ABSTRACT

In the 21st century, Forensic Psychology presupposes the application of psychology to the criminal justice procedure collectively. Forensic psychologists are engaged in the ideology of offending, offender profiling, the psychology of a given testimony, investigative interrogation, the psychology of the juries and judges and the psychological approach to the penalizing and treatment of the offenders. However, the scope of forensic psychology was narrow and is now expanding gradually.[2]

 

INTRODUCTION

In the 21st century, crime in India is considered as one of the major vices. Gradually, the proportion of the crime rate is increasing and causing pernicious effects on people, institutions and the society as a whole. Various methods have been inculcated in order to curb such cases, such as forensic odontology, criminal profiling, forensic psychology etc. These techniques are used based on the complexity of the crime, nature of the crime, evidence supporting the crime, nature of the crime and the level of forensic technology available.[3]

 

The word forensic is derived from the Latin word ‘forensis’ which means ‘forum’, the place where trials took place in Roman times. Forensic psychology is the application of clinical psychology to legal matters, typically intending to evaluate the litigants whose mental states have some issue in the legal proceedings.It helps in ascertaining whether a suspect is guilty or not or whether he/she should be convicted or not. Furthermore, it plays a key role in punishing and preventing of crime. The word forensic can be defined as a “scientific method of investigation of crime”. Therefore, it is also described as a merger of law and psychology.[4]

 

Forensic psychology is alternatively called Offender’s psychology. The theme of forensic psychology is based on explaining criminal behaviour and its criminality. It provides a basis and an idea on how to assess the offenders and aid them to overcome their behaviour through detention and modification, to avoid repetition of the same offence in the future. It focuses on the essential characteristics and manner of the offender through assessment, punishment and treatment.

In a situation where a crime is committed, a laymen person or the people surrounding the crime scene would contact the police, who then would arrive at the crime scene and collect all the valuable evidence from there, after collecting the evidence from the crime scene, the evidence is then delivered to the forensic laboratories where the evidence is tested by forensic psychologists.After the laboratory conducts the scientific assessment, they send their reports to the court of law to aid the court in deducing the best possible conclusion.

 

HISTORY

The history of Forensic Psychology dates back to 1968 when at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the first lie detection division was set up. Earlier there were no formal training centres for professionals to be trained in lie detection, references were made from books and papers from the western culture on how to run lie detection tests.

 

In 1989, the court for the first time authorized to conduct narco-analysis and it was conducted by Dr. S.L. Vaya. But this test was conducted without the consent of the person in question, and it was pointed out that keeping the law and fundamental rights in mind consent and court sanctions are very important. Narco- Analysis is conducted in a room which is the same as an operation theatre with the help and guidance of a team of professional members that are doctors, nurses, and mental health practitioners.

 

In 2010 the Supreme Court held that tests like Brain Mapping, Narco-Analysis, and lie detection will be held only after consent and all the information received after conducting these tests is enforceable as evidence in the court of law.

In recent years, forensic psychology has seen a significant increase in popularity, both in the media and among younger generations. Indeed, many undergraduate students are drawn to forensic psychology under the mistaken impression that it is primarily used for criminal profiling. 

 

The manner in which forensic psychology is presented is one of the reasons it is so popular. It's presented in a fun, addictive, and entertaining manner. It allows us to stand back and observe how twisted people can be. In some ways, it's a window into how different people's brains work and how certain decisions, such as murder, can shape the brain differently.[5]

 

Thus, there is a grey field observed on this as how on one hand courts find these scientific tools used by the forensic laboratories as violative of an individual’s fundamental rights and how on the other hand courts use the information extracted from tests to help them with crime scene analysis.[6]

 

ROLE OF A FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST

The role that forensic psychologists play in the legal field is contrasting in nature. Forensic Psychologists apply the principles of psychology in the field of a specific criminal investigation. Forensic Psychology is used in criminal trials to ascertain whether the individual’s mental state meets the requisite legal standards. Psychology is a vast field, which has knowledge with regards to the clinical assessments, treatment and diagnosis criteria that the legal system can uphold in the field of forensic psychology.

The roles that psychologists perform when they become professionally involved in criminal proceedings are as follows:

1.     Clinical

In this situation, the Forensic Psychologist will usually be involved in the assessment of an individual in order to provide a clinical judgement. The psychologist could use interviews, assessment tools or psychometric tests to aid in his or her assessment. These assessments can inform the police, the courts, or the prison and probation services about the psychological functioning of an individual and can therefore influence how the different sections of the criminal justice system process the individual in question.

