Legality of Euthanasia in India


The constitution of India gives various fundamental rights for the citizens of the country, one of them is Right to live a dignified life , and everyone desires to live his/her life to the full extent but there comes certain circumstances where the person desires to die.

When a person desires to terminate his/her life by his own acts  then its called Suicide , but to end the life of a person by a request of deceased or others is Euthanasia. It is an act of by which a person suffering from painful disease is put to death in order to end the suffering of that person.

It is also known as ‘Mercy killing’.



Here in the case of voluntary euthanasia , the patient gives their consent . When the patient  suffering from incurable disease gives the consent to end their life .


When this practice is conducted without the consent of patient in a case where patient is not able to give consent due to poor health conditions , so another person on behalf of patient gives the consent.


Here in the case of active euthanasia the death of the person is caused due to some positive act deliberately  done by the professionals, doctor like injecting any lethal drug, resulting in death of the person.


In this case the medical professionals stop giving the treatment which is required to keep the person alive , such as  switching off the life support system , here the doctor are not killing but simply not saving him.


The legalization of euthanasia has always been a topic of discussion for many countries including India, but this concept came more in light after the famous Aruna Shanbhaug  judgement in 2011 . Aruna  was a nurse and brutally raped raped , which rendered her in a vegetative state .In 2011 Supreme court in its judgement clarified that  Passive euthanasia is not illegal.

The 210th law commission of India recommended that Section 309 which defines attempt to suicide must be deleted. The right to life and the right to die with dignity must be granted to every citizen , irrespective of their caste , creed, gender ,sex etc.

The debate regarding striking down of this section has been in existence since the year 1994  in the case of P. Rathinam v Union of India 1994  AIR 1844. The Supreme court held that Section 309 was violative of Article 21 i.e. Right to life., hence unconstitutional therefore needs to be struck down. But the same was overruled in the case of Gian Kaur v State of Punjab 1996 AIR 946. A 5- judge bench held that ‘right to life’ is inconsistent with right to die. It can include death with dignity but this doesn’t mean the right to end life through unnatural termination of life. It was also held that suicide was unnatural termination of life therefore incompatible and inconsistent with the concept of right to life. Hence any form of unnatural termination of life has been held to be illegal until Aruna Shanbaug case.


Indian courts only consider Passive euthanasia . In the case of Common cause ( A regt. Society) , it was held that ‘right to die with dignity’ is fundamental right of person. The judgement was delivered by a bench comprising of the then chief Justice of india Deepak mishra, Justice A.K. Sikri , Justice A.M. Khanwilkar , Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok bhushan. Earlier when passive euthanasia was not legal the doctors who cased euthanasia came under section 300 exception 5 , since they had the intention of causing death.  If that happens with consent then they would be liable to punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder , section 304 of IPC .

Active euthanasia is a crime in India.

In Aruna’s case , it was held that for a person who is not in position to decide whether to withdraw life support or not can be done by his friends, relatives, doctor etc.


  • The first thing that should be kept in mind is the patient who is suffering from any disease can refuse to have medical treatment and if the doctor treats the patient against his/her will then the doctor can be charged with assault.
  • Everyone has the right to end the sufferings of life, and ending the extremely painful life.
  • It will free up the medical funds of state to help other poor and needy people.
  • An individual has freedom to exercise his right to die.
  • There are thousands of patients in India who are living below poverty line , they can barely afford bare means of living ,adding to that huge medical bill will keep on increasing their pain .

In Aruna’s case after her rape , her family abandoned her.

  • Many countries including Netherland, Switzerland, Belgium has legalized euthanasia.
  • Pro-euthanasia or the ‘right to die’ activists are not only in India , but across the world claim that the elderly and those with disabilities fear becoming a financial burden on their loved ones and they rather choose death.


The main intention behind this practice of euthanasia is not to take a life of a patient but to relieve from all pains and sufferings . A terminally ill patient should be permitted to terminate his pain and sufferings by choosing to do so.

Some countries have already recognized but courts in India have taken long time from Gian Kaur , Aruna shanbaug to Common cause in recognizing and declaring it legal.


Author: Aditi Trivedi,
Faculty of law, Delhi University ,1st year law student

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