihilation is a widespread incident affecting the people of all classes throughout the globe. It is the crime in which both the accused and the victim are the same person affecting himself/herself. The crime has been detailed in Indian Penal Code, 1860 and provides for the punishment as well to control the commission of offences. Attempt to suicide and abetment of suicide are totally different things which are punishable under Section 309 and Section 306 of Indian Penal Code respectively. Section 306 brings out with the punishment for abetment of suicide while Section 309 punishes for the attempt to commit suicide.


Abetment of an attempt to commit suicide is outside the leaps of section 306 and it is punishable only under section 309 read with section 107, IPC. So, even where the punishment for attempt to commit suicide is not considered desirable, its abetment is made a penal offence in the interest of the society. So, such a provision is considered desirable to prevent the danger inherent in the absence of such a penal provision. Abetment’s actual meaning is 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 constructive and joint liability.


Abetment to suicide includes a mental process to get going an individual or intentionally helping a person in taking his life on his very own. This section is based on a logical public policy to prevent other person’s involvement, aiding and instigation in terminating one’s life. It takes care of the situation and threats imposed by death torturer. Section 305 in 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 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 for a fine.


For example

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 arranged 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.


Abetment of Suicide

For conviction under this section, the prosecution has to prove-

  1. Commission of suicide by the deceased,

  2. Instigating done by the accused of committing suicide, and

  3. Mental state of the accused.

When the suicide is performed then only the liability arises for abetment. In the case of attempted suicide, provisions of Section 306 will not be applicable. In line 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 suggesting, 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 this offence and the accused actually made a positive move towards influencing the victim to take his or her life.


To attract the components of abetment, the intention of the accused to aid, instigate, or abet the deceased to commit suicide is necessary. So 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 punishment for a term which can exceed to ten years imprisonment or fine.


Important ingredients of abetment

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.”


In order to bring a successful conviction under this section it is important that its three essential ingredients stand to be fulfilled:

  1. the deceased should have committed suicide,

  2. the accused under this section should have abetted or instigated him/her to commit such an act and;

  3. such the alleged involvement of the accused should be direct in nature.

Case Laws Analysis

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

In this case, the court examined the dictionary meaning of the word “instigation” and “goading”. The court opened that there should be an intention to cause, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter. Each and every person’s suicidal pattern is different from the others and has its 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 surrounding it.


Intention to perform suicide is essential in order to constitute an offence under this section. Where an accused bounded 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.


The constitutional validity of Section 309 was initially struck down as a cruel and irrational provision and violative of Article 21 of the Consitution in the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India. However, in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India was reversed and a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity section 309 by indicating that it does not violate Article 14,19 and 21 of the Indian constitution.

In the case of Brij Lal v. Prem Chand, in this, 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 the 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 active participation towards the commission of suicide by another individual.

  • Mens rea to commit this offence.

Sanju alias Sanjay Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh

So in this case, the Supreme Court held that words such as ‘go’ and ‘die’ during the quarrel don’t constitute as mens rea and it is uttered due to heat of the moment and so the accused was not held liable under Section 306 of IPC.


Ramesh Kumar v State of Chattisgarh

In this case, during an argument between a husband and wife, the husband uttered to his 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 be used for such an outcome, yet a reasonable certainty to incite those consequences must be capable of being spelt out.


Randhir Singh vs. State of Punjab

The Supreme Court in this case involved a mental process of instigating or intentionally helping any person in the commission of an offence with active participation in influencing the victim.


King Emperor v. Vidya Sagar Pande

In this case, it was held that a person helping a widow to perform "sati pratha" will be held guilty of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of IPC.


Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab

In this case, the apex court held that Section 306 renders a person punishable of abetment to suicide only if the condition of the commission of suicide is fulfilled.


Conclusion

Attempt to commit suicide, that is, Section 309 states that 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 a fine, or both.


So it is basically a crime, which is done by a person, then he/she will have to face consequences. Additionally, Section 108 of the IPC defines the abettor and abetment are defined as an act which includes instigating, engaging in a conspiracy or assisting in committing the offence.

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