Landmark Judgement : Right to Life includes Right to Die

Landmark Judgement : Right to Life includes Right to Die

The Apex Court of the nation in yet another landmark judgement of this season [after Right to Privacy and Triple Talaq]  has upheld, rather widened the scope of the Fundamental Rights. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in a judgement decided today has held that Right to life includes Right to die with dignity. The Court has came up with this view, after negating it in its various judgements which had held that Right to life is exclusive of Right to die. However, today, the 5 Judge Constitution bench which comprised of Chief Justice Deepak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan has held that passive euthanasia and living will are legally valid. The Apex Court has decided it in a petition filed by the Common Cause  [A Registered Society] in 2005 and argued by the notable lawyer Prashant Bhushan. The petitioner claimed,

“How can a person be told that he/she does not have right to prevent torture on his body? Right to life includes right to die with dignity. Keeping a patient alive by artificial means against his/her wishes is an assault on his/her body.”

Change in Stance

The Court has altered its stance from the previous few judgements where it de-recognised passive euthanasia and had referred the matter to a larger Constitution bench. The Court in its judgement dated 25 February, 2014 in Common Cause (A Regd. Society) vs Union Of India held that the judgment in Aruna Shanbaug case was based on a wrong interpretation of the constitution bench judgment in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab. The Apex Court observed that the judgement laid down that euthanasia can only be allowed by the Legislature yet it went on to lay down guidelines in Aruna Shanbaug case. The three judge bench of this case – Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh had referred the matter to a larger bench saying,

“Thus, in our cogent opinion, the question of law involved requires careful consideration by a Constitution Bench of this Court for the benefit of humanity as a whole.”

The 5 judge bench has conclusively decided the matter today.

Further Broadening of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has yet again widened the scope of Right to life and personal dignity with this judgement. The Court has laid down that Passive Euthanasia is legally valid and permissible alongside validating a living will. The Court has issued detailed guidelines for the same. Living will is a written document that specifies instructions given by a person well in advance which are to be catered to if he is terminally ill at some point of time later in his life. The Supreme Court has further said that the relatives of a patient who has not written a ‘living will’ can approach High courts asking for passive euthanasia. The Court held that,

“A failure to legally recognize advance medical directives may amount to non-facilitation of the right to smoothen the dying process and the right to live with dignity. When passive euthanasia as a situational palliative measure becomes applicable, the best interest of the patient shall override the State interest.”

The judgement is available here,

Full Judgement

 

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