 

2.     Experimental

This may involve the Forensic Psychologist performing research to inform a case. This can involve carrying out experimental tests to illustrate a point or provide further information to the courts (for example, how likely it is that someone can correctly identify an object in the hand of an individual from a distance of 100 metres at twilight). Alternatively, it can involve psychologists providing the court with a summary of current research findings which may be relevant to the case in question.

 

3.     Consultations 

Forensic Psychologists help to better understand the human behaviour of criminals, witnesses, victims, jury to attorneys or other legal professionals, by applying psychological expertise and research. Consultations can take several forms, such as:

 

-        Law Enforcement Consultations

It includes assisting with criminal profiling, determining the psychological fitness of officers, or expertise in criminal behaviours. There are several methods and approaches related to criminal profiling, but there is still doubt about the efficiency and accuracy of criminal profiling in general.

 

-        Trial consultants

Forensic Psychologists work with legal professionals and help them in preparing cases, jury selection, developing a case strategy, and witness preparation. Under this Forensic Psychologists rely heavily on research, to best advise the persons with whom they are working. As trial consultations are often hired by one specific side in a trial, psychologists are faced with many issues with respect to being neutral while consulting and should not choose aside to support and consequentially omit or create information that would be beneficial to one side or another.

 

-        Expert Testimony

Expert witnesses have the ability to testify more knowledge of a situation or topic as they are experts in certain topics and have specialized knowledge about it, unlike fact witnesses, who are limited only to testify about what they know or have observed. The judge has the power to decide whether an expert witness will be accepted or not. 

 

-        Academia / Research 

Academic Foreign psychologists engage in teaching, training, and researching students about foreign psychology, the psychology of criminal behaviour, courtroom, investigation, assessment, and treatment of offenders and also teach how to carry out criminal psychological research.

 

FUNCTIONS OF FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY[7]

1.     Criminal Investigations–

The role of a Forensic Psychologist in Criminal Investigations can take a variety of forms.How psychologists can contribute extends well beyond the process of profiling offenders. The apprehension of the offender would be assisted by enhancing police decision-making and leadership skills, improving methods of interviewing witnesses and victims, developing accurate methods of recording, collating and analysing data on pre-conviction of offenders, developing a suspect prioritisation system based on empirical research and enhancing intelligence-led policing and the use of information.

 

2.     Crime Analysis–

Crime Analysis is one field of work which draws upon Forensic Psychological methods.The most common role of crime analysts is that of case linkage. This process involves the linkage of crime based on the similarities in the behaviours of the offenders as reported by the victim or as inferred from the crime scene.

 

3.     Criminal Investigative Analysis–

Offenders Profiling has received a great deal of attention with respect to high-profile cases that are brought to the public’s attention. What we can be clear about is that profiling uses information gleaned from the crime scene relating to the offender’s behaviour during the crime. This can be pooled with other information, such as victim statements, in order to conclude the nature of the person who committed the crime.

 

4.     Interviewing, Detecting Deception and Eye Witness Research–

During an investigation, collecting reliable evidence to put together a case of the sequence of the events that took place. One of the main sources of this is the people who were an eyewitness to this on the crime scene.To gain this information, an interview needs to be conducted by the investigating officers to gain accurate information from the witness. After the suspect has been identified he or she too is interviewed to gain his or her view of events and to possibly extract a confession to the crime. Research performed by Forensic psychologists investigating the detection of deception also has useful applications for the police when interviewing witnesses and in particular suspects.

 

5.     Police Psychology -

The application of psychological knowledge to assist the police in an investigation is an important function of forensic psychology. Psychologists have contributed their knowledge to the process of police officer recruitment by introducing psychometric tests which measure psychological characteristics that may be important concerning such work. These tests could assess, whether a person is an assertive individual, open to persuasion, and conscious of any detail. Psychologists have been instrumental in advising the police on what mechanisms would be beneficial to them, but will also provide professional services to police officers for their overall growth and development.

 

6.     Expert Witness–

Court cases can involve complex issues including the presentation of information that is judged to be beyond the knowledge of the average layperson who may sit on a jury. In such situations, the court permits the calling of an expert witness who, by definition, has expertise relating to the issue in question. Under special circumstances, expert witnesses are permitted to provide their opinion on the issue being discussed.

