The Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgment today which legalised passive euthanasia In India. Stating that every human being had the ‘right to die with dignity’, a constitution bench of five judges, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, acknowledged the ‘living will’ for passive euthanasia made by terminally-ill people in advance.
While the bench asserted that both ‘passive euthanasia’ and ‘living will’ were allowed in the country, it would be governed by guidelines that would execute the will and specify the norms to allow passive euthanasia. This historic judgement was made as an answer to the petition that sought the permissibility of the ‘living will’.
The bench included Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan apart from Justice Dipak Misra. It specified that guidelines for this would remain in place till legislation for this is passed.
“When the sanctity of life is destroyed, should we not allow them to cross the door and meet death with dignity? For some, even their death could be a moment of celebration,” said the bench of five judges headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Following is the timeline of events that led to this historic judgement:
May 11, 2005: SC took note of a PIL filed by the NGO ‘Common Cause’ that sought terminally ill people to execute a ‘living will’ for passive euthanasia. The plea sought declaration of the ‘right to die’ with dignity as a Fundamental Right under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Indian Constitution.
January 16, 2006: SC told the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) to intervene and asked to file relevant documents on passive euthanasia.
April 28, 2006: The Law Commission suggested a draft bill on passive euthanasia and said High Courts should decide on such pleas after taking experts’ opinions.
January 31, 2007: SC asks parties to file documents.
March 7, 2011: On a separate plea, on behalf of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug, Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia for the nurse lying in vegetative state at a hospital.
January 23, 2014: A three-judge bench led by then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam started the final hearing in the case.
February 11, 2014: DMC filed a copy of proceedings of International Workshop for Policy Statement on Euthanasia in India and SC reserved the verdict.
February 25, 2014: SC cited inconsistencies in earlier verdicts on passive euthanasia, including the one given in the Aruna Shanbaug case and referred the PIL to a Constitution bench.
July 15, 2014: A five-judge bench commenced hearing on the plea, issued notices to all states and union territories and appointed senior advocate TR Andhyarujina as an amicus curiae. He died while the case was going on.
February 15, 2016: Centre claims deliberating the issue of passive euthanasia.
October 11, 2017: A five-judge Constitution bench, led by CJI Dipak Misra, heard arguments and reserves the verdict.
March 9, 2018: The apex court recognises ‘living will’ made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia on the basis of guidelines laid down by the court.