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At some point or another, we have all witnessed school or college students committing suicide for


At some point or another, we have all witnessed school or college students committing suicide for some or the other reason. This issue is not exclusive to Indian society; it affects many other nations as well. This makes us curious about the justifications for and legal constraints on such a significant step, which may also enable us to lower the global suicide rate. In this essay, we’ll try to explain the ethics, motivations, and possible solutions behind these suicide cases.

The gravity of the issue can be established by a report in “The Times of India” stating that “the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report of 2020 says that in India, a student takes their own life every 42 minutes, i.e., every day, roughly 34 students die by suicide.

The 2021 data on Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) shows that students accounted for 8.0% (13,089 victims) of the total 1,64,033 suicide cases, which is an increase of 4.5% from the previous year. According to The Times of India, 2 lakh students have died by suicide since 1995; at 13,000, the 2021 toll is the highest.

According to the 2021 data, Maharashtra accounted for 14% (1,834) of the 13,089 student suicides, Madhya Pradesh for 10% (1,308), and Tamil Nadu for 9.5% (1,246). The same study provides information on the victims’ educational backgrounds, from which we can infer that the majority, or 24% of them, were in matriculate or secondary schooling. The three most recent years of data—2019, 2020, and 2021—have the same educational status as the majority of victims.

Possible reasons for students committing suicide

Analysing some of the earlier instances is one way to discover the cause of a student’s suicide. Having said that, we may draw the following conclusions about the main causes of a student attempting suicide:

  • Over-expectations from parents: A common and well-known cause of suicide is parental neglect of their child and the scholastic stress placed on them in order to perform better on examinations and evaluations. Sometimes parents will even force their child to choose a whole career path, which can stifle their enthusiasm.
  • Cluttered nature of Indian education: The Indian education system is cluttered in a way where students are continuously burdened with a competitive attitude right from the initial stages. A student will be degraded if he or she receives less than 90% in an exam or is not ranked among the class’s top three or five students. This mentality carries over to competitive exams, where the aspirant’s workload is made more difficult by the limited number of seats and the numerous candidates competing for each one.
  • Coaching culture imposes a burden on the students: Be it school studies or competitive exams, coaching institutes have taken the upper hand over our schools in the education system, taking large amounts of fees and burdening parents, who in turn pressurize their children to excel in that exam.
  • Societal pressure: In our nation, societal pressure is a persistent factor. People in society frequently focus on a student’s final grade rather than the hardships and labour they put in to achieve that grade. As a result, those who perform well in examinations view those who perform poorly as failures.
  • Social stigma (not enough discussion about depression and suicides): As a result of the stigma surrounding depression and suicide and the fact that these subjects are seldom openly discussed in society, a student may suffocate in solitude, which will only worsen her suffering and force her to carry out this deed.
  • Lack of adequate support (the “Log Kya Kahenge” attitude in Indian society is a permanent feature in the lives of competitive exam aspirants): The lack of any person(s) who could guide the victim and with whom she could communicate her concerns, combined with society’s “Log Kya Kahenge” mentality, encourages her to overthink a problem and see suicide as a final solution.

Underreporting: A menace to our cause

According to a study published by “National Center for Biotechnology Information”, the Global Burden of Disease Study reported an “additional” 8,02,684 deaths by suicide (3,33,558 male and 4,69,126 female suicide deaths) compared with the NCRB report between 2005 and 2015.

Underreporting could be the worst and most undesirable aspect of such a serious, pervasive, and significant issue because we are aware that we need statistics and reports covering such acts in order to formulate policies. If this trend of underreporting continues, we risk becoming complacent well before the problem is sufficiently addressed.

Legal provisions surrounding suicides in India

Many people in India might not know that an attempt to commit suicide has been criminalized by the Indian Penal Code under Section 309, “Attempt to commit suicide.” “Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such an offence shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”

Under this section, whoever attempts to commit suicide, i.e., even if the victim herself attempts to commit suicide, would be penalised under this section, which is something that could have caused a grave problem. Imprisonment and a fine for the victim are never going to alleviate her suffering; in fact, they might even aggravate the problem.

Thankfully, Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 (enacted in July 2018) has restricted its application. This provision of the new act states that, despite anything contained in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.

This debate has been going on for quite some time now, and some high courts and apex court judgements have been given surrounding this section.

Cases surrounding Section 309 of IPC

Section 309 of IPC has stemmed starkly different debates around its legality, as have our courts’ decisions on the issue.

  1. Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra (1986): The apex court struck down Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, on the grounds that the provision is ultra vires the Constitution and is violative of Article 14 and Article 21.
  2. Chenna Jagadeeswar and Anr. V. State of Andhra Pradesh (1987): The Andhra Pradesh High Court termed Section 309 constitutional on the grounds that if suicide attempts are decriminalised, then Section 306 of IPC(which criminalises abetment to suicide with 10 years imprisonment and a fine) should also be done away with. Basically, the court said that if you are not liable for an attempt to take your own life, then you shouldn’t be liable for aiding or abetting somebody else in taking their own life.
  3. Rathinam v. Union of India (1994): In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the Maruti Shripati Dubal decision and declared section 309 unconstitutional, citing the right to die as a part of Article 21 of the Constitution. As far as the Chenna Jagadeeshwar case was concerned, the Apex Court stated that the provisions are on opposing sides, because in one, a person takes his own life, while in the other, a third person is assisted in taking his own life.
  4. Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab (1996): In this judgement, the apex court excluded the right to die from the purview of Article 21 and constitutionalised Section 309 of the IPC. The court opined that “Although the “right to life” is a natural right enshrined in Article 21, suicide is an unnatural termination or extinction of life and hence incompatible with the idea of the right to life.”

Possible solutions to suicide problems among students

  • Parents and teachers should recognise their child’s passion in life and should be supportive of them.
  • Formulation of a helpline number, an app, or a website that addresses a child’s stress and makes children aware of stress, depression, and its prevention.
  • Improving our education system in order to remove the burden from students.
  • Striving towards removing the coaching culture or making coaching institutes available at affordable prices.
  • In terms of preventing suicides among students, India may benefit from the first-ever National Suicide Prevention Strategy, 2021, which was unveiled by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The strategy seeks to reduce suicide mortality by 10% by 2030.


Despite the fact that suicides among students are a common but taboo subject, and despite the fact that more people are seeing these situations now than ever before, our society has not paid enough attention to them. The answer to this problem will involve a collaborative effort from every nation on Earth. These cases can be significantly decreased with appropriate assistance from the UN and its relevant agencies, such as UNESCO and WHO. We can try to lower the rate of student suicides and make the future more promising for our youth by adopting a comprehensive and cooperative strategy.

Authors Name: Akshat Sharma (Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar) & Tushar Sankhla (MS Kawar International school)