Euthanasia: SC Bench to Take the Final Call

The apex court says it is important to have a clear enunciation of the law, as its previous judgments had ‘inconsistent opinions’

Published: 26th February 2014 09:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th February 2014 09:14 AM   |  A+A-

The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred the issue of legalising euthanasia in the country to a Constitution Bench, saying it was extremely important to have a clear enunciation of the law in view of the inconsistent opinions in its previous judgment.

Passing the order, a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice(CJI)P Sathasivam noted that its 2011 verdict, which allowed passive euthanasia, was delivered on a wrong premise. Hence, the matter was being referred to the Constitution Bench to clear the air on the contentious issue for the benefit of humanity as it involved the important question of law.

“In view of the inconsistent opinions rendered in the Aruna Shanbaug case and also considering the important question of law involved, which needs to be reflected in the light of social, legal, medical and Constitutional perspective, it becomes extremely important to have a clear enunciation of the law.”

“Thus, in our cogent opinion, the question of law involved requires careful consideration by a Constitution Bench of this court for the benefit of humanity as a whole,” the court observed.

According to the apex court, the Constitution Bench will go into all the aspects of the case as part of the efforts to lay down exhaustive guidelines. “We refrain from framing any specific questions for consideration by the Constitution Bench as we invite it to go into all the aspects of the matter and lay down exhaustive guidelines in this regard,” it said.

Further, the Bench said the earlier verdict by the Constitution Bench, which was wrongly relied upon in the Shanbaug case, had held that the right to live with dignity was inclusive of the right to die with dignity, but the judgment did not arrive at a conclusion for validity of euthanasia.

“In the light of the above discussion, it is clear that although the Constitution Bench in the Gian Kaur case upheld that the right to live with dignity under Article 21 will be inclusive of right to die with dignity, the decision does not arrive at a conclusion for validity of euthanasia, be it active or passive.”

“So, the only judgment that holds the field with regard to euthanasia in India is the Shanbaug case, which upholds the validity of passive euthanasia and lays down an elaborate procedure for executing the same on the wrong premise that the Constitution Bench had upheld in the same,” it said.

Referring to inconsistent opinions in the Shanbaug case, the Bench said the Constitution Bench had held that mercy killing could be made legal only through  legislation but the court had in the judgment contradicted its own interpretation.

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