Senate body passes bill to decriminalise attempt to commit suicide

Senate Standing Committee on Interior approves Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021

ISLAMABAD   -   Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Monday unanimously passed the private-member bill that decriminalizes the attempt to suicide after the government opposed the proposed law. 

The committee that met under the chair of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Mohsin Aziz passed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 moved by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Shahadat Awan. 

The Ministry of Interior opposed the bill on the grounds that the existing law creates deterrence among the citizens. 

The bill omits Section 325 from the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which says that “whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.” 

The objects and reasons of the bill say that the bill aims to omit Section 325 of PPC because it was introduced in the colonial era and criminalizes attempted suicide and calls it an “offence”, disregarding the already existing social stigma linked to mental disorders and illnesses. “Suicide is the act of killing oneself, most often as a result of depression or other mental illness.”  

The mover Senator Awan told the meeting that any person used to make an attempt to suicide as a result of depression, other mental illness or disorders but such victims were refused preliminary medical treatment as the act came under an offence. He said that such people were first referred to police stations for necessary legal action after their failed attempt to commit suicide though they needed urgent medical treatment at that time. He said the issue of suicide should be dealt as a disease. He said that punishment is meant to create deterrence for a healthy person not for mentally disturbed individual. 

MQM Senator Faisal Ali Subzwari also remarked that suicide attempt was a cause of mental idleness and “such people should be treated as patients instead of criminals.” 

Additional Secretary Ministry of Interior Momin Ali Agha told the committee that there were “moral and religious sanctions” on suicide or suicide attempt besides legal sanctions were already there. He called the existing law a kind of “proscription” on such acts. “There would be some implications if we would decriminalize the offence,” he said. 

The committee adopted the bill after the members unanimously voted for it.

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