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Monday, March 7, 2011

Attempt to suicide must be decriminalized: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday observed that time has come to decriminalize attempt to suicide by erasing the punishment provided in Indian Penal Code and asked Parliament to examine it.
"We are of the opinion that although Section 309 of IPC (attempt to suicide) has been held to be constitutionally valid in Gian Kaur's case by Supreme Court, the time has come when it should be deleted by Parliament as it has become anachronistic," said a bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra while delaying with the issues relating to euthanasia. "A person attempts to suicide in a depression, and hence he needs help, rather than punishment. We therefore recommend to Parliament to consider the feasibility of deleting Section 309 from the Indian Penal Code," said Justice Katju while writing the judgment for the bench.
The Law Commission in its 210th report to the government on October 17, 2008, had differed with its earlier 156th report in 1997 subscribing the retention of attempt to suicide as a penal offence. In its 210th report, the commission had recommended to the government to "initiate steps for repeal of the anachronistic law contained in section 309 of IPC, which would relieve the distressed of his suffering."
The bench referred to a Constitution bench judgment in Gian Kaur Vs State of Punjab [1996 (2) SCC 648], which held that both euthanasia and assisted suicide were not lawful.
The bench had ruled that right to life under Article 21 did not include right to die. It also said that euthanasia could be made lawful only by legislation.
Justice Katju said as SC in Gian kaur's case had conceded "the debate even in such cases to permit physician assisted termination of life is inconclusive", no final view on euthanasia was taken. It laid down the law and procedure on passive euthanasia. The law panel's 196th report to the government on April 28, 2006, had comprehensively dealt with the issue in a 435-page volume which included a draft bill. The recommendation was identical to what the SC ruling on Monday.
The panel, headed by retired SC judge M Jagannadha Rao, had said: "We have thought it fit to provide an enabling provision under which patients, relatives, next friend or doctors or hospitals can move a division bench of HC for a declaration that proposed action of continuing or withholding or withdrawing medical treatment be declared lawful or unlawful."

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