“No one considers that the goal of life is the grave”: Supreme Court
After the advent of Constitution of India, which now seems like an eternity, Right to life has been the only field which continues to grow like a green tree in a verdure land, spreading out its branches artistically, and covering and shielding every amenity of humankind. But what every law student ponders at least once or twice in his entire study is when every other right has its counter, why not Article 21: “Right to Life”?
Quite obviously, the State possesses a right to quash the Art. 21 on the grounds of certain reasonable provisions, but why can’t a person be his sole authority in terms of deciding about his life? Not until the case of Common Cause (A Registered Society) v. Union of India (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 215 of 2005), this doubt was eradicated forever. In the case, the Supreme Court laid down much emphasis on blending the legal arena with philosophical and emotional fervour.
Highly learned bench comprising of (then) CJI Dipak Mishra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice D Y Chandrachud, and Justice Ashok Bhushan, deliberated upon the consequences of a person deciding to end his own life. ‘It won’t be wrong to allow him to do so if he does so in order to prevent greater suffering in the future, leading life of a prosthetic who exists, but is no good than dead. If not even basic function could be performed by such petitioner, he must granted the right to die with dignity’, they upheld.
Expressing the utility of Passive Euthanasia in such cases, and taking cues from the progressive status of passive euthanasia from across the world coupled with the report of 241st Law Commission of India, the Court ruled that doctors must always stay persistent about acting in the best interest of their patients. Quoting excerpts from the path-breaking judgment of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union of India & Ors. (Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 115 of 2009), the court finally inclined for the right to die with dignity, essentially to pacify the process of meeting with the oblivion for the patients who battle with life every moment despite knowing that defeat is inevitable. Such induced death is better than daily death for any terminally ill patient/ patient in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) with any scope of recovery pouring into ditch of voidness. But to prevent its misuse, the Court simultaneously laid down in its directive that administration of this treatment in unnecessary cases (or where a scope of recovery exists) would be punishable.
And this is how, even ‘Right to Life’ was subsumed by ‘Right to live with dignity’ and Article 21 again witnessed a broadened scope.