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(Attempt to commit suicide, Euthanasia and Right to life is also for dead) As we know that our lives are protected and safeguarded in the bubble of rules & regulations and law. As rights are there to safeguard our lives and to maintain not to be killed by someone else but the question arises that can one voluntarily have a step towards the death legally? And the amazement comes when the death of one is also bound by the same. “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.”[1] This could not be truer than on the point that a person is not even allowed to take his own life or make decisions regarding the same; but rather will have to think about the considerations of the authorities. Section 309 of IPC deals with “Attempt to commit suicide”[2]—“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].”

Suicide as such is not defined in the “Indian Penal Code, 1860”[3] but according to Clift and “Another and Eliza Schwabe”[4]It is a voluntary act in which there is an intention of the person to take away his life with full consciousness. In “P Rathinam vs Union of India 1994”[5] , Supreme Court mentioned that if a person tries to commit suicide and fails in the same; then too the person will not be liable for any penalty as “Article 21 of the Indian Constitution”[6] mentions way to live life and as well as the way to end it by holding Section 309 of IPC as “ultra vires”[7] of Article 21 of fundamental rights. But this judgment got reversed in “Gian Singh vs State of Punjab 1996”[8], and was said by the Supreme Court that attempt to commit suicide is an offence and crime and is punishable. This whole section revolves around this controversy and scrutiny of these two above mentioned cases. The State[9], (“the State includes the Government and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India”) believes that punishment for attempting to suicide should be given (even if the penalty is lenient and minimal) to let the public and the person know that suicide is not the solution of anything and is not right and the same can be seen in the case of “State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Shripati Dubal”[10] , in which it gets proved after 11 years that the accused tried to commit suicide but he still got some penalty to not to repeat the same and instead seek help.

Now considering another way of death that is not natural; the term Euthanasia is being coined by two Ancient Greek words: “Eu” meaning “Good” and “Thanos” meaning “Death”, and by adding up, Euthanasia means good death of a person. Euthanasia is a voluntary act taken up by the person for death as he believes that it is not worth living. It is an intentional killing and is also known as “Mercy Killing” in which a person leads the path to death as in most cases his chances of survival are less and is in great pain. In many cases one rational might feel that for the ill person the death would be a better option in the moment as the level of pain and agony is unbearable and the same can be seen in the first euthanasia case of India, “Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India”[11] , in which a nurse was allowed euthanasia after spending 42 years in a “persistent vegetative state”[12] as a result of sexual assault and was allowed Passive Euthanasia. Now, Euthanasia is a matter with multiple categories like different kinds like Voluntary, Involuntary and Non-voluntary in which person consents, disagrees and is not in state to communicate respectively. There are also two types of deaths in Euthanasia, i.e. Active Euthanasia which is also called “Positive or Aggressive Euthanasia” in which the person is given something fast to indulge or affect to end the useless life in short time and Passive Euthanasia which is also called “Negative or Non-Aggressive Euthanasia” in which high road is taken by stopping basic amenities like food and water and the artificial support is removed. And only the latter is allowed and is legal in India.

Now there is also great distinction between Suicide and Euthanasia. In Suicide a person voluntarily kills himself but in Euthanasia a person kills a 3rd party, actively or passively. It is a very complex thing and it can only be allowed by legislation or by the allowance of the judiciary. No one can take this decision lightly as it is the decision for someone’s life. Further talking about people’s right to live, it is also important to talk about the rights of the dead. As of now there is no official specific law to protect the rights of the dead; but considering that right to life is also to death, in the landmark case of “Parmanand Katara v. Union of India”[13] The Apex Court recognized that the right to life, fair treatment and dignity, should not be bounded till he is alive but should also be followed after his death. These rights have been derived from Article 21 of the Constitution of India; same as rights of a living of fair treatment, dignity, etc. In the judgment of “Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India”[14] The Apex Court restated that the dignity of the deceased must also be maintained and respected. It also extended the right to the person who was homeless and died to have a decent cremation according to the religious customs to which he belonged and the State should ensure the decent cremation. In cases like “Ramji Singh and Mujeeb Bhai vs State of U.P. & ors”[15] and provisions of the Indian Penal Code includes certain rights a deceased person procure. The case talks about the respect that person would have got when he would be alive and it is vital for the State to treat the corpse with dignity, and must take the way to postmortem only if it is necessary. And the ask and dignity as right for the dead is in every sphere now, in medical or societal way too as there cannot be any discrimination, in treatment of body differently as by gender, caste etc, no physical exploitation, justice, timely burial and everything will have to be critically considered; even if the deceased does not have any family to take care and consider for the same, it becomes and is State’s primary duty to perform the same for all.

Now, connecting the ways of these three vast topics leads us to the base, i.e. Death and authority of the State. We can see through this blog that how the control of the ending of an individual is there and how one is bound to not take decisions for his death.

The State applies punishment for suicide, for euthanasia (that is not approved by the State) and for breaking norms for deceased, to believe that such regulations will reduce the number of deaths and will encourage the sources of help and so that everyone gets justice and no breach can happen in the stance of someone’s life.


[1] Rousseau, The Social Contract, (Ch-I) cited in Clarence Morris (ed.), The Great Legal Philosophers 215 (1971). [2] Section 309, Indian Penal Code, 1860 [3] Official criminal code of India [4] EnglishReports Citation: 136 E.R. 175; S. C. 17 L. J. C. P. 2: at Nisi Prius, 2 Car. K. 134. [5] P. Rathinam v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 394 [6] 21. Protection of life and personal liberty.—No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. [7] Beyond their powers, said of a company or corporation, etc. (SCC Online) [8] Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 648 [9] Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 12 [10] State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Shripati Dubal, (1996) 6 SCC 42 [11] Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 454 [12] It is a disorder of consciousness in which patients with severe brain damage are in a state of partial arousal rather than true awareness [13] Parmanand Katara (Pt.) v. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 248 [14] Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India, (2002) 2 SCC 27 [15] Ramji Singh and Mujeeb Bhai Vs. State of U.P. & Ors, 2010 (PIL) No.- 38985 of 2004)


Rousseau, The Social Contract, (Ch-I) cited in Clarence Morris (ed.), The Great Legal Philosophers 215 (1971).

SCC Online

This article is written by Mimuksha Darak of Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

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