Life and death are regarded as spheres of God and not of man. The man was created by God and so God alone has the right to end the life of man. No man can create a life or a living creature so he doesn’t have the right to destroy any life including his own. According to Article 21 of the Indian constitution, No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. “Right to die” could include issues of suicide, passive euthanasia (allowing a person to die by refusal or withdrawal of medical intervention), assisted suicide (providing a person the means of committing suicide), active euthanasia (killing another), and palliative care (providing comfort care which accelerates the death process). Recently, a new category has been suggested—physician-assisted suicide—which appears to be an uncertain blend of assisted suicide or active euthanasia undertaken by a licensed physician.
RIGHT TO DIE UNDER CONSTITUTION
In the present scenario, under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, right to die cannot be a fundamental right. This rationale can be traced back to a series of cases, the first of which came up for consideration before the Bombay High Court in the matter of Maruti Shripathi Dubai v. the State of Maharashtra. In this case, though the Court opined that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 includes the right to die, it did not clearly explain as to how even at the level of plain logic, life includes death. It is clearly apparent that the two cannot coexist and death implies the absence of life.
However in Gian Kaur v. the State of Punjab, said that it is well settled that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution does not include the right to die. The Court held that Article 21 is a provision guaranteeing the protection of life and personal liberty and by no stretch of the imagination can extinction of life be read into it. To give meaning and content to the word ‘life’ in Article 21, it has been construed as life with human dignity. Any aspect of life which makes it dignified may be read into it but not that which extinguishes it and is, therefore, inconsistent with the continued existence of life resulting in effacing the right itself. It has been stated that the right to life, under Article 21 of the Constitution, does not include right to die or right to be killed as the very nature of such a right is inherently inconsistent with the right to life.
On the other hand, the ‘right to life’ including the right to live with human dignity would mean the existence of such a right up to the end of natural life. This also includes the right to a dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death. In other words, this may include the right of a dying man to also die with dignity when his life is ebbing out. But the ‘right to die’ with dignity at the end of life is not to be confused or equated with the ‘right to die’ an un-natural death curtailing the natural span of life.
God is the material cause and instrumentality of all joys, happiness, woes, sorrows, deeds, and karmas of humanity. Just as he gave life to us, he takes it away from us as well. He is the creator as well as the doer and the destroyer of this body. Committing suicide one never gained anything in life. Committing suicide was an offense as per Bhagavad Gita. Our soul atman after the death of the mortal body in the present life (resulted from committing suicide) again manifests a lower life form than the present. What of sin incurred by committing suicide? By committing suicide we again suffered in life as our soul atman would manifest a lower form of life in next manifestation.
CONSTITUTIONAL ANALYSIS OF SECTION 309 OF INDIAN PENAL CODE
Section 309 of IPC deserves to be effaced from the Statute book to humanize our penal laws. It is a cruel and irrational provision and it may result in punishing a person again who has suffered agony and would be undergoing ignominy because of his failure to commit suicide. Hon’ble Supreme Court has also expressed a similar view in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India & Ors. An act of suicide cannot be said to be against religion. Morality or public policy, and an act of attempted suicide have no baneful effect on society. Further, suicide or attempt to commit suicide cause no harm to others; therefore the state’s interference with the personal liberty of the concerned persons is not called for. Thus section 309 violates Article 21, and so void.
“If the purpose of the prescribed punishment is to prevent the prospective suicides by deterrence, it is difficult to understand how the same can be achieved by punishing those who have made the attempts. Those who make the suicide attempt on account of mental disorder requires psychiatric treatment and not confinement in the prison cells where their condition is bound to worsen leading to further mental derangement. Those on the other hand, who makes a suicide attempt on account of actual physical ailments, incurable disease, torture (broken down by illness), and deceit physical state induced by old age or disablement, need nursing home and not prison to prevent them from making the attempts again. No deterrence is going to hold back those who want to die for a special or political cause or to leave the world either because of the loss of interest in life or for self- deliverance. Thus in no case does the punishment serve the purpose and in some cases, it is bound to prove self-defeating and counterproductive.”
The basic moral question that arises is whether by legalizing a person’s right to die, we will degrade a human beings life and stop respecting human life. No one can deny that there is nothing more precious than the gift of life which every human being enjoys. Why then should the man decide when his life should end? Most religious people believe that life is sacred and one should not waste time in planning about their death but planning about how to enjoy life. Terminating life is not an answer to pain. All along life’s journey, man will suffer pain whether it is physical or mental or emotional or psychological. Will legalization of the right to die be done to relieve oneself from the physical pain only? A person weakened by illness may not be in a position to review his decision to kill himself. The decision to die by coming under some financial or social obligation is also very dangerous. Somewhere down the line, we may end up violating the right to life while legalizing the right to death.
When a man is surrounded by full of sorrows and miseries, the world says go and the grave says come. It is the obligation of the man to bear all those sorrows and miseries. No man is happy in this world. If death is the only solution for all the pains, no one will survive in this world. Thus any form that involves unnatural termination of life is illegal, as a result of which there is no right to die. The extent of credibility accorded to the sanctity of life and the right to life as a whole is shown from the culpability of offenses. Besides, it would be apt to comment that decriminalization of right to die is unworkable in the Indian perspective, even on humanitarian grounds, as it involves a third person and the chances of misuse exist to a large extent.
BY – L.SANMIHA (Student)
Author: Mayank Shekhar
Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.