 

7.     Forensic Psychologists and Assessment and Treatment of Offenders –

Forensic Psychologists are heavily involved in work concerning the assessment, rehabilitation and management of offenders, either in the community or when held in incarceration. This role can involve working with the offenders to reduce their likelihood of reoffending in the future or a more clinical role addressing the psychological needs of offenders. Psychological needs can occur as a result of the effects of crime that they have committed or the internal and external environment within which they are nurtured or kept. Work of this nature can be both varied and challenging in nature.

 

8.     Forensic Psychologists and Academia / Research

With the inevitable growth and interest in Forensic Psychology, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of Forensic Psychologists working within academia. Academic Foreign psychologists engage in teaching, training, and researching students about foreign psychology, the psychology of criminal behaviour, courtroom, investigation, assessment, and treatment of offenders and also teach how to carry out criminal psychological research. However, the role of academic foreign psychologists is not only limited to teaching, its main role is to carry out research in the field of interest. Every academic foreign psychologist has their research interest and they research its topic to get specialized knowledge about it.

 

ETHICS IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY

The ethical guidelines emphasize the importance of forensic psychologists who value the integrity, impartiality and fairness of the guidelines. They further give importance to the guidelines and simultaneously avoid conflicts of interest whenever possible.

 

Conflict of interest arises when a psychologist works as a consultant on one of the sides in a court case and when he is required to testify or evaluate something that contradicts the psychologist’s belief system or set of values. Furthermore, the psychologists are also faced with a situation to either resolve the perpetrator’s problems or issues or be a treatment provider in a case.

Other ethical guidelines involve obtaining consent from their clients before commencing any kind of assessment or communication from their end regarding the treatment or rehabilitation. Respecting and acknowledging the client’s privacy, confidentiality, privilege, and being impartial and objective during a trial weigh down the moral and professional obligation of forensic specialists.

As a matter of ethics, forensic psychologists have a certain duty towards society and therefore are expected to provide a certain percentage of reduced fees to individuals who are in need and cannot afford such services and also provide pro bono services.

In this profession, there is a thin line between being ethical and unethical due to various external and internal pressures. Psychologists have to keep in mind ethical concerns such as discrimination, bias or lying about certain facts because of corruption or pressure from powerful people. Certain incidents in which psychologists knowingly jeopardise a case and present a false narrative which does not end well for them.[8]

 

CONCLUSION

This glimpse gives a detailed description of the core concepts and how forensic psychologists have to be placed in the role of forensic psychology. Offenders are formed through their nature and the manner in which they are nurtured. The baseline of the deviant behaviour portrayed by these individuals could be due to a lack of ethical reasoning and moral thinking. The issue of childhood trauma also has an underlying effect on the growth of these individuals. When forensic psychologists deal with the offenders, they are expected to have an eclectic approach. The Indian judiciary has considered an expert committee that is valued and is more transparent to the students who are all pursuing psychology and encourages them to raise awareness about the same. The scope of forensic psychology will create a greater impact on offenders and also in law and order.

 

The detention system is prepared to help the offender not experience trauma in their recovery process. The prisons in India need a good reform system so that the offenders can spend their time reforming themselves effectively. Instead of accusing them as criminals, it is wise to address their behaviour, understand their problems and then reform them at the moment. Empathizing with the offenders is a major concern for a forensic psychologist.[9]

AUTHORED BY: HRITIKA SHROFF, Penultimate Year student at Siddharth College of Law, Mumbai University.


[2]Forensic Psychology in Historical Perspective – Heather Wolffram

[3]Handbook of Psychology, Forensic Psychology – By Irving B. Weiner, Randy K. Otto

[4]blog.ipleaders.in (Role of forensicpsychology and understandingcriminalpsychology)

[5]socialworkin.com/2022/03/applied-psychology-forensic-psychology.html

[6]blog.ipleaders.in (Role of forensic psychology and understanding criminal psychology)

[7]http://egyankosh.ac.in/Rolesand functions of criminal psychologyUnit-4.pdf

[8]https://www.socialworkin.com/2022/appliedpsychologyforensicpsychology

[9]http://www.shanlaxjournals.A Critical Analysis in the basic concepts of Forensic Psychology(Vol. 5 No. 3)

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Introduction:

The number of people who take their own lives has been gradually climbing over the past several years. Additionally, the number of people who die by suicide each year is 25 times larger than those who die by suicide attempts each year. The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017, was passed into law by the Indian government around the end of the year 2018, possibly as an attempt to help the situation surrounding mental health. The Act, notablySection 115 of the act, removed the stigma associated with suicidal ideation and attempts, which reduced the stigma and the extended mental anguish experienced by a patient who survives a suicide attempt.

