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Abetment of Suicide Meaning, Punishment and Cases

Context: Mumbai Police have arrested co-star of TV Actress Tunisha Sharma for abetment of suicide.

What is Suicide?

  • Suicide is defined as an act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.


What is Abetment of Suicide?

  • Abetment is defined as instigating, engaging in a conspiracy or assisting in committing the offence. Section 108 of IPC defines who is an abettor in case of a suicide.
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes abetment of suicide a punishable offence. Under Section 306, abetment to suicide is punishable by either a jail term of up to 10 years or a fine or both.


Seriousness of Offence

  • Abetment of suicide is tried in a Sessions court and is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable serious offence.
    • A cognizable offence is one in which an arrest can be made by a police officer without a warrant from a court.
    • A non-bailable offence means bail is granted to the accused at the court’s discretion and not as a matter of right.
    • A non-compoundable offence is one in which the complainant cannot withdraw a case even when the complainant and the accused have reached a compromise.


Abetment of Suicide and Murder

  • Despite the intention of the accused to push a person to commit suicide, abetment of suicide is not the same as murder.
  • The Supreme Court clarified this issue in the case of ‘Sangarabonia Sreenu v State of Andhra Pradesh’, in 1997.
  • In a murder, the final ‘act’ of causing person’s death is committed by the accused, which is not the case in abetment of suicide.


How Does the Court Determine Abetment of Suicide?

  • There are two ingredients that make up the crime of abetment of suicide. The first is a suicidal death and the second is the intention of the accused to abet such suicide.
    • The evidence has to be evaluated to determine that death is a suicide. A death is termed suicide if the deceased person is understood to have known the probable consequence of their act of self-harm before proceeding to do it intentionally.
    • Once a suicide determination is made, then the intention of the person accused of abetment of suicide is looked into.
  • Exception: The only exception is that husband is charged guilty if his wife commits suicide within seven years of the marriage.
    • This change was made to curb rising dowry deaths that were categorised as suicides.


What will be Considered an Abetment in Case of Suicide?

  • In ‘Sanjay Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh’, the Supreme Court ruled that comment or a statement uttered in haste, anger would not amount to abetment of suicide.
    • In 2017, the court ruled that that instigation, involvement of the accused must be connected strongly and any remoteness in connection would be insufficient to charge the accused with the offence.
    • Instigation should have continuity, happen continuously over a reasonable period of time. The suicide must have taken place as a direct consequence of the instigation and cannot be a mere coincidence or very remote to the committing of suicide.
    • In case the person dead by suicide is found to be very sensitive compared to a reasonable person, the court has said that the charge of abetment to suicide would weaken.
  • Dowry case: In case a husband and his family have subjected the wife to continuous physical abuse since the marriage and drove her to commit suicide, they can be held guilty for the offence.


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