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WhetherRightToLifeIncludeRightToDie

Source:http://www.
Author:ManaliSinghal
Publishedon:January07,2011
WhetherRightToLifeIncludeRightToDie?

ManaliSinghal's
Profileanddetails

TheIndianconstitutionunderArticle21confersthe
righttoLifeasthefundamentalrightofevery
Manali

citizen.TheRighttoLifeenrichedinArt.21have
Singhal,
beenliberallyinterpretedsoastomeansomething
GujaratNational
morethanmeresurvivalandmereanimalexistence. LawUniversity
TheSupremeCourthasassertedthatArt.21isthe
heartofthefundamentalRightsprovidedunderpartIIIofthe
constitution[1].TheSupremeCourthasclearlystatedthatinordertotreata
rightasafundamentalitisnotmandatorythatitshouldbeexpresslystated
asafundamentalright[2].InIndiaTherighttolife"underArticle21of
theConstitutionhasreceivedthewidestpossibleinterpretationunderthe
ablehandsofthejudiciaryandrightlyso.Onthegroundsasmentioned,
Article21doesnothavearestrictivemeaningandneedstobeinterpreted
broadly.ThisaffirmsthatifArticle21confersonapersontherighttolive
adignifiedlife,itshouldbestowstheRighttoDiealso,buttheinclusion
ofRighttodieunderArticle21contradicttheprovisionofIndianPenal
Codeundersec.309.Asaccordingtosec.309oftheIPCWhoever
attemptstocommitsuicideanddoesanyacttowardthecommissionofsuch
offence,shallbepunishedwithsimpleimprisonmentforatermwhichmay
extendtooneyear[orwithfine,orwithboth].Thissectionisbasedonthe
principlethatlivesofmenarenotonlyvaluabletothembutalsotothestate
whichprotectsthem.ByconsideringboththelawstheprovisionofIPC
undersection309iscontradictorytothefundamentalrightguaranteed
underArticle21oftheIndianConstitution.Thestatespowerundersection
309,I.P.C.topunishamanforattempttocommitasuicideisquestioned
notonlyonthegroundsofmorality,butalsoontheconstitutionalityofthe
saidprovision.Alotofconflictingopinionshavebeengivenondesirability
ofretainingorabolishingsection309ofIndianPenalCodebecauseof
somecontrastingjudgementgivenbyvariouscourts.
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WiderInterpretationOfArticle21
AveryfascinatingdevelopmentintheIndianconstitutionaljurisprudenceis
theextendeddimensiongiventoArticle21bytheSupremeCourtinthe
postManekaera.Sincethen,Article21hasprovedtobemulti
dimensional.ThisaspectofArt.21arebroughtupbymanyjudicial
pronouncements.Thisrightisinalienableandisinherentinus.Itcannot
andisnotconferreduponus.Thisvitalpointseemstoeludeallthosewho
keeponclamoringforthe"Righttodie.Thatmeansthateveryindividual
hasafundamentalfreedomtochoosenottolive.Onthisissuethestance
takenbythejudiciaryisunquestionable.Themainquestionarisesisthat
whetherrighttolifeincluderighttodeath.
FirsttimeitcameforconsiderationbeforeBombayHighCourtinMaruti
ShripatiDubai[3]andstruckdownsection309ofIndianPenalCode,as
unconstitutionalvideArticle21oftheconstitutionwhichguaranteesright
tolifeandpersonalliberty.Thecourtsaidthatrighttolifeincluderight
toendoneslifeifonesodesires.Itwaspointedoutthatrighttolifehas
bothitspositiveaswellasnegativeaspects.Toputitpositivelyitwould
includearighttodie,ortoterminateonesownlife.Theblanket
prohibitiononrighttodieonpainofpenalty,itwaspointedoutisnot
reasonable.
