ABETMENT OF SUICIDE
This particular act is an offence under Sec. 306 and 107 of IPC.
Sec 306 clearly explains that if a person commits suicide on abetment of another, then the abettor shall be liable for imprisonment for a term which may extend upto ten years and also fine.
Sec. 107 explains that a person is said to have abetted a thing, if he instigates any person to do it or if he engages with any person in conspiracy to do or to omit such thing, intentionally aids the doing or omission of that thing
Sec 498 A explains that if the husband or any relative of the husband shows ‘cruelty’ towards the wife, then it is punishable. The word cruelty for the same includes the commission of acts which would lead a woman to commit suicide.
So, an offence under Sec. 306 r/w Sec. 498 A would go with the offence abetment of suicide.
CASE ANALYSIS: NARWINDER SINGH vs. STATE OF PUNJAB[i]
· The facts of the case are that the Sukhjit Kaur (deceased) was married to the accused, Narwinder Singh, after giving him an amount of dowry along with other valuable items.
· But, even after fulfilment of their wishes the accused and his parents kept on demanding additional money from the deceased. The deceased and her family on many occasions have fulfilled the demands of the accused, until the father of the deceased was murdered.
· After the death of the father, the deceased was termed to cruelty and torcher by her husband and was asked to bring in more money as dowry. Unable to bear which, the deceased has committed suicide by consuming poison.
Ø The trial court held the accused liable under 304- B of IPC and thereby awarded him a rigorous imprisonment for seven years.
Ø The high court, on appeal, converted the offence of the accused to have been committed under Sec.304-B to Sec. 306 and awarded a rigorous imprisonment of two years to the accused.
Rule of Law:
o Sec. 304 B of IPC explains that:
If the death of a woman is caused due to burns or bodily injury or if it is proved that she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of him within seven years of her marriage, then such death will be termed as ‘dowry death’. And whoever commits the offence is liable for an imprisonment for not less than seven years, and can extend to life imprisonment.
o Sec. 306 and 498 A (as explained above).
The accused contested that the deceased has committed suicide not because of him, but because of the mental stress she had been going through as she could not take in the news of the death of her father, but the prosecution here had sufficient evidence to prove that the suicide was caused due to the behaviour of the husband towards the deceased which had an impact on the mental health of the deceased.
The court here explained that the husband and his relatives kept on demanding valuables and money from the deceased thus leading to a situation where she had no other option than to commit suicide and this decision of her was further provoked by the husband who abused her and had used harsh language against and thus has initiated the idea of committing suicide in her mind.
So, the accused was here held liable for an offence of abetment of suicide under Sec. 306 r/w Sec. 498 A of IPC.
Hence, the abetment of suicide is a punishable offence under IPC. It is argued that when the act itself is punishable, then even the abetment of the act should be punishable. But there are arguments on the other hand that; if a person would wish to die then supporting his decision should not be punishable as the abettor (as perceived by IPC) has no intention to kill the person.[ii] But with regard to the Indian Legal System, Abetment of Suicide is a punishable offence under IPC.
ABETMENT OF EUTHANASIA:
Euthanasia in its true meaning means GOOD DEATH. It is the practice where by the life of an individual is put to end in case he is suffering from an incurable illness by either providing a certain medical drug or by terminating medical treatment.
It is also known as Mercy Killing as the pain of the individual is taken away by putting end to his life at once. Euthanasia is said to be a right of the person to die with dignity.
Euthanasia with regard to the concept of consent is of three types:
A. Voluntary Euthanasia- It is where the person who has died has given his consent expressly to kill him.
B. Non- Voluntary Euthanasia- It is where the person who was killed was not in a position to communicate his consent and so was left to die.
C. Involuntary Euthanasia- It is where the euthanasia is performed against the will of the person. The person has here expressly denies to give consent, but still was euthanized.
When viewed from the view of Indian Judicial System, Euthanasia is of two types.
o ACTIVE EUTHANASIA
o PASSIVE EUTHANASIA
Active euthanasia is also termed as ‘positive or aggressive euthanasia’. It is where a direct action is performed to end the life of a human being. Example. A drug is injected to the person’s body thereby which causes his death. All forms of active euthanasia are illegal in India and are punishable offences.
Passive euthanasia if known as ‘negative or non- aggressive euthanasia’. It is where intentionally essential care or medical support is either not provided or removed so as to cause the natural death of a person. Most of the forms of passive euthanasia are legal in India.[iii]
One of the emerging concepts of euthanasia is PHYSICIAN ASSISTED EUTHANASIA. It is where the medical professionals suggest intake of certain drugs to people who no more want to live, and the person himself consumes it and thus dies in course.