 

There were potential legal repercussions due to this Act given that it contradicts Sections 109, 116, 306, and 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Those individuals who have attempted suicide would have become eligible to receive free mental healthcare, treatment, and rehabilitation due to this piece of legislation.

 

Therefore, the end outcome places a significant financial strain on the government. Refreshing one's knowledge of mental illness and related skills is required for medical professionals, mental health professionals, and general and mental health institutions engaged in the treatment of persons who have attempted suicide to comply with the conditions of the act. In compliance with the criteria of the Mental Health Care Act of 2017, massive public education campaigns were also required to make treatment for mental health issues available to persons who have attempted suicide.

 

The structure of this study includes an analysis, from a comparative point of view, of the legal frameworks that exist in various countries on the right to commit suicide. After reviewing the available evidence, the author of this paper reviews the domestic state of affairs taking into account that the right to life includes the right to a good death. The final part of the paper includes a discussion of many different recommendations for future policy.

 

 

Indian Scenario:

The Indian legislature has enacted a significant number of legislations over the years. As a consequence of this, it should not come as a surprise that different regulations addressing the same subject may have contradictory interpretations. Resultantly, the Court is usually considered responsible for reviewing existing laws and providing a clear interpretation of them where there is ambiguity. This is done so that the Parliament may later settle any conflicts that exist between different pieces of legislation by setting it into law.

 

It seems like that is what happened when the Supreme Court raised attention to one of these irregularities, which is an issue that has not had a visible conciliation. By reading down Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 effectively decriminalized suicide. As a result, the Supreme Court ordered an explanation from the Union government about this apparent contradiction in the law, and required the then Attorney General, KK Venugopal to oversee this inquiry.

 

There are a few facets to this comment that demand special study, not the least of which is the urgent need to weed out policies that are no longer relevant in today's world. IPC Section 309 is a provision that dates back to the colonial era, and it goes against the growing understanding that mental illness is a problem that has to be treated rather than discriminated against. For instance, mental illness frequently results in suicide, which is often considered a choice rather than a result of a health condition. On the other hand, the Mental Healthcare Act is a forward-thinking piece of legislation that promotes an ideation of suicide that is in keeping with the most recent scientific findings.

 

For example, Section 115 of the Act acknowledges the significant role that mental illness plays in people's decisions to end their lives by putting an end to their own life. This argument is of crucial value to the families of those who have committed suicide because of the stigma that is connected to mental illness.

 

People who are in need of treatment must have access to medical facilities, but it is also vitally necessary to challenge the deeply ingrained biases that taint public discourse on suicide and contribute to the taboo around suicide as well as the silence surrounding it. There is opportunity for legal change considering the direction that international law is moving in this day and age. Both Canada and Ireland removed the criminal penalties for suicide in 1972. The legal and public debate must take into account the fact that decriminalizing suicide might be an important first step in order to start a meaningful dialogue about preventing suicide. This is necessary in order to get the conversation started.

 

 

Study on Criminalization:

The International Suicide Prevention Association (IASP) policy released in May 2020 recommended that suicide attempts be decriminalized. Reducing societal stigma, increasing access to mental health treatment, and fostering suicide prevention activities can all be achieved by decriminalizing attempted suicide. Anti-suicide laws have subsequently eroded, especially in more secular regions of the world that allow for a wide range of non-religious and moral interpretations of suicide. In spite of numerous requests for the decriminalization of suicide, no comprehensive study or empirical evaluations have been conducted on the deterrent effect of anti-suicide legislation worldwide.

 

If the act of taking one's own life is legally stigmatized, those who have attempted suicide and those who have survived a suicide attempt may feel humiliated and enraged. It logically follows that repealing any such legislation will have good long-term effects, including lowering the social stigma associated with suicide, increasing the number of individuals who seek professional care, and removing the burden of potential criminal prosecution from those who attempt suicide.

 

 

 

Global Review:

There are a number of countries in Africa that have legalized the act of suicide, while the vast majority of Asian nations, with a few notable exceptions like India, have decriminalized the act of attempting suicide. Even in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, scenarios are shifting lately.

 

USA:

In almost every state in the United States, both committing suicide and attempting suicide is allowed. Each year, there are over 40,000 people who take their own lives in the United States, which places suicide as the tenth leading cause of death in the country regardless of the method of death. On the other hand, the attempt to commit suicide was previously considered a criminal offence in several countries.

