SC asks Centre to explain contradictions in suicide sections in Mental Healthcare Act and IPC

The Supreme Court Friday asked the Central Government to justify the validity of Section 115 (Presumption of severe stress in case of attempt to commit suicide) of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which, according to the Court, virtually negates section 309 (Attempt to commit suicide) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

A three-judge bench led by CJI S A Bobde has also issued notice to the Attorney General for India.

The Court was hearing a PIL seeking certain directions to ensure the prevention of attempts to commit suicide by persons by throwing themselves in animal enclosures in zoos. This act of attempting to commit suicide is an offence punishable under section 309 of the IPC.

Section 309 of the IPC reads as follows-

“309. Attempt to commit suicide.—Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year 1[or with fine, or with both]”.

Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act provides-

“115. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code”.

While hearing the matter today, the bench pointed out the contradiction between the two sections.

It also tagged the matter with a batch of pleas challenging the validity of Section 309 of the IPC.

The Court also appointed senior advocate ANS Nadkarni as amicus curie in the matter.