JusticeP.B.Sawant:Ifthepurposeoftheprescribedpunishmentisto
preventtheprospectivesuicidesbydeterrence,itisdifficulttounderstand
howthesamecanbeachievedbypunishingthosewhohavemadethe
attempts.Thosewhomakethesuicideattemptonaccountofmental
disorderrequirespsychiatrictreatmentandnotconfinementintheprison
cellswheretheirconditionisboundtobeworsenleadingtofurthermental
derangement.Thoseontheotherhand,whomakesasuicideattempton
accountofactualphysicalailments,incurabledisease,torture(brokendown
byillness),anddeceitphysicalstateinducedbyoldageordisablement,
neednursinghomeandnotprisontopreventthemformmakingthe
attemptsagain.Nodeterrenceisgoingtoholdbackthosewhowanttodie
foraspecialorpoliticalcauseortoleavetheworldeitherbecauseofthe
lossofinterestinlifeorforselfdeliverance.Thusinnocasedoesthe
punishmentservethepurposeandinsomecasesitisboundtoproveself
defeatingandcounterproductive.[4]
Furtherin1985,DelhiHighCourtinsanjaykumar[5]whileacquittinga
youngboywhoattemptedtocommitsuicidebyconsumingTikTwenty
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stronglyadvocatedfordeletionofsection309,I.P.C.fromthestatuebook
andheldthatthecontinuanceofsection309oftheIndianPenalCodeisan
anachronismunworthyofhumansocietylikeours.Insteadofsendingthe
youngboytoapsychiatricclinicsociety,gleefully(happily)sendshimto
minglewithcriminals.Medicalclinics[areneeded]forsuchsocialmisfits
butpoliceandprisonnever.[6]
Further,thisissuecamebeforeSupremeCourtinP.Rathinam/Nagbhusan
patnaik[7]inthiscaseSCupheldtheverdictgivenbyBombayHighCourt
inMarutiSripatiDubaandheldthatapersonhasrighttodie,therefore
section309oftheIPCwasviolateofArticle21,henceitisvoid.Aperson
cannotbeforcedtoenjoyrighttolifetohisdetriment,disadvantageor
disliking.The'righttolive'inArticle21oftheConstitutionincludesthe
'rightnottolive.Thecourtwentontosaythatopersonwhoattemptsto
commitsuicidedoesnotdeserveprosecutionbecausehehasfailed.There
canbenojustificationtoprosecutesacrificersoflife.
InthisregardeminentlawyerRamJethmalanisaysTherighttodieisa
partofawiderconceptofliberty.Thewholenationofthestatecontrolling
yourlifeanddeathisgrotesque.EquallyradicalisDrAppaGhatate,
SupremeCourtlawyerwhoagrees,"Therighttodieshouldbeincludedin
theIndianConstitutionasafundamentalright.Theveryideaofthestate
controllingyourlifeisabsurd."
ConstitutionalValidityOfSec.309
DisposingthecaseP.RathinamvunionofIndia,DivisionBenchofthe
SupremeCourtofIndiadeclaredSection309IPCasunconstitutionaland
void.Beforearrivingattheconclusion,theSupremeCourttookinto
considerationthecasesargued/disposedbythehighCourtsofsomestates
namely,Delhi,BombayandAndhraPradeshontheaforesaidissueand
heldthatSection309IPCwhichhasnojustificationtocontinuetoremain
onthestatutebook..However,theAndhraPradeshHighCourtinChenna
Jadeshwar[8]upheldtheconstitutionalvalidityofsection309,I.P.C.and
remarkedthatrighttolifedoesnotnecessarilysignifyrighttodiewhich
isanoffence.ThejudgementthereforedissentedtotheviewofBombay
HighCourt.
Mr.V.S.DeshpandeafterhisretirementasChiefJusticeofDelhiHigh
Court[9],referringtowhathadbeenheldbythisCourtregardingthescope
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ofArticle21,tooktheviewthatifSection309isrestrictedinits
applicationtoattemptstocommitsuicidewhicharecowardlyandwhich
areunworthy,thenonlythissectionwouldbeinconsonancewithArticle
21,because,ifapersonhavinghadnodutiestoperformtohimselforto
otherswhenheisterminallyill,decidestoendhislifeandrelievehimself
fromthepainoflivingandtheothersfromtheburdenoflookingafterhim,
prosecutionofsuchapersonwouldbeaddinginsulttoinjuryanditwas
asked:"ShouldaCourtconstrueSection309IPCtoapplytosuchcases?"
