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Supreme Court refers issue of legalising euthanasia to Constitution bench

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 - 6:33pm IST | Agency: PTI

The Supreme Court today referred the issue of legalising euthanasia in the country to a Constitution bench, saying it is extremely important to have a clear enunciation of law in view of inconsistent opinions in its previous judgement.

The apex court said that its earlier verdict of 2011 allowing passive euthanasia was delivered on a "wrong premise" and referred the case to Constitution bench to clear the air on the contentious issue for the benefit of humanity as important question of law is involved in it. "In view of the inconsistent opinions rendered in 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 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 said.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that the Constitution bench will go into all aspects of the case to lay down exhaustive guidelines. "We refrain from framing any specific questions for consideration by the Constitution bench as we invite the Constitution bench to go into all the aspects of the matter and lay down exhaustive guidelines in this regard," it said.

The bench, also comprising Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh, said that its earlier Constitution bench verdict, which was wrongly relied in Aruna Shanbaug case, had held that right to live with dignity will be inclusive of right to die with dignity but the judgement 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 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 in regard to euthanasia in India is Aruna 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 in had upheld the same," it said.

The direction came on a PIL filed by NGO "Common Cause" which said when a medical expert opines that the person afflicted with terminal disease has reached a point of no return, then he should be given the right to refuse being put on life support system as otherwise it would only prolong his agony.

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