Enforce right to die with dignity: Former law minister to CJI

New Delhi, Jun 10 (PTI) Citing reports that bodies of COVID-19 patients were piling up in hospitals and mortuaries, former law minister and senior Congress leader Ashwani Kumar has written to the Chief Justice of India asking him to take up the matter to ensure the right to die with dignity is not violated.

'Since the court has the duty and the power to ensure that the law declared by it is actually enforced, it is requested that the court takes suo-motu notice of the matter,' he said in his letter to CJI, drawing his attention to the alleged ill-treatment of patients and failure to properly cremate those who have succumbed to the coronavirus.

Kumar said previous Supreme Court judgements guarantee and recognise the right to live and die with dignity as a fundamental right and the same should be enforced. He also cited various cases where the court has held this view.

The former law minister said he wanted to bring to the notice of the apex court a case of grave infraction of the citizen's right to die with dignity, recognized by the court on various occasions.

“I feel that dignity of the dead, guaranteed by the Constitution and mandated as integral to our culture, is a cause that must unite the nation in demanding strict protocols, to ensure the same. Likewise, is the case as regards the dignity of patients.

'Since the problem is expected to worsen, all organs of the State need to ensure that human rights are not compromised in the time of pandemic. This is a legitimate expectation from a civilized state inspired by a heritage that cherishes compassion and human dignity as the highest values,' he said.

Kumar drew the court's attention to recent instances of a man dying in Madhya Pradesh on a hospital bed chained because he could not pay bills and another infected with COVID thrown into a ditch for burial.

Asserting that the right to dignified death must be restored, he said the court judgments constitute the law of the land and are binding.

“The tragic and condemnable sight of a COVID-19 patient being chained to a bed in a hospital in Madhya Pradesh and another sight in Puducherry of a dead body being thrown in a pit for burial, has shocked the conscience of the Republic committed to human dignity under the Constitution, which recognizes dignity as a core constitutional value at the pinnacle in the hierarchy of non-negotiable constitutional rights,” he said in his letter.

'In view of the shocking infraction of the fundamental right to dignity, as is evidenced from the enclosed report, your Lordships are respectfully requested, to issue such orders, writs or other directions as will effectuate the citizens' right to die with dignity,' he said in his plea. PTI SKC RT RT