“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”.
Ending one’s own life by themselves is termed as suicide. Sometimes, people see it as a way to escape from their problems and grief. Even though we may believe that nothing is fixed by committing suicide but to a person with suicidal tendencies, suicide is the only answer to most of their problems. It is never a planned decision but an impulsive one. The effects of suicide are not only limited to the person who commits or tries to commit suicide, but it leaves a lasting effect on close friends, family, and communities. There can be many reasons to commit suicide; out of all, the most common reason is depression or mental illness.
PROMINENT REASONS OF SUICIDE:
Depression is a state of mind in which a person continues to feel sad and low consistently for a long period of time. It is a mood disorder that affects a person’s, behavior, daily functioning, and thought process. During the depression, a person pertains to feel a sudden change in interest or pleasure in an activity he used to enjoy. In some severe cases, depression leads to thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION:
Feeling lack of energy, difficulty in decision making, overeating or loss of appetite, feeling of unworthiness, insomnia, etc. are the symptoms of depression although they may differ from person to person. These symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg because there are many other symptoms that we are yet to understand as it is a very complex mental illness.
CAUSE OF DEPRESSION:
There are many causes of depression. For example- stress in personal or professional life; psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia; loneliness, physical or emotional harassment like bullying; low self-esteem; or some other physical health problem.
The National Mental Health Survey estimated that 1 in 20 Indians have depression. however, over 85% of the total number of people living with it are not aware that they suffering from depression. Depression plays a huge role in more than one-half of all suicide attempts/ suicide.
Other than mental illness and depression, the other prominent reason for suicide is that many people try to emotionally blackmail or manipulate their loved ones by threatening them to commit suicide in order to fulfill their demands. And hence, it does not take long for the threat to convert onto an actual mishappening.
India’s annual suicide rate is 10.5 per 100,000. According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death; it was the second leading cause of death amongst people of 25-34 years of age, the third leading cause in people aged 10-24, and the fourth leading cause at ages 34-54.
LEGAL ASPECT OF SUICIDE IN INDIA:
Before 2018, suicide was considered a crime under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1987.
Section 309 states that whoever attempts to commit suicide or does any act towards the commission of such offense, shall be entitled to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year or with fine or with both.
Suicide was an exceptional crime where both, the accused and the victim is the same person who is affecting himself.
NEED TO CHANGE THE EXISTING LAW OF SUICIDE:
Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code clearly states that any attempt to suicide is illegal if not successful. In the blatant undermining of the basic ideas of democracy, Section 309 of the Penal Code makes sure that you are punished if you don’t do suicide right. This is based on the notion that if the person dies, the matter dies with him/her but if they survive they stand answerable and punishable for their action.
PATH TO REPEAL:
In Gian Kaur vs State of Punjab, 1996, a bill was introduced in the High Court to strike Section 309 but it failed to pass as the appellant could not convince the bench of 5 judges that Section 309 of IPC violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In 2011, the Supreme Court recommended the Parliament to remove Section 309 of IPC from the statutes.
In 2015, a proposal to delete Section 309 from the Indian Penal Code was sent to the Legislative Department of the Ministry of Law and Justice for drawing up a draft amendment bill.
To bring changes in the existing obsolete law, the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 was passed in April 2017 and came into effect in July 2018. Although Section 309 is still in effect, the Mental Health Care Act has restricted its application.
MENTAL HEALTH CARE ACT, 2017:
As per the newly introduced Act, suicide is no more a criminal offense and further, it is the government’s duty to provide care, treatment, and rehabilitation to survivors of suicide who still suffer from severe stress or clinical depression even after an unsuccessful attempt of ending their own lives. This would reduce the repeated attempts of suicide.
If anyone suffering from any mental illness or clinical depression is a person living below the poverty line or is homeless, his treatment will be done free of cost at any government-funded mental health establishments.
Article 20(1) of the Act 2017 says, ‘Every person with mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity.’ Emphasizing that there will not be any discrimination against any individual irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, religion, etc.
There is separate punishment for any person who forces, instigates, manipulates, or creates certain circumstances for the other person to end their life under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1987. Attempt to suicide and abatement to suicide are two different concepts.
Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code states that if any person commits suicides, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, is entitled to imprisonment for not more than 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine. The intention is an important component of this section. To prove abetment to suicide, the intention of the abettor must be proved.
Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states the presumption for a married woman to commit suicide. It states that when a woman commits suicide within 7 years of her marriage and it is proved that her husband or relatives of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.
S.S. CHHEENA vs VIJAY KUMAR MAHAJAN AND OTHERS
In this case, the Supreme Court made a remarkable judgment on the law pertaining to the abetment to suicide. The court held that:
- Abetment involves a mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing a thing.
- Without a positive act on the part of the accused to instigate or aid in committing suicide, the conviction cannot be sustained.
- There has to be a clear motive/ intention i.e mens reato commit the offense.
- 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.
JAGMOHAN vs STATE OF NEW DELHI
In a landmark judgment of Jagmohan and others versus State of New Delhi, Additional Sessions Judge Manoj Jain stated that “There is no presumption that every suicide committed by a married woman is done because she is suffering harassment by her husband or her in-laws.”
SANGEETHA vs JEETENDRA BHANDARI
Appellant Sangeetha, the wife of the respondent Jeetendra, used to blackmail her husband so that he lends money to her parents and relatives. When he denied, she jumped from the balcony of their house but survived the mishappening. She filed a false case against the respondent under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, of abatement to suicide. The court, in its judgment, said that there is no element of cruelty established against the appellant and hence the allegations by the wife could not be proved.
Suicide has become a prominent issue in the present day scenario, be it a film star or a common man, a topper or an average student, rich or poor. Depression does not differentiate between the various strata of society. Only the ones suffering from depression understand what they go through. People say that suicide is not the only option but in reality, it is society’s indifference, no recognition of traumas, emotional abuse that makes one think that suicide is the only option. Mental health and depression are problems that need to be taken seriously because when a person decides to take his own life, he/ she must be struggling every day to live. Hurting one’s own self is not easy. Nobody hurts themselves on purpose. Nobody finds pleasure in hurting themselves. Before calling the victims of suicide weak, people need to understand their pain and suffering and think about the circumstances they must have gone through in which they preferred to end their life rather than living in those circumstances.
Maybe for us, suicide is not the option but for them, it is the only option. Yes, the other option can be when society accepts- mental health issues are valid and creates a safe space for people dealing with it to speak out. If a person we know or in our surroundings commit suicide or attempts to commit suicide then, we as a society have failed to make them feel comfortable. It’s because whenever someone tried to share their problems, insecurities, etc. with us, we told them to buckle up and invalidated their feelings. We told them that their problems are insignificant. The thing is that their problems are not insignificant. We have become so indifferent to their suffering that we refused to acknowledge their problems and trauma.
Now we have to understand that everyone has a different mechanism to cope with their problems. Some share what they feel with others whereas some may not share their feelings at all. This just goes to show that every human is different and that this does not make their feelings any less valid.
If we cannot comfort them enough to share their feelings with us, the least we can do is spread love and happiness with them because we don’t know what the other person is going through and our one word or sentence can unintentionally instigate someone. The fact that most people advise them to just be happy doesn’t take away their problem. This advice doesn’t make them happier because it’s like asking a person who’s drowning to not drown. Don’t just tell them to be happy but make them feel happy.
The problems in someone’s life cannot be compared to the problems of someone else. A 15-year-old student may think that failing an exam is their biggest problem whereas, on the other hand, a 35-year-old housewife thinks that financial difficulties are her biggest problems. This does not take away from the fact that both their problems are huge and real. Just like when a person drowns, it doesn’t matter whether he drowns in 6 feet deep water or 10 feet deep.
In the end, I would like to conclude my article by saying that this is a matter where more than any law, empathy works the best. The situation will improve when we will start to understand that mental illness and mental disorder are two very separate things. The stigma attached to mental illnesses needs to be removed. We need to educate people and sensitize them. Moreover, people need to analyze themselves by properly assessing, addressing, and correcting their traumas.
I further would like to add that society needs to relearn and adapt to new ways. We all just need to understand each other and to empathize with each other. That’s where 65%of our problems will end.
Mehak Ahuja | Amity Law School, Noida