India drops attempted suicide as a crime

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India on Wednesday dropped attempted suicide from a list of crimes punishable by prison, potentially paving the way for the release of a human rights activist who has been on hunger strike for the past 14 years.

The government informed parliament of its decision in a written reply from the home ministry on Wednesday, saying it was acting on a recommendation of the Law Commission.

The government panel for legal reform had deemed the suicide law "anachronistic" and "undesirable" in a 2008 report.

Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike in protest against army atrocities in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. Under the old law anyone attempting to kill themselves is liable for a jail term of a year.

She has been under detention throughout her fast, and is force-fed by tubes several times a day.

The World Health Organization has listed India as one of the countries with the highest suicide rates - 21.1 per 100,000 people in 2012.

The Indian government said 134,799 people committed suicide in 2013, a rise of 11.9 percent over the previous year. There was no data on the number of attempted suicides, it said.

More than 800,000 people each year worldwide commit suicide - around one person every 40 seconds - WHO said in September.

(Reporting by Tony Tharakan, Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)