Does Right to life includes Right to die?

Does Right to life Involves Right to Die?


Being born as a human we all are entitled with certain basic rights and right to life is one of such rights which we have from the moment we are born. Right to life means No person can deprive other person from his right to live in other words no one can kill another human including state, and this right must be protected by law.

In India Article 21 of the constitution provides that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”

The expression “procedure established by law” has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in , Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, to mean just, fair and reasonable procedure and not any procedure.

In a number of cases It is held that Right to life means not only mere animal existence but it includes certain other rights which are as follows;

  1. Right to live with dignity
  2. Right to privacy
  3. Right to food
  4. Right to healthy Environment
  5. Right to move freely
  6. Right to employment

And many other rights which make a person’s life peaceful And worth living. But a question which started Surfacing in recent past is “Does right to life also includes Right to die”. There may be many circumstances when a person is not willing to live anymore, such as when he is Suffering from terminal illness and there are no chances of him getting cured, irreversible coma, persistent vegetative state, when he is no longer left with the will to live due to various circumstances of life, or shame and demands a merciful killing. But most of the countries prohibited mercy killing deeming it to be murder and violation of human rights. But it was challenged by people from time to time contending that they have right to life as well as right to die with there own will.

The term used for mercy killing is “Euthanasia” It is derived from two Greek words ‘ eú’ meaning ‘good’ and ‘thanathos’ meaning ‘death’. Euthanasia refers to intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. It can be primarily divided into two parts;

1. Active Euthanasia; means killing a patient by active means for example by a lethal injection.
2. Passive Euthanasia means letting the patient die by an omission, e.g, by ceasing or not starting life saving system. Most of the Countries prefer passive euthanasia over active because it is considered that action is more severe than omission.

Euthanasia in India.;

Mercy killing in India has been a long debate which we can understand by a number of cases which are as follows;

1. State Of Maharastra v. Maruti Sripati Dubal

In this case section 309 of Indian penal code was challenged based on contentions that it violates Article 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution. Section 309 of Ipc provides-.
“Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.” Court struck down this provision and held it Violative of article 14 and 21. The court held that Suicide is not unnatural but merely abnormal, and a person attempting to do it should be treated by a doctor and should not be sent behind bars.

2. Chenna jagadeshwar v. State of A.P.

court held that Every case under S. 309 IPC may not lead to a punishment. S. 309 IPC by no means mandates that a Court should punish attempt suicide, it only lays down the upper limits of such punishment. If S. 309 is to be held illegal, we are highly doubtful whether S. 306, IPC could survive. Thus people who actively assist and induce persons to commit suicide may go scot-free. Thus they held the section 309 valid.

3. P. Rathinam v. Union of India

Court held that Section 309 of IPC is cruel and irrational provision and it may result in punishing a person doubly. And also suicide Or attempt to commit it causes no harm to others because of which state should not interfere with one’s personal liberty. The court held it void and violative of Article 21 of Constitution.

4. Gian kaur v. State of punjab

In this case Court upheld the validity of section 309 of IPC and rejected the contention that it is violative of Article 14 and 21 of constitution.
In this case court made it clear that right to have a dignified life will include right to have a dignified death.

5. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaugh V. Union of India.

In the present case the next friend of the patient who was sexually assaulted and was in a persistent vegetative state for more than 20 years filed a petition in Supreme court praying that they should allow the hospital staff to stop feeding her so that she can die peacefully. In this case court allowed passive Euthanasia with certain guidelines, such as one should make petition to Highcourt for granting permission.
Passive Euthanasia is defined in above paragraph.

6. Common cause v. Union of India

In this case Court held that a person, who is adult and has the capability to take decisions can refuse to take medical treatment including withdrawal of life saving devices. He can make Advance Medical directive in which he can exercise his autonomy on the subject of medical intervention that he wishes to allow on his body. And for making this advance medical directive he doesn’t needs to take permission of state.

Author: Saumya Shukla,
Final year CMP degree college Prayagraj

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