Among some of the more problematic provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, that are absent in the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) is IPC Section 309, which punishes an attempt to die by suicide. The provision, one of the most archaic in the IPC, has been criticised for long, and it was made mostly redundant by a law of Parliament that came into effect in 2018. However it remains a part of the Code and is, therefore, liable to be misused.
What does Section 309 of the IPC say?
The Section punishes anyone who tries to kill themselves — usually understood to be the last resort of deeply distressed individuals — with a prison term and/ or a fine. IPC Section 309 says: “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.”
The law, brought by the British in the 19th century, reflected the thinking of the time when killing or attempting to kill oneself was considered a crime against the state as well as against religion.