Updated: Jun 20, 2020
As per India's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has published yearly reports on suicides since 1967 in the States and Delhi and the Union Territories. The reports as per Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI), 2018 showed an increased suicide rate per 100,000.
Suicide in India is now reported to be most common cause of death in general. Suicide is a personal tragedy that prematurely takes the life of an individual and has a continuing ripple effect, dramatically affecting the lives of families, friends and communities. Every year, more than 1,00,000 people commit suicide in our country. There are various causes of suicides like professional/career problems, sense of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, mental disorders, addiction to alcohol, financial loss, chronic pain etc. Suicide is also considered as a mental illness. Indian Law considers suicide to mental illness, even though The Term Suicide is nowhere specifically defined in the Indian Penal Code. Section 309 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
“Attempt to commit suicide.—Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.” The Indian penal code Section 309 deals with punishment for attempted suicide. Section 115 of The Mental Health Care Act 2017 now greatly limits the scope for the code to be implemented. The Act states, “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”. What are the provisions in law in a situation when the persons commits suicide leaving behind a suicide note blaming someone for his suicide or commits suicide without leaving suicide note but his suicide makes one feel that it was instigated by someone. Section 306 of Indian Penal Code,1860 “If any person commits Suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.” Classification of offence - The offence under this section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by court of session. The basic ingredients of this Section 306 of Indian Penal Code,1860 to constitute as an offence are suicidal death and the abetment thereof. Under the traditional common law, the guilt or innocence of a person is relied upon whether the person had committed the crime (actus reus), and whether he intended to commit the crime (mens rea). There has to be a clear Mens Rea to commit an offence and that there ought to be an active or direct act leading the deceased to commit suicide, being left with no option. Remoteness of the culpable acts or omissions rooted in the intention of the accused to actualize the suicide would fall short as well of the offence of abetment essential to attract the punitive mandate of Section 306 IPC. Contiguity, continuity, culpability and complicity of the indictable acts or omission are the concomitant indices of abetment. Section 306 IPC, thus criminalises the sustained incitement for suicide. Further, Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 cannot be made out against the accused If the victim committing suicide appears to be hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life, quite common to the society to which he or she belonged and such factors were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual to resort to such step, the accused charged with abetment could not be held guilty. The above view was reiterated in Amalendu Pal V. State of West Bengal (2010) 1 SCC 707. What is Actus Reus? Actus Reus a Latin term which means "guilty act" which, when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in combination with the mens rea, "guilty mind", produces criminal liability What is Mens Rea? Mens Rea a Latin word which means Guilty Mind which is the mental element of a person's intention to commit a crime; or knowledge that one's action or lack of action would cause a crime to be committed. It is absolute necessary element of many crimes. Mens Rea in the Indian Penal Code 1860 sets out the definition of offences, the general conditions of liability, the conditions of exemptions from liability and punishments for the respective offences.
Guilt in respect to almost all offences created under the IPC is fastened either on the ground of intention, knowledge or reason to believe. Almost all the offences under the IPC are qualified by one or other words such as ‘wrongful gain or loss’, ‘dishonesty’, ‘fraudulently’, ‘reason to believe’, ‘criminal knowledge or intention’, ‘intentional cooperation’, ‘voluntarily’, ‘malignantly’, ‘wantonly’, ‘maliciously’. All these words indicate the blameworthy mental condition required at the time of commission of the offence, nowhere found in the IPC, its essence is reflected in almost all the provisions of the Indian Penal Code 1860. Every offence created under the IPC virtually imports the idea of criminal intent or mens rea in some form or other. What is abetment? An abetment of a thing is described in Section 107 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 is as follows: A person abets the doing of a thing, who :- First: Instigates any person to do that thing; or Secondly: Engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or Thirdly: Intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing. Explanation 1. A person who, by wilful misrepresentation, or by wilful concealment of a material fact which he is bound to disclose, voluntarily causes or procures, or attempts to cause or procure, a thing to be done, is said to instigate the doing of that thing. Who is Abettor? An Abettor is described in Section 108 of Indian Penal Code, 1860:- A person abets an offence, who abets either the commission of an offence, or the commission of an act which would be an offence, if committed by a person capable by law of committing an offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of the abettor. Explanation 1. :- The abetment of the illegal omission of an act may amount to an offence although the abettor may not himself be bound to do that act. Explanation 2.:- To constitute the offence of abetment it is not necessary that the act abetted should be committed, or that the effect requisite to constitute the offence should be caused. Explanation 3.:- It is not necessary that the person abetted should be capable by law of committing an offence, or that he should have the same guilty intention or knowledge as that of the abettor, or any guilty intention or knowledge. Explanation 4.:- The abetment of an offence being an offence, the abetment of such an abetment is also an offence. Explanation 5.:- It is not necessary to the commission of the offence of abetment by conspiracy that the abettor should concert the offence with the person who commits it. It is sufficient if he engages in the conspiracy in pursuance of which the offence is committed. Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained. The Apex Court in Sanju alias Sanjay Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh held that the words uttered in a quarrel or on the spur of moment, such as “to go and die” cannot be taken to be uttered with mens rea. It is in a fit of anger or emotion.(https://indiankanoon.org/doc/393648/) The Supreme Court in S.S. Chheena vs. Vijay Kumar Mahajan and another and ruled that : Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained. There has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide. (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/850589/)
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Madan Mohan Singh vs. State of Gujarat and another has put that in order to bring out an offence under Section 306 of IPC, specific abetment as contemplated by Section 107 IPC on the part of the accused with an intention to bring about the suicide of the person concerned as a result of that abetment is required. (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1844186/)
The Remoteness of the culpable acts or omissions rooted in the intention of the accused to actualize the suicide would fall short as well of the offence of abetment essential to attract the punitive mandate of Section 306 of IPC. Contiguity, continuity, culpability and complicity of the indictable acts or omission are the concomitant indices of abetment. Section 306 of IPC, thus criminalizes the sustained incitement for suicide.
