Question: Explain the offences of “Attempt to commit culpable homicide”, “Attempt to commit suicide” and “Abetment of suicide”.
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Attempt to commit culpable homicide
Under Section 308 it says that
Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both; and, if the hurt is caused to any person by such act, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
So, even the attempt of culpable homicide is made punishable under the Indian penal code.
Illustration to Section 308:
A, on the grave and sudden provocation, fires a pistol at Z, under such circumstances that if he thereby caused death he would be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. A has committed the offence defined in this section.
IPC, Section 308 is linked with the offence of culpable homicide defined under Section 299, IPC. Whoever does any act with intention or knowledge, that by such an act he is likely to cause death, he would be held guilty of culpable homicide. Ingredients of this offence
- Nature of an act.
- Intention or knowledge of the offence.
- Likely to cause death.
- Executing their act or performing their act towards it.
- Culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Section 308 states that anyone accused under this Section will be sentenced to either imprisonment which may extend to three years, fine, or both.
If a person is injured in the attempt to commit culpable homicide, then the offender will be sentenced to imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or fine, or with both.
Attempt to commit suicide
Section 309. Attempt to commit suicide.
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.
As stated earlier, suicide is as such no crime under the IPC. However, an attempt to commit suicide is made punishable under this section mens rea is one of the essential elements of this offence.
As stated earlier, the intention to commit suicide is essential in order to constitute an offence under this section. In Emperor v. Dwarka Poonja (1912) 13 Cr LJ 246(Bom) where an accused jumped into a well to avoid the police and later came out of the well of his own accord, it was held that in the absence of evidence that he jumped into the well to commit suicide, he could not be convicted of the offence under this section.
Similar is the case in the announcement of hunger strikes and self-immolation. Thus as held in Ram Sunder Dubey v. State AIR 1962 All 262 only in cases where the accused intends to persevere to the end, refuses all nourishment and reaches such a stage that there is imminent danger of death ensuing, can he be held guilty of the offence of attempt to commit suicide.
Abetment of suicide
Section 305. Abetment of suicide of child or insane person.
If any person under eighteen years of age, any insane person, any delirious person, any idiot, or any person in a state of intoxication, commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 306. Abetment of suicide.
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.
Suicide has not been declared as a crime by the IPC obviously because once a person successfully commits suicide, that person is no longer alive to be prosecuted and the crime abates with him. However, an attempt to commit suicide is punishable under Section 309. An abetment to commit suicide is also made punishable under Sections 305 and 306, IPC.
These sections are based on a reasonable public policy to prevent other persons’ involvement, instigation and aiding in terminating one’s life. It takes care of situations and threats imposed by death baiters.
To make out a case of abetment, there must be some active suggestion/instigation, provocation, incitement or encouragement by the accused to a person to do an act. The offence of abetment must conform to the definition of the term ‘abetment’ given in Section 107.
There must be instigation, cooperation or intentional assistance given to the would-be suicidee. Neither a mere suggestion nor a casual remark suggesting suicide to commit suicide amounts to abetment to commit suicide.68 It is not necessary, nor indeed is it a part of the definition, that the suicide should have been committed in consequence of the abetment.
But, in order to render a person liable as an abettor, it is necessary that the abettor should do something more than remaining a mute spectator. But, sometimes, it is conceivable that even the person mere presence as a spectator may encourage a person to do a deed, which she might otherwise refrain from.
In such cases, the question of whether mere presence amounted to intentionally aiding another will have to be decided.
Before a person can be convicted for abetment of suicide, it must first be established that such other person has committed suicide. In Wazir Chand v. State of Haryana [AIR 1989 SC 378], the deceased was a newly married woman, who died due to burn injuries. The accused persons, the husband and the father-in-law of the deceased, were charged for abetting the suicide.
The prosecution case was that the accused sprinkled kerosene on her cloth and set her on fire. The defence of the accused was that the burns were caused to the deceased by accident.
The Supreme Court rejected the defence version but in view of the fact that the prosecution had failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased committed suicide, because of some procedural lapses, set aside the conviction of the accused under Section 306, IPC. Instead, it convicted them under Section 498A, IPC.
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