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Hunger strike is not a suicide attempt, cannot attract offence under Section 309 of IPC: Madras High Court [READ ORDER]

Will sitting on a hunger strike for days together to press certain demands and refusing to cooperate with the authorities in the provision of medical treatment amount to a criminal offence under Section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of the Indian Penal Code? The Madras High Court has answered this question of law with a categorical.

By: Mahima Jain, School of Law, DAVV, Indore.

Quashing one such case booked against a Sri Lankan refugee, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said: “The mere fact that the petitioner has protested by sitting on hunger strike will not attract the offence under Section 309 IPC. Even if the materials available on record are taken as it is, it does not constitute an offence under Section 309 IPC.”

In this case, a criminal case was registered against the petitioner accusing him of the offence under Section 309, IPC after he participated in hunger strike from August 15, 2013 to August 24, 2013.

In 2016, after a chargesheet was filed, the trial court took cognizance of case.

Apart from arguing that no case of a suicide attempt is made out, the petitioner also contended that the trial court was barred from taking cognizance of the 2013 FIR in 2016 in view of Section 468 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Section 468, CrPC deals with bar to taking cognizance after lapse of the period of limitation. In this case, it was pointed out that while Section 309 only prescribes a 1 year penalty, it took 3 years to take cognizance of the final report.

The Court, in turn, agreed with the petitioner on this count as well.

The Court below ought to have taken cognizance within a period of one year since the offence is punishable for a maximum period of one year. However, the Court below has taken cognizance after nearly three years without assigning any reasons. Therefore, taking cognizance of the final report by the Court below is barred by law and stands vitiated,” it observed.

Therefore, it allowed the petition and quashed the criminal proceedings against the petitioner.

Advocate P Pugalenthi appeared for the petitioner and Government Advocate (criminal side) C Raghavan appeared for the State.

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