The Supreme Court in the case State of W.B. Vs. Orilal Jaiswal observed that the courts should be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case and the evidence adduced in the trial for the purpose of finding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim had in fact induced her to end the life by committing suicide.
If it transpires to the court that a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the court should not be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide should be found guilty.
What is Instigation? The act by which one incites another to do something, as to injure a third person, or to commit some crime or misdeme-anor, to commence a suit or to prosecute a criminal.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Ramesh Kumar vs. State of Chhattisgarh stated that “Instigation is to goad, urge forward, provoke, incite or encourage to do “an act”.
To satisfy the requirement of instigation though it is not necessary that actual words must be used to that effect or what constitutes instigation must necessarily and specifically be suggestive of the consequence. Yet a reasonable certainty to incite the consequence must be capable of being spelt out. A word uttered in the fit of anger or emotion without intending the consequences to actually follow cannot be said to be instigation.
The Supreme Court in Gangula Mohan Reddy vs State of A.P., (2010) 1 SCC (Crl.) 917 has observed that:- The Court in the instant case came to the conclusion that there is no evidence and material available on record where from an inference of the accused-appellant having abetted commission of suicide by deceased may necessarily be drawn.
In the instant case, the deceased was undoubtedly hyper sensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences which happen in our day-to-day life. Human sensitivity of each individual differs from the other. Different people behave differently in the same situation.
The court opined that there should be intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter. Each person's suicidability pattern is different from the others. Each person has his own idea of self esteem and self respect. Therefore, it is impossible to lay down any straight-jacket formula in dealing with such cases. Each case has to be decided on the basis of its own facts and circumstances.
Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing. Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, conviction cannot be sustained.
The intention of the Legislature and the ratio of the cases decided by this court is clear that in order to convict a person under section 306 IPC there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and this act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.
The Supreme Court in Vijay Kumar Rastogi vs. State of Rajasthan again held that the word ‘urge’ means to advice or try hard to persuade somebody to do something, to make a person to move more quickly or in a particular direction, specially by pushing or forcing such person.
Therefore, a person instigating another has to “goad” or “urge forward” the latter with intention to provoke, incite or encourage the doing of an act by the latter. In order to prove abetment, it must be shown that the accused kept on urging or annoying the deceased by words, taunts or wilful omission or conduct which may even be wilful silence, until the deceased reacted, or pushing the deceased by his words or wilful omission or conduct to make the deceased move forward more quickly in a forward direction.
Secondly, the accused had the intention to provoke or urge or encourage the deceased to commit suicide while acting in the manner noted above. Undoubtedly the presence of mens rea is the necessary concomitant of instigation.
Thus, in order to bring a case within the purview of Section 306 of IPC there must be a case of suicide and in the commission of the said offence, the person who is said to have abetted the commission of suicide must have played an active role by an act of instigation or by doing certain act to facilitate the commission of suicide. Therefore, the act of abetment by the person charged with the said offence must be proved and established by the prosecution before he could be convicted under Section 306 of IPC.
Abetment of suicide of married women- The Criminal Law (second Amendment) Act 1983 has provided that where a married girl commits suicide within seven years of her marriage, the Court may presume that her husband and relatives of her husband had abetted her to commit suicide by virtue of incorporation of Section 113 A in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Section 113 A in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman.When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the Court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband. Explanation.:- For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” shall have the same meaning as in section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).]
