Everyone has a right to life, and a right to live with dignity: CJI on euthanasia

Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dipak Misra at the Dr Patangrao Kadam Memorial Public Lecture Series at Bharti Vidyapeeth, Pune said that everyone had the right to life and the right to live with dignity and conflicted cases should be dealt with in a balanced manner.

Referring to the Aruna Shanbaug case which showed a conflict between two fundamental rights said that after thoroughly studying the facts of the case and the Indian Constitution’s fundamental structure, one should give a verdict.

“Everyone has a right to life but at the same time, he or she has a right to life with dignity. If he/she is unable to live with dignity because of prolonged illness, from which he/she will not overcome then in such cases he/she has the right to die with dignity. This is what balancing of rights mean. Adjustment, acceptance, compromise, and settlement comes in the balancing of rights and for the coexistence of rights. We have to balance them for the well being of mankind,” Misra said.

The bench handling the Aruna Shanbaug case approved a living will by a terminally-ill patient for passive euthanasia and gave new guidelines for execution of the will and the medical board role’s in giving assent to it.

While referring to the Mazdur Krishna Shakti Sangathan case, Misra said in situations where conflict arises between two fundamental rights or intra-fundamental rights in respect of some person, it becomes slightly difficult for a bench to give out the verdict. “No particular parameter can be fixed but yet the courts try and endeavor to fix certain parameters, it has to be judged on facts of each case, taking care of certain constitutional concepts,” he stated.

He said that for the society to develop and democracy to strengthen, it is important for an individual to exercise rights granted by the constitution.

“We have a constitutional democracy and it is conceded with a singular and a sole mission and purpose of securing its citizen’s rights and liberties which foster and strengthen the spirit and growth of development in a society. Rights protected and guaranteed under a constitution are the fulcrum of any free society. We ought to live in a democratic and free society. As far as that concept is concerned there is no compromise. We have the rights and must exercise them within the constitutional parameters. These rights are interest recognised and protected by a rule of justice. If the rule of justice collapses, rule of law will automatically collapse. I must respect your freedom, you must respect mine and this is how we can build up a societal fraternity in a true sense,” the Chief Justice said.

“In a democratic setup, every right matters and no right is absolute. There is no hierarchical order in rights. A particular fundamental right cannot exist in isolation,” he said.

Earlier, Misra and four others legalised same-sex relations between consenting adults and unanimously struck down on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalises ‘unnatural sex’.

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