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Person who tried to commit suicide after being subjected to severe mental stress, saved by S. 155 of Mental, Health Care Act 2017: Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court upheld that suicidal behavior is typically a symptom of psychiatric illness or an act of psychological distress, and such a person requires assistance, not punishment with imprisonment or fine through Justice  K. Haripal in the case of  Simi C.N. v. State of Kerala, (Crl. MC No. 6522 of 2021)

FACTS OF THE CASE:
It was claimed that the petitioner engaged in an altercation in the village office after the de facto complainant and others demanded that certificates be issued to applicants for the Life Mission Scheme manually only after receiving instructions from the official hierarchy. The petitioner allegedly attempted suicide by cutting her veins due to her mental anguish.

Petitioner’s counsel said that Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act absolves the petitioner of criminal guilt, stating that an attempt to commit suicide shall be presumed until proven otherwise, to have occurred under extreme stress and shall not be tried or punished under the Code. Furthermore, the counsel stated that the provision can be used by anyone under stress.

JUDGEMENT:

The High Court stated that the legitimacy and propriety of the provision punishing attempted suicide have long been a source of contention in the legal community. The Bench noted cases of the High Courts of Orissa and Himachal Pradesh in which prosecutions initiated under Section 309 of the IPC were quashed.

Moving on to the facts, the petitioner had no malice in delaying the issuance of certificates and had her own explanations; in reality, she was not expected to issue certificates manually when the applications were submitted online. Even though the panchayat president and her lieutenants rounded up the petitioner and subjected her to extreme emotional anguish. Abuse and yelling were directed at the petitioner.

The High Court noted that a difficult situation had developed in the office, prompting police to arrive, and that everything had to be dealt with solely by the petitioner. The petitioner was abused and pressured to perform official conduct that violated office norms. She also appeared to be illegally restrained and confined in her room.

Finally, the Bench noted that under extreme stress, she lost he balance and attempted suicide by cutting her veins.

Therefore, the petitioner’s act was exempt from the penal provision according to Section 115 of the Act.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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