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Aiding and abetting suicide

  • Legislation should criminalize any act of and attempts to intentionally advise, encourage, abet or assist another in committing suicide.
    • Example: India’s Penal Code punishes the abetment of suicide. Article 306 states:

“If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

CASE STUDY: In the Indian case, Gopalan Nair Krishna Pillai v. State of Kerala, 1988 (3) Crimes 489, the husband-defendant abused his wife for failing to meet his dowry demands. Although the victim earned a wage which paid the household expenses and she gave birth to a son as he desired, the defendant continued to demand that she obtain more money from her parents’ home. Following separation, the husband’s lawyer negotiated a compromise and assured her she was safe. The husband continued to demand more money, which the victim requested from her mother. When her husband did not receive immediate payment, he continued to abuse her, and she committed suicide. The husband was convicted of abetment of suicide.
  • Drafters should take into account that dowry-related murders may be disguised as suicides. Drafters should enact legislation to punish perpetrators who commit perjury, conspire, use bribery, violence, intimidation, threats or deception, destroy or tamper with evidence or the body, to obstruct justice. See: Section on Obstruction of Justice; Charles Doyle, Obstruction of Justice: An Abridged Overview of Related Federal Criminal Laws, 2007. Also, drafters should consider enacting an offense that focuses on the death of a woman under unnatural circumstances when there is a history of domestic violence. For example, in Shanti v. State of Haryana, AIR 1991 SC 1226, the court ruled that whether the death was by suicide or murder was irrelevant providing the death was unnatural. A death by suicide is in itself an unnatural death and would trigger Article 304B “Dowry Deaths” providing the other elements—cruelty or harassment by her husband or in-laws soon before her death and death within seven years of marriage—are met.
  • Legislation should not impose a time limitation on when the death must occur, but instead focus on a history of domestic violence and unnatural circumstances surrounding the death.