W.P. (C) 215/2005
The petition sought the enactment of a law on the lines of the Patient Autonomy and Self-determination Act of the USA, which sanctions the practice of executing a ‘living will’ in the nature of an advance directive for refusal of life-prolonging medical procedures in the event of the testator’s incapacitation. The matter was disposed of on February 25, 2014. Without pronouncing any order on the specific prayer made in our petition, the Court invited a Constitution Bench to resolve the inconsistencies between the Division Bench judgment in Aruna Shanbaug (2011), which allowed passive euthanasia under certain safeguards, and the Constitution Bench judgment in Gian Kaur (1996), which held that the right to life does not include the right to die.
The matter was taken up by the Constitution Bench on July 16, 2014. Notice was issued to all States and Union Territories in view of the prayers made in the writ petition, particularly, the prayer to declare 'right to die with dignity' as a fundamental right within the fold of right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.
On the hearing on January 15, 2016, the Constitution Bench sought the Centre's response on 'living wills'. In the hearing on Feb 4, tje government sought time to consider the report of the Law Commisssion on the issue. In the next hearing on February 4, 2016, the Government sought more time to clarify its stand on the law commission reports.
The Government subsequently submitted an affidavit clarifying that the expert committee constituted to review the bill proposed in the 246th Law Commission Report was opposed to active euthanasia but had proposed to draft a bill for regulating passive euthanasia. However, on recommendation of the Law Ministry, the Government had stayed further action in view of pendency of the case before the Apex Court.
In the hearing on February 12, 2016, the Bench refused to pass an order on the issue, considering it more appropriate that the Parliament, being the 'people's court', deliberate and decide on the subject first. The Bench clarified that the pendency before the Court would not come in the way of the Government clarifying its stand on passive euthanasia. The Court was informed that the Government was in the process of examining Reports 196 and 241 of the Law Commission on legalizing passive euthanasia and also holding expert consultations on the issue. It sought time from the Court until the consultation process was over.