It is
the dream of every form of government to establish a harmonious state and to
cherish its citizens. That is why the aim of every government is to ensure
freedom of its citizens in all manners. The makers of the Indian constitution
kept this point in view and drafted the constitution for the country. Relatabley
they borrowed the best quality material from the constitution of other
countries. The six fundamental rights borrowed from the Irish constitution
serves as tool which empowers the citizens to exercise their complete right of
freedom. All the fundamental rights incorporated are specified in their own manner,
but Article 21 clearly specifies about the rights in handed to citizens about
life and their personal liberty.

Article
21 of the constitution says that “No person shall be deprived of his life or
personal liberty except according to procedure established by law” prior to
Maneka Ghandi’s decision Article 21 guaranteed the right to life and personal
liberty to citizens only against the arbitrary action of the executive and not
from legislative action, states interference was allowed only if was validated
by law. But after the Maneka Gandhi’s case the article protects the life and
personal liberty from the legislative and executive actions.

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The scope
of Article 21 has been further expanded in the case of Unni Krishna V. State of
A.P1  which covers right to travel abroad, right to
privacy, right to education, right against solitary confinement, right against
handcuffing, right against delayed execution, right to shelter, right to
livelihood, right to health and medical aid, right against custodial death,
right against public hanging, right for doctors assistance. Subsequent
judgments of reputed judges lead to the inclusion of some of the DPSP’s which were
non justiciable into its ambit like right to pollution free water and air,
protection of under-trial, right of every children to full development,
protection of cultural heritage. As per justice Bhagwati in the case of Francis
Coralie Mullin V. UT of Delhi2

“We
think that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and
all that goes along with it, namely, the bare necessaries of life such as
adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter facilities for reading, writing and
expressing one in diverse forms, freely moving about the mixing and commingling
with fellow human beings”

In the
case of Kharak Singh V. State of Uttar Pradesh3
the Supreme Court quoted and held that:

By the
term “life” as here used something more is meant than mere animal existence.
The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties
by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the
body by amputation of an armour leg or the pulling out of an eye, or the destruction
of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the
outer world.4

Hence it
can be deduced that if adequate health measures can be implemented then the
concept of mere animal existence can be uplifted. The author of this paper will
elaborate about the right to health under Article 21 of the constitution of
India. Right to health is although not included as an explicit fundamental
right in the Indian constitution, most provisions related to health are in the
part IV {Directive Principle of the State Policy}. Right to health is an
essential concept which is necessary for the individuals to know about their
rights, hence this paper will discuss all the essential concepts related to
right to health.

Right to
health and laws incorporated in it

The WHO
Constitution (1946) envisages “…the highest attainable standard of health as a
fundamental right of every human being.”5

We
frequently associate the right to health with access to health care and the
building of hospitals. This is correct, but the right to health extends
further. It includes a wide range of factors that can help us lead a healthy
life. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the body
responsible for monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights,6
calls these the “underlying determinants of health”. They include Safe drinking
water and adequate sanitation, Safe food, Adequate nutrition and housing, Healthy
working and environmental conditions, Health-related education and information,
Gender equality.

In India health comes in the concurrent list
hence making and implementation of health law are the responsibility of state
as well as central government. Some of the laws enacted by the legislation
are:-

1 AIR 2178,1993 SCR(1)594

2 (1981)1 SCC 608:AIR 1981 SC 746

3 AIR 1963 SC 1295

4

Article 21 of the Constitution of India – Right to Life and Personal Liberty


riya jain UILS Punjab university

5
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs323/en/

6  The
Covenant was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution
2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966. It entered into force in 1976 and by 1
December 2007 had been ratified by 157 States.