The Modi government has started the process to decriminalise attempt to suicide, a move that will ensure people driven to kill themselves do not end up in jail if they don’t succeed.
“The ministry of home affairs is in the process of effacing Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code as recommended by the law commission,” minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Section 309 prescribes a jail term of up to one year for those convicted of attempting suicide.
The government does not track attempted suicides, only suicides. Last year, 134,000 people killed themselves — 15 every hour. Family problems and illness accounted for nearly 44% of the cases.
The law commission had six years ago said attempt to suicide should not be a criminal act, arguing it was unreasonable to inflict punishment upon a person who overcomes the instinct of self-preservation and tries to end life.
Most states, including Delhi, had supported the move when the UPA government started the process to consult them. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Sikkim were among the few against the change.
The Supreme Court decriminalised suicide in 1994, holding that people had a right to die. The offence was, however, restored two years later after a couple prosecuted for abetment argued that they had merely assisted the victim to die.
An overarching bill – that would propose other changes – is being finalised by the home ministry in consultation with states.