 

Today, it is quite unusual for charges to be brought against a criminal who is in the process of dying. In the case of Wackwitz v. Roy (1992), in which the question of whether or not suicide is legal, the Supreme Court of Virginia stated that it is conscious that it is legislative sanctioning that treats suicide as a crime. This statement was made during the course of the discussion regarding the legality of suicide. "No suicide should work a debasement of blood or forfeiture of an inheritance," as the law states in Section 55–4 of the US Civil Code. Yet, this does not mean that the crime itself has been eliminated. This is due to the fact that committing suicide is considered a crime in a number of common-law jurisdictions, including Virginia.

 

Policy Design:

The right to one's own life is one of the most fundamental rights, since it ensures that everyone may lead a respectable life. This right is more than just a requirement for the state not to interfere with the life or body components of an individual; rather, it is a fundamental right. The State was also given the responsibility of upholding the sanctity and dignity of human life, which constituted a positive obligation. As civilized jurisprudence changes its focus to the potential of State legislators decriminalizing suicide or attempts at suicide, the time has come to develop unambiguous legal norms on both the national and international levels. Regulation of physician-assisted euthanasia is necessary, at the very least in the United States, and the establishment of similar laws in other countries is just a matter of time. In the process of formulating policy, defining crucial terms related to mental illness and giving them an unmistakable meaning devoid of any room for interpretation ought to be given the highest priority.

 

 

Repercussions in India:

Under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 309 makes it clear that attempted suicide is still considered a criminal act. Those who are accused of the alleged offense have the choice between being released on bail, not having their cases compounded, or having their cases heard by a magistrate. People who participate in illegal or risky behaviors that cause harm to society or another human being are frequently considered to be criminally liable, as this is one of the primary reasons why they are held accountable for their actions.

 

One of the reasons to press criminal charges against an individual is to serve as a deterrent for those who might be tempted to engage in behavior that is unethical or detrimental to society. Even though it is illegal to attempt suicide, that does not prevent people from going through with it and killing themselves in the end. Because of their mental state, those who are suicidal will not ask about the consequences of their actions or whether or not they will be punished for what they have done. The use of jails and other types of punishment does not seem to have the effect of discouraging suicidal behavior. On the other side, punishment will not assist a person who is suicidal since it may aggravate their situation without rehabilitating them, which in turn may drive them to take their life. There are a still a few countries in Africa, like Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, that have made it illegal to commit suicide. It is for us to see whether India is a country that wants to be grouped with the aforementioned countries in terms of treatment of mental illness.

 

A few other Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates, continue to criminalize attempt to suicide. On the other hand, physician-assisted euthanasia is only legal in China, hence the practice is illegal everywhere else. In the United States, only Guyana and the Bahamas have legislation that makes it illegal to attempt to take one's own life. On the other hand, euthanasia is illegal in most of the United States, with the exception of a few states. Although some countries prohibit physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, the Suicide Act in the United Kingdom makes it such that attempted suicide is not a crime.

People who try to end their own life should not be subject to legal consequences of incarceration by the State since they are not causing any harm to anybody else or to society as a whole when they do this. John Locke believed that the state should not interfere with an individual's liberty provided that person's actions did not negatively impact the rights of another person.

 

The majority of countries, including those that have decriminalized attempts at suicide, have laws that make it illegal to abet, aid, or encourage someone else to commit suicide. However, the nature of the actions that are considered illegal and the nature of the punishments vary greatly from country to country. There are 192 countries in the world, and 142 of them have laws that make it illegal to aid or encourage someone else to commit suicide. These prohibitions can include jail sentences. There is a lot of variety in the language of what is included in these Statutes, and once again, the level of enforcement varies widely from place to place. A sampling of the specific wording of what is deemed to be illegal in the laws provides some examples of the variety of descriptions of what is prohibited. For instance, "complicity in suicide" is prohibited in Bhutan and several other countries; "suicide pacts" are prohibited in Kenya; "direct provoking of a minor to suicide" is prohibited in Djibouti; "driving someone to suicide" or making a suicide attempt by way of threatening, cruel treatment, or systematic humiliation of human dignity.

 

Sociological implications:

Some people believe that the point of punishment is to teach people not to engage in illegal behavior in the future or contradict behaviors that have become normalized in society. It has not been demonstrated that threatening someone with jail time has a preventative effect on those who want to attempt suicide. In spite of the fact that one may anticipate that the number of suicide fatalities that are documented would be lower in nations where suicide is regarded as a taboo and criminal, the suicide rate is in fact, not lower in nations that have laws that penalize those who attempt suicide.

