24 December 2022
By Rehan Piracha
As an important step towards preventing suicides, President Arif Alvi gave his assent to legislation abolishing the punishment for attempted suicide.
According to the announcement issued by the President House on December 23, Alvi approved the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2022, repealing Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, which deals with penalising suicide attempts.
“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,” read Section 325 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan.
The Senate passed the private member’s bill, moved by Senator Shahadat Awan of the Pakistan Peoples Party, on May 23. The National Assembly passed the bill without any amendment on October 18. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) had opposed the bill when it was introduced in the Senate.
In the statement of objects and reasons for the bill, Senator Shahadat Awan stated that
suicide is the act of killing oneself, most often as a result of depression or other mental illness.
According to a study, there is one completed suicide in every 40 seconds while five percent of people in the world try to kill themselves at least once during their lifetime, he said. Around 79% of suicides are from low or middle-income countries.
“Despite the crucial nature of the act of suicide and reasons behind it, Pakistan Penal Code vide section 325, incriminates the person committing it and prescribes the sentence of simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both, ” the senator said, adding that the issue of suicide ought to be dealt as a disease and should be treated as one.
“Additionally, punishment is meant to create deterrence for a healthy person, not for a mentally disturbed individual.”
The objective of this amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code is to decriminalize the suicide attempt by any person as it is always done with some depression or mental illness or disorders, he said.
Mental health experts had called for the repeal of Section 325, terming it an extremely relevant step in preventing suicide. In 2017, Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja moved an amendment bill to decriminalise suicide. But, despite its unanimous adoption by the Senate and Council of Islamic Ideology, the bill was later put on the back-burner and not passed by the National Assembly, eventually lapsing at the end of the last government’s tenure.