SometimeafterwardsappearedanarticleofJusticeR.A.Jahagirdarof
BombayHighCourt[10]inwhichthelearnedJudgetooktheviewthat
Section309wasunconstitutionalforfourreasons:(1)neitheracademicians
norjuristsareagreedonwhatconstitutessuicide,muchlessattempted
suicide(2)mensrea,withoutwhichnooffencecanbesustained,isnot
clearlydiscernibleinsuchacts(3)temporaryinsanityistheultimate
reasonofsuchactswhichisavaliddefenseeveninhomicidesand(4)
individualsdriventosuiciderequirepsychiatriccarenottheprisoncells.
Inoneofthecaseaccusedpouredkeroseneonhisbodyandattemptedto
commitsuicideanditwasprovedthattheaccusedafterreceivinghead
injuryinaroadaccidenthadstartedshowingabnormalbehaviour.
Thereforebeforethestartofcasetheaccusedchallengedtheviresof
section309andhighcourtdeclaredsection309ultravirestheconstitution.
OnappealSCsetasidetheorderofHighCourtandfollowingthedecision
inLokendraSinghv.stateofM.P.[11]upheldthevalidityofsection309
andsaidthecriminalcaseinitiatedonchargeofattempttocommitsuicide
requiredtobedecidedonmerit.HoweverinthiscasetheSupremeCourt
tookthelenientandsympatheticviewandquashedthecriminal
proceedingsanddirectedtheaccusedshouldbetreatedsympathetically.
[12]Theaccusedinanotherhadjumpedintothewellafterthrowingher
childreninsidethewellbutnobodyhadseenherdoingthis.Itwasheldthat
herconvictionwasliabletobesetaside.[13]Theaccusedwantedto
voluntarilyterminatehislifeasmissionofhislifewascompletedandhe
hadledasuccessfullife.Itwasheldthatitwouldattracttheprovisionsof
section306and309asthesameamountedtosuicide.Thecourtwasofthe
opinionthatnodistinctioncouldbemadebetweenthesuicideasordinarily
understoodandtherighttovoluntarilyputanendtooneslife.[14]
Arevisingauthorhascriticisedthisview.Inviewofthephraseologyof
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Art,21,itisarguablethattheinhibitionagainstdeprivationoflifeand
personallibertyisgeneral.Notonlythestatebutalsoanindividualisunder
constitutionalobligationnottotakeawayhumanlifeexceptbythe
procedureestablishedbylaw.Thisindividualmayalsobethevictim
himself.Readinthisbackdropcommissionofsuicideisabreachof
fundamentalrights.Andthereisnoquestionofwaiveroffundamental
right.Acompletedactofsuicidemayremovetheauthorofthebreach
beyondthereachoflaw,butattemptedviolationmaybebroughttojustice
throughsection309,I.P.C.[15]
However,in1996,afivejudgeconstitutionalbenchoftheapexcourtin
GianKaurv.StateofPunjab[16]overruleditsearlierdecisionof1994in
P.Rathinam/Naghbhusanpatnaik[17]andheldthatrighttodieisnotapart
ofthe'righttolife'.Theapexcourtfurtherheldthatsection306,I.P.C.as
constitutionalandsaidthatrighttolifedoesnotincluderighttodie.
Extinctionoflifeisnotincludedinprotectionoflife.Thecourtfurther
wentontosaythatsection306constituteadistinctoffenceandcanexist
independentlyofsection309,I.P.C.
Asregardssection309,I.P.C.isconcerned,thecourtsaidthattherightto
lifeguaranteedunderArticle21oftheConstitutiondidnotincludethe
righttodieorrighttobekilledandthereforeanattempttocommit
suicideundersection309,I.P.C.orevenabetmentofsuicideundersection
306,I.P.C.,arewellwithintheconstitutionalmandated,andarenotvoidor
ultravirus.[18]
LawCommissionOfIndia
ThechairmanoftheLawCommissionofIndia,Dr.JusticeAR.
