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Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written by: Aparna Nair


The right to die is an intrinsic facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The right to die is a conception that has given human beings the privilege of ending their life undergo voluntary euthanasia. Right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives this right to a person to live his life with personal liberty except until the provided under the established law.

Scope of right to life is very wide, the list is as follows:

1. Right to live with human dignity

2. Right to livelihood

3. Right to privacy

4. Right to health and medical assistance

5. Right to sleep

6. Right to die

7. Right to a healthy environment

8. Prisoners right

9. Right to education

Whether 'The Right To Life' Includes 'The Right To Die'?

There may be various situations in which a person might not want to live. Maybe because he/she is suffering from a terminal illness, or is in a coma, persistent vegetative state when he/she doesn’t have the will to live or due to some sort of shame and demands merciful killing. Most of the countries haven’t made ‘mercy killing’ or ‘euthanasia’ legal is they think it is against human rights and can be considered murder.

But from time to time people have challenged this by stating that they have the right to live as well as the right to die with dignity at their very own will.

Is The Death Penalty A Violation Of The Right To Life?

This penalty or form of punishment is the most inhuman punishment. This death penalty violates our fundamental right to life. An innocent person can be released from the crime but this execution can always have an option being reversed.

Under Right to die, we can divide it into two components one is the right to suicide and the other one is the right to euthanasia or mercy killing. Let’s discuss more the components.


Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)[1] prescribes the same punishment to all individuals irrespective of the different sets of circumstances under which the suicide attempt is made. This is strange although murder is a more heinous crime/offense with consequences to the other member or members of the society. We are therefore of the view that the provisions of Section 309 being arbitrary are ultra vires to Article 14 of the Constitution. Section 309 is ultra vires to the Constitution on violating Articles 14 and 21 and must be struck down.


It is derived from the Greek word ‘eu’ means ‘good’ and ‘thanathos’ means ‘death’. It means to end life intentionally to relieve pain and suffering. It can be divided into two:

  1. ACTIVE EUTHANASIA: Using active means to kill a patient. For example lethal injection.

  2. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA: In this, we let the patient die due to some omission. For example, ceasing of life-saving system or not starting it.

Most of the countries prefer passive euthanasia over active euthanasia because the action is more sinful/ severe than omission


Maruti Stripati Dubal vs. the State of Maharashtra[2]

The right to live as recognized by Article 21 will include the right to not to the liver not to be forced to live. It includes a right to die, or to terminate one's life.

Chenna Jagadeswar vs. State of Andhra Pradesh[3]

Section 309 does not mandates to punish attempts to suicide, it just sets an upper limit of such punishment. If Section 309 is held to be illegal then survival Section 309 is in the question. Thus, people who induce a person to suicide will be free. Therefore, Section 309 is valid.

Rathinam vs. Union of India[4]

The Court held that Section 309 is a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It is cruel and irrational. The state shouldn't interfere with one's liberty as attempt or committing suicide is one's personal choice and it doesn't affect society.

Gian Kaur vs. the State of Punjab[5]

In this case, the court held that Section 309 doesn't violate Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and made it clear that the right to have a dignified life will include the right to have death with dignity.

Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaugh vs. Union of India[6]

In this particular case, a friend of the patient pleads for euthanasia as the patient was sexually assaulted and was in a vegetative state for more than 20 years. She prayed to the Court to allow the hospital staff to stop feeding the Patient so that she can die peacefully. The court allowed passive euthanasia in this particular case.

⮚ Petition for euthanasia must be made to the High Court for the sake of getting permission

Common Cause vs. Union of India[7]

No one has to take permission from the state if he/she wants to make an advance medical directive. The court held that there is no need to legalize passive euthanasia and also said the right to die is a component of the right to life.

Naresh Marotrao Sakhre vs. Union of India[8]

In this particular case, the court said that whatever may be the situation in which euthanasia is conducted, it will be considered as a homicide whether it is done passively or actively


There is a common belief which is circulating everywhere in the world that the protection of human life is the ultimate goal of good governance rather than the destruction of human beings. The question in a country like India where the Constitution is so powerful and Article 21 i.e. Right to Life and Personal Liberty stands strong, how can Right Die to be recognized. The Right to die has been recognized and some passive modes are adopted like the concepts of Euthanasia, mercy killings, Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS), suicide, etc. As it is said, if one has the right to live with liberty he must also be entitled to the right to die with liberty.

[1] Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act No. 45 of 1860), S.309 [2] 1987 (1) BOM CR 499 [3] (1988) 1 Crimes 357 [4] 1994 SCC (3) 394 [5] 1996 SCC (2) 648 [6] (2011) 4 SCC 454 [7] AIR 3018 SC 1665 [8] 1996 (1) BOM CR 92

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