Whether Right to life under Article 21 covers Right to die?

Whether the Right to life under Article 21 covers the right to die?


Article 21 is considered to be one of the important fundamental rights in the Indian Our Constitution which talks about personal Liberty,it says “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”.

According to this Article right to life means to have a meaningful and dignified life. Every person has a right to live their life with all dignity and be able to make their own life choices except according to procedure established by law.


Every person has a fundamental right to live their life as they want, to make their own decisions. An adult knows that what he wants from his life and can make decisions according to it. It is not an easy decision to take make to take away your life or to take away someone’s life on behalf of them.

Euthanasia is derived from the Greek words ‘eu’ means ‘good’ and “thantos” means “death” means “good death”. It is a practice to end someone’s life, to end someone’s suffering.  Every coin has two sides many people say that God has given us this life so we should live it till the very end and when the time comes he will take us with him. On the contrary, people say that if Article 21 gives us the right to live our life which says to live our lives in a peaceful manner then why can’t one take his/her life as per their choices?


Personal liberty is a wider concept in itself which needs to be made more specific. The word life does not only means physical existence, it means that to live with dignity, right to have a healthy life. For the first time in the case, A.K Gopalan v Union of India[i], we saw the meaning of the word ‘Personal Liberty. At that time the scope of personal liberty was a bit narrow so it was difficult to make decisions but in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India[ii], the Supreme Court has widened the scope of the word personal liberty and

The feeling of having to end their own life itself shows the state of mind of a person. It is not an easy decision to make and when someone makes or goes through such circumstances they are not in a state of mind of taking their life decisions. So in such cases, we can’t use this article as an excuse.

Euthanasia the word in fact means mercy killing or ending someone’s suffering, it nowhere allows for a person who has suicidal thoughts or any other malafide intentions.

The main purpose of this article to give assurance and protection that no one can stop you from living your life with your own principles. Anyone and everyone has the right to raise their voice if they feel that their rights are been infringed.

There is always a debate that whether the right to die is constitutional or is it included in article 21 or not. In the landmark case, Maruti Shripat Dubal v. State of Maharashtra[iii], the Bombay High Court here said that it was a violation of Article 14, 19, and 21 but then in further cases, it was again overruled. It was stated that to there should be proper reasoning to end someone’s life, because someone is exhausted with their life does not give them the right to take their life. The circumstances to end one’s life should be natural and not his/her desire to end life.

Further in Gian Kaur v State of Punjab[iv], the court held that section 309 of IPC is constitutional and violative of Article 21 and 14 of the Indian Constitution. The court here said the right to education or right to have move freely etc. are all positive rights and the right to die is not one of these positive rights as one wants to end their life. This is a negative right and so there is no comparison of this right to any positive rights.

Trying to end your own life that is attempting suicide because you are tired of living your life, or exhausted of what is happening around you, you have anxiety and some reasons like these make you take such a big decision is taking your life unnaturally which is not permissible. No one can give it an excuse of the protection of life in such cases.

The word ‘life’ in Article 21 means to have a dignified life and a Right to die with dignity, not to just end your life abruptly or choose death because you are facing some problems. In Gian Kaur v State of Punjab, Court said that the Right to life does not include the Right to die.

The scenario changed in 2011 when Supreme Court saw their first case of passive euthanasia in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India[v]. Passive Euthanasia is a simple word means that intentionally letting the patient die, to end his/her suffering by removing any artificial support which helps them to live longer. A writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court which held that the right to die with dignity is very well part of the right to life. The three-bench judge in their judgment said set some written instructions where they said that they can withdraw life support from patients who are brain dead or are in a permanent vegetative state(PVS) or terminally ill where there are no chances of recovery.

Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse and while performing her duty she was sexually assaulted and was in a vegetative state for more than 35 years. Dignity and respect are two things which human wants most in their life. When we live with dignity in society then why not die with the same dignity. Euthanasia can be only allowed in such cases wherein the medical world also cannot help the person to recover, where the person is in a vegetative state.


There is absolutely no nexus between suicide and the right to die. One who attempts suicide should be sent to mental health care rather than sending them to jails. It is not easy to take their life and when someone takes this step then it clearly shows that that person needs some attention and help. We should treat them; we should try to bring them back in their life so they can continue their life living the most of it. These people will then encourage and motivate others like them to see their life from another perspective.

In today’s world, we don’t even know how many people are suffering from anxiety and are having major depression due to many reasons. It’s high time that we should remove this taboo that only an insane person needs to see a doctor. Everyone in their life once faces anxiety or some depression but some are warriors and they fight back, then there is this other side where people struggle to come out of this room. And that’s where we should help them.

When there is no hope of a patient to become have a normal life again or who has suffered a lot because of any kind of illness than in only such circumstances or cases passive euthanasia is allowed.



[i] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1857950/

[ii] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1766147/

[iii] https://legalvidhi.co.in/caselaws/case-commentary-on-the-case-maruti-sripati-dubal-v-state-of-maharashtra/

[iv] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/217501/

[v] https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/aruna-ramchandra-shanbaug-v-union-of-india-case-analysis/


Author: Shruti Kulkarni,
Navrachana University

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