Lakshmanan,formerSupremeCourtjudgehassubmitted210threportto
theUnionLawminister,Dr.HansRajBhardwaj,recommending
humanisationanddecriminalisationofattempttosuicide.Abrieflookat
theactionsundertakentoreviseArticle309suggestthatinits42ndReport,
1971,thecommissionrecommended,interalia,repealofsection309.The
18thLawCommissioninits210thReporttitledHumanizationand
DecriminalizationofAttempttoSuicide'submittedonOctober17,2008
gavethefollowingrecommendations:
1.Suicideoccursinallages.LifeisagiftgivenbyGodandHehislife,it
wouldbecruelandirrationaltovisithimwithpunishmentonhisfailureto
die.Itishisdeepunhappinesswhichcauseshimtotrytoendhislife.
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Attempttosuicideismoreamanifestationofadiseasedconditionofmind
deservingoftreatmentandcareratherthanpunishment.Itwouldnotbejust
andfairtoinflictadditionallegalpunishmentonapersonwhohasalready
sufferedagonyandignominyinhisfailuretocommitsuicide.
2.Thecriminallawmustnotactwithmisplacedoverzealanditisonly
whereitcanprovetobeaptandeffectivemachinerytocuretheintended
evilthatitshouldcomeintothepicture.
3.Section309oftheIPCprovidesdoublepunishmentforapersonwhohas
alreadygotfedupwithhisownlifeanddesirestoendit.Section309is
alsoastumblingblockinpreventionofsuicidesandimprovingtheaccess
ofmedicalcaretothosewhohaveattemptedsuicide.Itisunreasonableto
inflictpunishmentuponapersonwhoonaccountoffamilydiscord,
destitution,lossofadearrelationorothercauseofalikenatureovercomes
theinstinctofselfpreservationanddecidestotakehisownlife.Insucha
case,theunfortunatepersondeservessympathy,counsellingand
appropriatetreatment,andcertainlynottheprison.
4.Section309needstobeeffacedfromthestatutebookbecausethe
provisionisinhuman,irrespectiveofwhetheritisconstitutionalor
unconstitutional.Therepealoftheanachronisticlawcontainedinsection
309oftheIPCwouldsavemanylivesandrelievethedistressedofhis
suffering.
5.TheCommissionisoftheviewthatwhileassistingorencouraging
anotherpersonto(attemptto)commitsuicidemustnotgounpunished,the
offenceofattempttocommitsuicideundersection309needstobeomitted
fromtheIPC.
DecriminalisationofattempttosuicideisalsofavoredbytheInternational
AssociationforSuicidePrevention(France).Thishasbeenthepracticein
mostcountriesinEuropeandNorthAmericaandisalsosupportedbythe
IndianPsychiatricSociety.
PresentStatus
TheSupremeCourtofIndiaoverruledthejudgementgivenbyBomaby
HighCourtinStateofMaharashtravsMarutySripatiDubaiandalsoits
earlierdecisiongiveninP.RathinamvsUnionofIndiacaseswherein
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Section309ofIndianPenalCode1860washeldtobeunconstitutional.It
upheldthejudgementoftheAndhraPradeshHighCourtinChenna
Jagadeeswarandanothervs.StateofAndhraPradeshholdingthatSection
309oftheIPCwasnotviolativeofArticles21and14oftheIndian
Constitutionandtherefore,itcannotbedeclarednullandvoid.Presently
theverdictgiveninGianKaurv.stateofPunjabisfollowed,inwhichthe
SupremeCourtupheldthevalidityofSection309andstatesthatitiswithin
theconstitutionalmandatesandisnotviolativeofanyfundamentalrights.
Myopinion:AlthoughthejudgementgivenbySCinGiankaunisfollowed
butaccordingtomethisshouldbescrappedfromtheIPC.Ithinktheright
todieshouldnotbeexpressivelyincludedintherighttolife,because
LifeisagiftgivenbyGodandHealonecantakeit.Itspremature
terminationcannotbeapprovedbyanysociety.Neitheritshoukdbe
penalised.Attempttocommitsuicideisamanifestationofdiseasedmind.