Physician assisted euthanasia: Punishable or not?
In order to decide on the present issue it is important to know whether ‘right to life’ under article 21 of the Indian Constitution would include ‘right to die’. The Supreme Court though initially in the case of P. Rathinam V. Union of India held that ‘ right to life would include right to die’[iv], later on in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab has held that the ‘right to life’ under article. 21 of constitution would not include ‘right to die’[v].
In India, there is no express provision under IPC which deals with euthanasia or abetment of euthanasia specifically. But every act which aids the commission of euthanasia is punishable under Sec. 306 of IPC.
In case of a medical practitioner causing death of a person with an intention to kill him, the act is punished under Sec.300(1) of IPC which deals with murder, but if the consent of the deceased was obtained priorly, then, it would amount to culpable homicide not amounting to murder under exception 5 of sec. 300.
The Supreme Court in M S DUBAL vs. STATE OF MAHARASTHRA explained that:
“Mercy killing is nothing but homicide, whatever the circumstances in which it is affected. Unless it is specifically accepted it cannot be offences. Indian Penal Code further punishes not only abetment of homicide, but also abetment of suicide”.[vi]
CASE ANALYSIS: ARUNA RAMACHANDRA SHANBAUG vs. UNION OF INDIA:
Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse at a hospital and was assaulted in the night and was strangled with a dog chain which led her to a state of paralysis and coma permanently. She was being treated on life support in her work place itself. After several years, a social activist, claiming herself to be the next friend of Aruna moved to Supreme Court with a plea for euthanasia as Aruna was completely in a position where she cannot even chew the food when put in her mouth.
The medical team set up by the court reported that Aruna was in a permanent vegetative state. But the hospital authorities on the other hand have questioned the locus standi of the next friend of Aruna and have explained that they are the true persons to claim to be the next friend of the patient, this contention was upheld by the court and the court did not agree for the mercy killing of Aruna and but the court has allowed passive euthanasia in India. And it would involve the withdrawal of treatment or food which was allowing the patient to live.[vii]
So, it is therefore evident from judicial interpretations that abetment of euthanasia is permitted as an exception to the general rule in certain cases by laying down some strict guidelines.
ABETMENT UNDER DIFFERENT LEGAL SYSTEMS:
Not only in India, under most of the legal systems abetment is a punishable offence.
The Singaporean Penal Code does not differentiate the concept of abetment from that enshrined in Indian Penal Code. Sec. 107 of the Penal Code of Singapore states that:
“A person abets the doing of a thing who —
instigates any person to do that thing;
engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or
intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.”[viii]
In Canada, a person who abets the commission of an act is liable in the same way as the person who commits the offence. Sec. 21(1) of Criminal Code of Canada provides that:
“21 (1) Every one is a party to an offence who
- (a) actually commits it;
- (b) does or omits to do anything for the purpose of aiding any person to commit it; or
- (c) abets any person in committing it”.[ix]
Sec. 2 of Title 18 of United States Code states that:
“(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.”[x]
This provision explains that a person who abets an offence against United States is punishable as a principal i.e., as if he has committed the offence.
According to Sec. 8 of Accessories and Abettors Act,1861 an abettor is punishable in U. K as as a principal offender. The provision states that:
“Abettors in misdemeanors.
Whosoever shall aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of [any indictable offence] , whether the same be [an offence] at common law or by virtue of any Act passed or to be passed, shall be liable to be tried, indicted, and punished as a principal offender.”[xi]
From the above analysis, we come to a conclusion that not only doing a wrong, but persuading someone to do a wrong is also punishable under IPC. We have seen how abetment is treated as a crime in its strict sense under Chapter V of IPC. We have also concluded from the cases that right to life would not infer a right to die and so abetment of suicide is also a punishable offence under IPC. Also, we have come across detailed explanation of euthanasia and its legality in India alongside the famous precedent of Aruna Shanbaug case. Also, we have seen that abetment is punishable not only in India, but also under various other legal systems.
[i] AIR 2011 SC 686.
[ii] Narayan Prasad Sharma, Abetment of Suicide: The Need and Relevance of its Criminalization.
[iii] Concept of Euthanasia, legal services India.
[iv] 1994 AIR 1844.
[v] 1996 AIR 946.
[vi] 1987 (1) BomCR 499.
[vii] (2011) 4 SCC 454.
[viii] Penal Code, Singapore Statutes Online.
[ix] Section 21, Criminal Code, /p>
[x] Sec.2 , ch-1,part 1, Title 18, U. S. Code, Legal Information Institute.
[xi] Accessories and Abettors Act, 1961