Common Cause V. Union of India (2018): Case Comment


Author: Ankita Karn, School of Legal Studies, REVA University.

Common Cause v. Union of India (2018): Case Comment

Court: The Supreme Court of India

Bench: Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice A.M Khanwilkar

Decided on: 9 March 2018

Case No. : Writ Petition (Civil) No. 215 of 2005


  • In the year 2005, a registered NGO named Common Cause filed a PIL under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution in Supreme Court.
  • The PIL was mainly about to legalize the passive euthanasia and the living will.
  • Earlier, the NGO has written letters to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Law and Justice with regard to passive euthanasia.
  • The petitioners did not receive any response from the government.
  • Finally, they filed the PIL.
  • The contention of the petitioner was that when the right to live with dignity is a person’s right until he is dead so it can be extended to include the right to have a dignified death as well.
  • And the advanced technology gave rise to such a situation whereby the life of the patient is unnecessarily prolonged causing distress and agony to the patient and his relatives.
  • Further, the petitioners contended for the legalization of living wills where a person who is undergoing through a persistent pain and suffering can write about the medical treatment and authorize the family to stop such treatment.


  1. Whether Article 21 which guarantees Right to life also includes the Right to Die?
  2. Whether passive euthanasia should be allowed on the living will of the patient?
  3. Whether there is any difference between active euthanasia and the passive euthanasia?
  4. Whether the individual has the right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life-saving devices?



  • Every person has their right for their self-determination and they should be permitted to have a choice for their own fate.
  • The advanced technology founded a lot of methodology or drugs and medicine which unnecessarily prolong the life of causing a lot of distress and agony to the patients and their relatives.
  • They also contended that it is always better to die rather than being under some considerable and persistent pain and going through medication that does not cure and extend their life with the same pain.
  • Further, if a person is not in a condition to be cured or going through a very pathetic stage of life then he should be allowed to die with dignity because in any number of cases the mercy petition is filed by the sufferers of the family members or some other relatives or the caretakers. The burden upon the family is so huge and cuts across various domains such as financial, emotional, physical, mental, social and time aspects.
  • The right to refuse medical treatment is well recognized in law, including the medical treatment that prolongs the patient’s life. The right to renounce treatment gives a way for passive euthanasia.
  • Euthanasia will provide an opportunity for the patient to donate their organ, so it will not only give them Right to die with dignity but also gives organ to the organ-needy patients.


  • It says that every death is not painful.
  • Further, it says that every individual has a right to life inherited to them right from their birth under Article 21 of the Constitution but the concept of euthanasia is an unnatural termination of life and it is derogative in respect of Article 21. Therefore, the Right to life does not include the Right to die.
  • State has the duty to protect the life of every citizen and Euthanasia would undermine the duty of providing the care and saving the life of the patients.
  • The use of Euthanasia will prohibit the discovery of new medicines which actually can cure the incurable diseases and it will discourage the research and invention of those particular diseases in the near future.
  • There is also the availability of some alternatives like cessation of active treatment in combination with the use of effective pain relief.


In this case, the Supreme Court held that Right to Life includes the Right to Die also under Article 21. The individual has a right to die with dignity as a part of their Right to life. This judgment permits the removal of life support systems for the patients who are terminally ill and also for those who are under some incurable disease or to those patients who are in a coma for so long. Further, the court also allowed the individuals to decide against artificial life support and also to recognize the need for creating a living will.