Person tries to commit suicide after being subjected to severe mental stress, which is a punishable offence: Is there any provision which can save her from penal provision? Ker HC decides 

Kerala High Court: Expressing that, Criminal prosecution followed by conviction and imposing substantive sentences and fines on those convicted of suicidal behaviours are believed to constitute an affront to human dignity, K. Haripal, J., pointed out that a large section of the society considers that suicidal behaviour is typically a symptom of psychiatric illness or an act of psychological distress, suggesting that the person requires assistance in his personal and psychological life, not punishment with imprisonment or fine.

It was alleged that, when the de facto complainant and others had demanded the issue of certificates to the applicants in connection with the Life Mission Scheme through manual mode, the petitioner insisted that she would issue certificates manually only on getting instruction from the official hierarchy, which led to altercation in the village office and out of mental turmoil, the petitioner attempted to commit suicide by cutting her veins and thus committed the offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Analysis and Discussion


Petitioner’s counsel stated that Section 115 of the Act saves criminal liability of the petitioner, an attempt to commit suicide shall be presumed unless proved otherwise, to have been done under severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the Code. Further, the counsel added that any person under stress can get the benefit of the said provision.

High Court expressed that the legality and correctness of the provision punishing attempt to commit suicide have always been the subject matter of hot discussion in the judicial circle for decades.

Bench cited the decisions of Orissa and Himachal Pradesh High Courts in which prosecutions initiated under Section 309 IPC were quashed by the High Courts.

In Pratibha Das v. State of Orissa, Orissa High Court had quashed the proceedings in light of Section 115 of the Act stating that proceedings cannot be continued for want of criminal intent. Similarly, the Himachal Pradesh High Court in Pratibha Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh, it was held that the proceedings are a sheer abuse of the process of law.

“…decriminalisation of attempt to commit suicide is the general view of Courts and legal luminaries.”

“Medical circles also believe that it is not an offence against the State, but, on the contrary, the State itself may be indirectly responsible for the plight of the victim who is left with no other alternative, except to end his life.”

Moving to the present facts, the petitioner had no malafides in delaying the issue of certificates and she had her own explanations, infact she was not expected to issue certificates in manual mode, when the applications were received online. Though the president of the panchayat and her lieutenants rounded up the petitioner and put her under severe mental stress. Petitioner was subjected to abuse and shouting.

High Court noted that there was a tense situation created in the office due to which police reached there and everything had to be faced by the petitioner single-handedly. The petitioner was being abused and pressurized to do an official act against the procedures to be followed in the office. It also appeared that she was illegally restrained and confined in her room.

Lastly, the Bench stated that under severe stress she lost balance and attempted to commit suicide by cutting her veins.

“…overwhelming reasons are made out to say that she had committed the said act under severe mental stress which stands saved from being tried and punished under the Penal Code.”

Hence, Section 115 of the Act saved the act of the petitioner from the penal provision.[Simi C.N. v. State of Kerala, Crl. MC No. 6522 of 2021, decided on 7-4-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

BY ADVS.RAJIT

                   RAMAKRISHNAN M.N.

                   MARY MANJU VINCENT

For the Respondent:

BY SMT. SREEJA V., SENIOR PUBLIC PROSECUTOR

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