Strange it would seem on the outset, but this is the sum and substance of Section 309 of Indian Penal  Code.  Sec.309 deals with punishment for ‘attempt to commit’ suicide.   You attempt suicide and if you succeed then you get away with that.  But if you fail in your attempt, then you  are done for.  The legal machinery will take you  to task.


Though it appears strange, this section deals with a very important subject matter i.e the ‘right to die’.   Does the right to die constitute a part of the fundamental right defined under Art.21 of the Indian Constitution??


This issue was debated in detail and finally the Supreme Court pronounced that Right to Die is not a fundamental right and cannot be equated to the Right to Live defined in Art.21.


Andhra Pradesh High Court held that section 309 IPC does not violate Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.  However in 1996, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court held that attempted suicide is an offence and section 309 IPC remains valid.


Another important issue also is closely connected with  this judgement, i.e about euthanasia (mercy killing).  Euthanasia though deals with an altogether different matter because it involves not self killing, but assisted killing.


But the pros and cons of legalizing suicide or euthanasia are many and both sides have strong reasons to stick on to their view point.


The issue  of mercy killing has come up before the judiciary on many occasions.  However, it was in Aruna Shanbaug’s case that the Supreme Court admitted a plea to end life on humanitarian consideration.


Supreme Court admitted a petition filed by journalist Pinki Virani seeking an end to the miserable life of Aruna Shanbaug.   Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse in Mumbai (Bombay), has been paralysed and considered “brain-dead” since she was attacked by a rapist in November 1973.  She has been leading a ‘vegetable existence’ for over 37 years devoid  of any human dignity whatsover.


The Supreme Court has sought detailed medical reports from the hospital and Maharashtra government.


Whatever be  the outcome of the  judgement, it would have a significant bearing on the definition of the Right to Live.