The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Attorney General for India in a plea wherein the Petitioner sought for directions to ensure the prevention of attempts to commit suicide by persons who threw themselves in animal enclosures in Zoos.
The Bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian further sought for an explanation from the Centre on the conflict between Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, and Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.
The matter has been tagged with the Writ Petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 309 of IPC, which criminalises the attempt to commit suicide.
"This is a plea seeking for directions in an attempt to commit suicide by a person by throwing themselves into an animal enclosure. An attempt to commit suicide is a punishable offence under Section 309 of IPC. However, we find that Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act adversely impacts Section 309 of IPC", noted the Bench.
In plea pertaining to the torture inflicted upon an elephant due to a man jumping into a zoo enclosure in an attempt to commit suicide, CJI Bobde notes the conflict between Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) September 11, 2020
During the hearing, animal rights activist Sangeeta Dogra showed the Bench a picture of an elephant which was bound after a man threw himself into its enclosure. She argued for directions to ensure that such attempts did not take place.
The CJI initially stated, "Madam, how can we stop people from jumping into the dens of animals?"
However, after contemplation, the Bench issued notice to the AG, "calling upon the Union of India to justify the validity of Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which virtually negates Section 309 IPC".
A discussion regarding the validity of Section 115 also ensued between the CJI and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta wherein the CJI remarked that there can be no blanket presumption on the intention behind commitment of suicide.
"It is not always that a person who is committing suicide is under extreme stress or is of unsound mind. Some priests and monks have killed themselves in protest and they were found to be in complete calmness of find. There are also people who do Santhara. The intention of Santhara is not to commit suicide, but it is to liberate yourself from this miserable world", stated the CJI.
Accordingly, the Court, while noting that there ispresumption of severe stress in cases of attempt to commit suicide as per Section 115, issued notice to the Union of India to justify its validity.
The Court has further appointed Senior Advocate ANS Nadkarni as Amicus Curiae in the case to assist to the Court, at the request of Dogra. This was unopposed by the SG who submitted that the issue was not adversarial.
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