Section 306 IPC talks about the abetment of suicide. According to the criminal procedure code, 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 309, An abetment to commit suicide is also made punishable under 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, revocation, 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 suicide.
Neither a mere suggestion nor a casual remark suggesting suicide to commit suicide amounts to abetment to commit suicide. 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.
Presumption as to Abetment
Section 113A of the Evidence Act, which was inserted in the year 1983 by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1983, lays down presumption of abetment.
Under this section, when it is found that a woman has been subjected to cruelty as defined in section 498A IPC, by her husband or his relatives, and she is shown to have committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage, then the court may presume that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or such relative of her husband.
The statutory presumption is discretionary and the court, where a woman commits suicide within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband or his relative, is required to raise it by ‘having regard to all other circumstances of the case’.
The presumption does not arise by operation of law merely on the proof of circumstances enumerated in section 113A, IEA.
A court may presume and convict the husband (or his relatives) for harassing and subjecting his wife to ‘cruelty’ and thereby driving her to commit suicide even if he (or his relatives) is (or are) not formally charged under section 306 IPC along with s 498A of the IPC. And where an accused is held guilty for cruelty under s 498A, he can, on the same evidence, be convicted under section 306 of IPC for abetting the suicide. Similarly, a court can Convict a person under s 306 even if he is not charged under section 498A, IPC.
However, the mere fact that a married woman committed suicide within seven years of her marriage and that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband or his relatives does nor automatically give rise to the presumption that the suicide was abetted by the husband In his relatives, as the case may be.
A court is not bound to presume that the accused persons have abetted the suicide even though the prosecution has established that the deceased woman committed suicide within a period of seven years of her marriage and that the accused subjected her to cruelty.
Section 306 IPC case laws
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, 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 bums 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 a 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. This is one of the landmark judgements on section 306 IPC on acquittal and court has convicted the accused under 498a.
Gurbachan Singh vs Satpal Singh
In Gurbachan Singh vs Satpal Singh the deceased, a newly-wedded girl, died of burn injuries. There was sufficient evidence about harassment and torture for bringing 1nSufficient dowry.
She was also accused of carrying an illegitimate child. In view of this harassment, the deceased committed suicide by setting herself afire. It was held that the provocations given to the deceased were grave and serious enough for an ordinary Indian woman to kill herself.
The evidence also revealed that none of her in-laws made any attempt to save her from burn injuries. The deceased’s parents were neither informed about her burns nor were prompt steps taken for giving her medical assistance. The accused were convicted for abetting the suicide.
However, mere unhappiness in matrimonial life pushing the wife to commit suicide will not attract s 498A and section 306 of the IPC. In Thangappandian v State, the only evidence against the accused was that there were some petty quarrels between him and his deceased wife.
The Madras High Court held that such petty quarrels could not be sought to be brought within the term ‘cruelty’ contemplated under s 498A, IPC. Under explanation to s 498A of IPC, cruelty is stated to be wilful conduct, which is of such nature as is likely to drive a person to commit suicide.
A reasonable nexus, therefore, needs to be established between the cruelty and the suicide of the woman, in order to make good the offence of cruelty. Accordingly, the court refused to convict the accused under s 306 read with 498A, IPC.
Tej Singh v State 306 IPC Judgments
Encouraging a widow to commit sati has been held to be abetment of suicide. In Tej singh v State, the accused were members of the crowd, who had joined the funeral procession from the house of the deceased to the cremation ground. The widow of the deceased was walking in front of the procession with an intention to commit sati.
The accused started shouting ‘sati mata ki jai’. As the procession proceeded, about 100-150 people surrounded the police in order to make it impossible for them to prevent the Widow from committing Sati. Ultimately, the funeral pyre was set on fire With the widow sitting on it. It was held that all those persons who joined that procession were aiding the widow in committing Sati.
Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India
In Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India, the Supreme Court held, and rightly so, that physician-assisted suicide is an offence under Section 306 IPC. The assistance of a doctor may be active or passive. In the former, he (or a third party) actively assists another in ending his life, while in the latter; he simply does not do anything to save his life. In either case, active or passive euthanasia, he becomes liable as an abettor of suicide.
If a person becomes unsuccessful in terminating his life, he becomes liable under section 309, IPC. If he is not in a position, say because of brain death of the vegetative state, to end his life, and someone else helps him to do so, he becomes abettor.
In Common Cause (A Registered Society) vs Union of India the petitioner, contending that Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug case was wrongly decided, urged the Supreme Court to declare that ‘right to live with dignity’ guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution takes in its fold the ‘right to die with dignity’ and that a person with deteriorated health or terminally-ill is entitled to execute ‘My Living Will and Attorney Authorization, which can be presented to hospital for appropriate action in the event of the executant being admitted to the hospital with serious illness or chronic diseases or likely to go into a state of terminal illness or permanent vegetative state so as to get rid of cruel and unwanted medical treatment (like feeding through hydration tubes, being kept on ventilator and other life-supporting machines) from doctors in order to artificially prolong his natural life-span and to relieve those who help him in ending his life from criminal liability.
The prayer was counter-argued by the fact that it is, as per the Hippocratic Oath, .the primary duty of doctors to save the life of his patients. The Supreme Court, after hearing arguments of both the parties, carefully looking into its pronouncements in the Gian Kaur and the Arumz Ramchandm Shanbaug cases and realising that the latter case holds the field in regard to assisted-suicide in India, referred the question to a Constitution Bench for its consideration and for clear enunciation of propositions of law.