The concept of legal paternalism states that the government owes a responsibility to protect the individuals from activities which might bring negative consequences on their health. This is based on the principle that individuals can be ignorant and hence, the state ought to protect them by taking up the role of paternalism. The state may frame laws and regulations for enforcing their role.
Philosopher Hart was in favour of this view and believed that the state had to safeguard individual citizens against particular acts by devising sanctions. On the other hand, Philosopher Mills believed that there should be no state interference because the individuals are not harming each other. According to the harm principle, state can interfere only when individuals are harming each other and not in cases of self-harm. Mills also states that laws can be made to protect and control children’s behaviour as they are not mature enough to take decisions for themselves.
‘Attempt to commission of suicide’ is also self-harm. Under Indian law, this has been decriminalized as punishing someone who is already going through mental agony would aggravate their pain. Another interesting example of legal paternalism was showcased in the case Anuj Garg & Ors. v Hotel Association of India & Ors., wherein the court dealt with a law which had put a ban on women working in bars. The state considered it important to protect women as bars are unsafe work environment for women. This example highlights a paternalistic perspective taken by the state in framing laws which is also very patriarchal in nature. Another example of legal paternalism laws is wearing seat belts or wearing helmets compulsory. These two rules are also in place to protect the self.
I believe that some sort of interference on the part of state is justified. For example, the state may frame laws to prevent hunger strikes. These strikes cause harm to oneself and if they are practised by masses it can lead to a large scale disobedience movement. Even framing laws for wearing seat belts and helmets is correct as a lot of people die due to road accidents every year. Also, considering the level of education and awareness in India, it is important that the state employs legal paternalism at places. However, the state must be aware of its boundaries and must not frame laws which interfere with individual autonomy. It cannot enforce a patriarchal perspective under its governance. Laws must be fair, just and equitable.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
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