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  • Soumya Mani

DOES RIGHT TO LIFE INCLUDE RIGHT TO DIE ?


Swami Vivekanand said, "Life is the lamp which is constantly burns out and if one want to have life, one has die every moment for it”. The ancient Greek Philosopher, Epicurus describing the concept of life and death once said, “Why should I Fear death? If I am, then death is not. If death is, then I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist. When I do not?" These lines suggest that life and death are the two sides of a coin and that every person shall have the right to live with dignity as well as right to die with dignity.


This has always been a matter which attracted the attention of people. Life has been considered as one of the precious gift that has been given by God to human beings. But there are circumstances when life becomes so miserable and unbearable that a person doesn't wish to continue to his life anymore. But the question which arises here is that does Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees Right to Life and Personal Liberty include Right to die as well ? The question has been dealt previously in many cases and different opinions have been given in various cases but the matter was finally settled down when the constitutional bench in the case of Common Cause (A Registered Society). v. Union of India held that “Right to life including right to live with human dignity” would mean the existence of such right up to the end of natural life, which also includes the right to dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death".


The Law Commission of India reports have also paid their attention taking into account the national and international laws and practices and taking into consideration, the increasing demand of the society have given their recommendation on this issue. In its 196th Report the Law Commission of India is in favor of permitting right to die or passive euthanasia in a limited number of cases under the strict supervision of panel of experts with a well-established procedure.


Logically, it must follow that the right to live will include the right not to live, say, the right to die or to terminate one’s life, Right to live of which art 21 speaks of can be said to bring in its trail the right not to live a forced life. Therefore, Right to Die should be declared as an intrinsic and indispensable part of Article 21 under the light of which Section 309 IPC  which criminalizes attempt to suicide and makes it a penal offence punishable upto a term of one year. It is the need to understand that legislation is duty bound to walk with the society so as to be relevant in the society and ultimately, the aim should be to evolve a consensual and conceptual model effectively handling the evils without sacrificing human rights.

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