Whatisneededtotakecareofsuicidepronepersonsaresoftwordsand
wisecounseling(ofapsychiatrist),andnotstonydealingbyajailor
followingharshtreatmentmetedoutbyaheartlessprosecutor.Section309
ofthePenalCodedeservestobeeffacedfromthestatutebooktohumanise
ourpenallaws.Itisacruelandirrationalprovision,anditmayresultin
punishingapersonagain(doubly)whohassufferedagonyandwouldbe
undergoingignominybecauseofhisfailuretocommitsuicide.
Conclusion
Therefore,itiswrongtosaythattheIndianpenalcodeisamoderncodein
everypossiblesense.Lawsaremadeforthepeopleanditshouldbechange
tomeettheaimsandaspirationofthechangingsociety.Ultimately,theaim
shouldbetoevolveaconsensualandconceptualmodeleffectivelyhandling
theevilswithoutsacrificinghumanrights.Thereforesection309shouldbe
deletedfromtheIndianpenalCodebecauseasmentionedinMaruti
ShripatiDubaithatNodeterrenceisgoingtoholdbackthosewhowantto
dieforaspecialorpoliticalcauseortoleavetheworldeitherbecauseof
thelossofinterestinlifeorforselfdeliverance.Thusinnocasedoesthe
punishmentservethepurposeandinsomecasesitisboundtoproveself
defeatingandcounterproductive.Inanycaseapersonshouldnotbe
forcedtoenjoytherighttolivetohisdetriment,disadvantage,and
disliking.Further,theRighttolifeunderArt.21shouldnotinclude
righttodiebecausethisprovisionmightincreasetheratesofsuicidesin
thecountryandmoreovertheRighttolifeisanaturalrightembodiedin
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Art.21butsuicideisanunnaturalterminationorextinctionoflifeand,
thereforeincompatibleandinconsistentwiththeconceptofrighttolife.
Bibliography
BooksReferred:
K.D.Gaur,TheIndianPenalCode.3rdEdn.UniversalLawpublishingCo.
.
JournalReferred:
1.QUTLaw&JusticeJournal
2.Willmot,L.,Christensen,S.,Butler,D.(2001)ContractLaw,Oxford
UniversityPress:VictoriaISBN0195510062.

[1]UnniKrishnanv.stateofAndhraPradesh,AIR1993SC2178
[2]ManekaGandhiv.unionofIndiaAIR1978SC597
[3]MarutiShripatiDubaiv.StateofMaharashtra,1987Cr.LJ743(Bom.)
[4]Ibid,para20
[5]Statev.sanjaykumar,1985Cr.LJ
[6]Statevsanjaykumar,1988Cr.LJ549(AP)
[7]P.RathinamvsUnionofIndia,AIR1994SC1844
[8]ChennaJagadeeswarandanotherVs.StateofAndhraPradesh,1988
Crl.L.J.549
[9]DeshpandeVS"Tobeornottobe"SCC(Journalsection)19843:10
15quotedinP.RathinamvUnionofIndia(1994)
[10]JahagirdarRA.IllustratedWeeklyofIndiaSeptember29,1985quoted
inP.RathinamvUnionofIndia(1994)
[11]1996CrLJ1660(SC)
[12]StateofMaharashtrav.MarutiSripatiDubal,1996CrLJ4457(SC)
[13]Kavitav.stateoftamilnadu1998Cr.LJ3624
[14]C.A.ThomasMasterandetc.v.UnionofIndiaandors.2000Cr.LJ
743
[15]RighttodieAfundamentalrightbyA.N.SAHA,1987Cr.LJ(
Journal)70.
[16]GianKaurv.stateofPunjab,AIR1994SC1844
[17]AIR1994SC1844,paras111,112
[18]Ibid
Theauthorcanbereachedat:manalisinghal@legalserviceindia.com

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