The Supreme Court held in Ramesh Kumar vs State Of Chhattisgarh on 17 October, 2001 that:- This provision was introduced by Criminal Law (Second) Amendment Act, 1983 with effect from 26.12.1983 to meet a social demand to resolve difficulty of proof where helpless married women were eliminated by being forced to commit suicide by the husband or in-laws and incriminating evidence was usually available within the four-corners of the matrimonial home and hence was not available to any one outside the occupants of the house. How-ever still it cannot be lost sight of that the presumption is intended to operate against the accused in the field of criminal law. Before the presumption may be raised, the foundation thereof must exist. A bare reading of Section 113-A shows that to attract applicabilty of Section 113- A, it must be shown that (i) woman has committed suicide, (ii) such suicide has been committed within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage, (iii) the husband or his relatives, who are charged had subjected her to cruelty. On existence and availability of the abovesaid circumstances, the Court may presume that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relatives of her husband. The Parliament has chosen to sound a note of caution. Firstly, the presumption is not mandatory; it is only permissive as the employment of expression "may presume" suggests. Secondly, the existence and availability of the abovesaid three circumstances shall not, like a formula, enable the presumption being drawn; before the presumption may be drawn the Court shall have to have regard to 'all the other circumstances of the case'. A consideration of all the other circumstances of the case may strengthen the presumption or may dictate the conscience of the Court to abstain from drawing the presumption. The expression - 'The other circumstances of the case' used in Section 113-A suggests the need to reach a cause and effect relationship between the cruelty and the suicide for the purpose of raising a presumption. Last but not the least the presumption is not an irrebuttable one. In spite of a presumption having been raised the evidence adduced in defence or the facts and circumstances otherwise available on record may destroy the presumption. The phrase 'May presume' used in Section 113-A is defined in Section 4 of the Evidence Act, which says-'whenever it is provided by this Act that Court may presume a fact, it may either regard such fact as proved, unless and until it is disproved or may call for proof of it.' The present case is not one which may fall under clauses, secondly and thirdly of Section 107 of Indian Penal Code. The case has to be decided by reference to the first clause, i.e., whether the accused-appellant abetted the suicide by instigating her to do so.
Sections 498-A and 306 IPC are independent and constitute different offences. Though depending on the facts and circumstances of an individual case, subjecting a woman to cruelty may amount to an offence under Section 498-A and may also, if a course of conduct amounting to cruelty is established leaving no other option for the woman except to commit suicide, amount to abetment to commit suicide. However, merely because an accused has been held liable to be punished under Section 498-A IPC it does not follow that on the same evidence he must also and necessarily be held guilty of having abetted the commission of suicide by the woman concerned.
Abetment of Suicide: Mere Name of Person in Suicide Note doesn’t Establish the Offence
In a recent case of A.R. Madhav Rao and others v. State of Haryana & ors. decided on 22nd May, 2018, the High Court of Punjab & Haryana quashed the FIR registered against the petitioners under Sections 306 and 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 for abetment of suicide and made the following observations in the case:
That the offence of abetment requires ‘mens rea’ (guilty mind). There must be intentional doing/aiding or goading the commission of suicide by another. Otherwise, even a mere casual remark, something said in routine and usual conversation will be wrongly construed or misunderstood as ‘abetment’. That to attract Section 306 I.P.C., there must be clear ‘mens rea’ to commit offence.
That generally the person who commits suicide used to/liked to leave a suicide note naming certain person as responsible for his committing suicide. Merely because a person has been so named in the suicide note one cannot immediately jump to the conclusion that he is an offender under Section 306 I.P.C.
That the contents of the suicide note and other attending circumstances have to be examined to find out whether it is abetment within the meaning of Section 306 I.P.C. read with Section 107 I.P.C. There may be a case where in the suicide note victim had named a person, who is responsible for his committing suicide, but, on proper analysis, Section 306 I.P.C. may not be attracted to him.
The overall analysis is required to be examined with the following incidents like if a lover commits suicide due to love failure, if a student commits suicide because of his poor performance in the examination, a client commits suicide because his case is dismissed, the lady, examiner, lawyer respectively cannot be held to have abetted the commission of suicide.
That for the wrong decision taken by a coward, fool, idiot, a man of weak mentality, a man of frail mentality, another person cannot be blamed as having abetted his committing suicide.
With reference to the facts of the aforementioned case, the High Court stated that in the absence of any specific instigation by the accused to the extent that they have advised or suggested or compelled the deceased and merely because a person who has committed suicide, has left a suicide note immediately one cannot jump to a conclusion that it is enough to incriminate the accused with criminal liability under Section 306 IPC. (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/23834342/)
Therefore, before deciding any person as guilty under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 one has to analyse and examine the contents of the suicide note and/or Dying Declaration to find out whether it contains any incriminating information in the nature of instigation, provocation, forcing the victim to commit suicide.