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Last year the Mars One Foundation invited volunteers for a one-way trip to take up residence with the War-Lord. Over 200,000 humans volunteered; amongst them close to 20,000 Indians. A fraction of this number - 62 to be precise, have since made the cut for further participation as is evinced from this article. Space is known to be a hostile environment; the journey and destination environment even more so.

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code writes to say

309. Attempt to commit suicide

Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year 151[or with fine, or with both].

The hazards involved may be considered a trade-off for a journey that attempts to take man to mars, and return safely. A one-way trip, on the other hand, may be construed suicidal.

Will any Indian in the final crew of the Mars One missions invite action under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code?

POST NOTICE: If you are looking for definitive legal answers, seek advice of legal
professionals. There is no legal advice presented in this question, its answers, 
or 3rd party information referenced herein.
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    $\begingroup$ How about rock climbing, skydiving, climbing Everest, or dating crazy people? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Apr 19 '14 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ The law enforcing bureaucrats of the Indian government of course would have to go there in order to imprison the Mars One:ers. Once. In order to enforce their ridiculous law. And on their way I think that they might change their minds. So it has no material effect what rules are made up by table desk bureaucrats. A law not enforced is not a law. So in order to extend this to an acceptable comment here, the penalty suggested in that code of law could not be applied. That's a matter of space. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Dec 24 '14 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff IANAL; IPC 309 is cognizable. Ergo, it could probably be enforced as a precautionary step if the intent to participate in the mission stems from an intent to commit suicide. $\endgroup$ – Everyone Dec 24 '14 at 15:40
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IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), and this is an unqualified opinion alone, not a legal advice, but I'd say no, since there's no proven intent to harm oneself, so it couldn't be interpreted under section 309.

I asked a related question here if any government has issued an official recommendation regarding Mars One application, but sadly it didn't yet result in any answers. I've also been digging around on my own and found some criticism of the Mars One project from a legal perspective, but so far it seems no government has decided to issue an official position regarding this project, let alone passed any laws that would specifically list it as means of self-harm.

So, unless there's a clear declaration from the government that they would consider any such application as a suicidal act, and pass that as a law, I'd wager that they legally can't even consider it as such in the courts of law. And human exploration of space clearly isn't listed as such in broader terms either, if the government sponsors ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) a Human Flight Initiative program.


However, searching again for any government issued warning regarding Mars One project, I stumbled upon this news article, dated February 20, 2014:

Gulf imams issue fatwa warning Muslims not to live on Mars as it would pose 'a real risk to life'

According to reports in the Khaleej Times, a fatwa committee under the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE, prohibits Muslims from being involved in such a journey as it would pose "a real risk to life" and is tantamount to suicide.

The report emerged after more than 500 people from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries were said to have signed up for a spot on the Mars One mission.

If this fatwa (a legal opinion or ruling issued by Islamic scholars) extends to Muslims in India, or if it was later adopted by their muftis, that I wouldn't know.


One thing I want to add is that Mars One candidate selection and training processes should prevent inclusion of candidates with suicidal tendencies or those that are otherwise unstable or unfit for the tasks ahead of them. Mars One's candidate selection process is fairly complex, so I won't describe it in detail, but suffice to say that candidates will be under supervision of trained professionals while undergoing years long selection and later extremely demanding training. Round 3 and round 4 of the selection process will also be public events, broadcast on TV and internet, with fierce competition between candidates themselves, which should help expose any current or past self-harming tendencies of individual candidates, too.

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I don't know how the legal system of India officially defines "suicide", but usually suicide is considered an act with the sole intention to end ones life.

While Mars One is definitely not a risk-free endeavour, the people who partake in it do not have the intention to die. They expect to survive the trip and then spend the rest of their life on Mars.

There is a certain risk of lethal accidents involved, but so is in skydiving or freeclimbing, which are, as far as I know, not illegal in India. One could also argue that their life expecancy will be shortened due to the high radiation on Mars, but so does living near a coal power plant or in one of the many slums in India, which isn't illegal either.

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I would say that any endeavor which has no precedent cannot be legally shown to either result or not result in a given conclusion. For example, if you choose to drink a glass full of an unknown liquid and there is no known previous attempt by anyone to drink it before you, then it cannot be said with total certainty that you will die or not die as a result of drinking it. Hence, since you will be the first one ever to drink this liquid, what happens to you will become the first precedent and it will show whether or not it is a poisonous substance or a harmless one. Once your precedent action is done, then and only then can one say that the next one to drink it will either die or not die, i.e., will or will not commit suicide. Therefore, since no one has yet ever attempted to colonize Mars, or even to go there, no one, in my opinion, can legally say that the endeavor will be a suicidal attempt or not. By this theory, the Indian Penal Code 309, as it applies to the Mars endeavor, does not yet have the experiential legal power to describe the voyage as either suicidal or harmless.

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As a matter of fact, people who will land on Mars are not necessarily destined to death, as they will regularly be restocked with supplies from Earth (refer to mars one article in wikipedia). The only element that would not occur would be their return to Earth, because of the lack of its feasibility. Then, morally, the qualified Mars astronauts are not embarking on the mission intending to "commit suicide" on the red planet. Instead, they are willing to explore another probable life sustaining environment in our solar system and, if possible, they will try to create a livable habitat on the second most beloved planet after Earth. Hence, there is no such component of "suicide" in Mars one mission.

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    $\begingroup$ You're grossly overstating matters of fact for something that has yet to materialize in any form whatsoever, don't you think? As another matter of fact, MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics team that analyzed Mars One feasibility concluded that resupplies wouldn't even matter, and settlers would suffocate within 68 days of their stay on Mars, if they proceeded with plans as they were proposed. Full assessment can be accessed from here. $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Oct 25 '15 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ But suicide depends on intent and they intend to live, and their plan appears rational at first glance despite the fact that it is deadly under cold scientific reasoning. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Dec 3 '15 at 4:36

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