 

As a consequence of retribution theory, it is commonly believed that the criminal committed a purposeful act of will in order to warrant the application of punishment. According to Mishara and Tousignant (2004) and the World Health Organization (2014), it is generally accepted that individuals who attempt suicide have a mental disorder that makes it difficult for them to make decisions that are reasonable or "right." This is a theory that has gained widespread acceptance in recent years. Liberals, as a general rule, are of the opinion that penalizing people who attempt suicide is a reflection of society's animosity against individuals who go against predetermined social standards and/or religion.

 

A criminal may also be made to suffer public humiliation as part of their sentence in order to illustrate the level of disapproval felt by the general population. During the 18th century, the body of an inhabitant of Quebec, Canada who had committed suicide was paraded through the streets and hung in public. As a consequence of this, the bodies of suicide victims are frequently dishonored and buried in locations that are not within cemeteries in many civilizations in the modern world. Putting someone behind bars for having attempted suicide is a frequent tactic to humiliate and degrade both the person and their family in the eyes of other people, as long as they are living.

 

Recommendations:

It is necessary to push for the decriminalization of suicide in countries where it is considered as a crime rather than as a problem related to mental health. These countries include the United States and Canada. In addition, it would be useful to urge the formation of an international standard definition of "aiding, abetting, and assisting in suicide," which encompasses all of these activities. In some countries, it is only criminal to make plans to end one's own life, while in others, the concept of what constitutes illegal behavior is so broadly interpreted that even a passing remark to someone who is having suicidal thoughts might be construed as encouraging them to go through with it. Legislation and International law need to address the issue of aiding and abetting suicide in the cyberspace, as the internet is rapidly being used to encourage suicide and supply knowledge on different methods of committing suicide.

 

In countries where decriminalization of suicide has not taken place and is not going to take place, it is nevertheless vital to establish ways for giving mental health treatment to people who have attempted suicide. In the past, countries with liberal beliefs have been the ones to decriminalizesuicide by spreading the view that people who attempt suicide are not knowingly going against prevalent religious and cultural norms. This is done despite the fact that it is necessary to respect religious and cultural values.

 

The availability of empirical evidence demonstrates a common inability to make an informed and competent decision as a result of a mental illness, the use of substances, or being in a state of crisis. In addition, a person often makes an attempt at suicide when they are experiencing an intense amount of psychological suffering, and those who attempt suicide are more likely to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their attempt. The overwhelming majority of people who attempt suicide have a requirement for mental health treatment and support services (WHO, 2014). We have reached the conclusion that the course of action that is likely to be the most successful in the great majority of circumstances is to approach the problem of suicidal behavior as a psychological and mental health issue.

 

Since the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 has been passed into law, there have been debates and discussions on the fact that Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which was passed in 1860, may resultantly be repealed. Many people now believe that Section 309 is no longer in effect as a consequence of the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017, which was passed in 2017. However, this new law did not result in the repeal of the aforementioned Section 309; rather, it restricted the applicability of that section. According to Section 115 of the Act, a person is deemed to be suffering from excessive stress when they attempt suicide; as a result, they are not liable to prosecution or punishment in accordance with Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

 

It is crucial to notice that the Act does not explicitly repeal Clause 309 or make it applicable to all attempts at suicide. The only exception to this is the portion that presumes the individual who attempted suicide was under "severe stress."

 

Conclusion:

In spite of the fact that suicide is now legal, we continue to make a distinction between the act of attempting suicide by oneself and the act of having another person assist, provoke, or encourage suicidalbehaviour. Even in jurisdictions that make euthanasia and assisted suicide legal for persons who are suffering from a terminal illness or a condition that has no end in sight, the act of assisting another person in taking their own life is controversial. When dealing with this reality, it is crucial to be able to differentiate between a person's psychological or emotional anguish and a medical condition that is becoming worse or has been going on for a long time.

 

Regardless of one's religious or utilitarian allegiances or one's Western liberal orientation, there is general consensus that supporting and aiding a suicide is morally wrong and ought to be punished. This is the case even if one is a Western liberal. However, there is no consensus that the person who is being assisted has a wounded conscious will. Cooley (2007) found that only a small number of rational suicides were respected. Hence, there is much ambiguity on which philosophy of punishment is more enlightened when considering our strong desire to punish those who help and abet those who commit crimes. It does not matter how we look at it; whether it is an act of retribution or an attempt to control the free and logical decision-making capacity of another individual, is a hard problem.

This Blog is Authored by Shruti Avinash, a third year student of the NALSAR University of Law.

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