Right to oxygen under art 21

The Right to Life envisages that the ‘State’ will provide the means for citizens to live with dignity and all basic minimum needs. The Right to oxygen is not a negative right but it is a positive obligation on the state to meet out its citizen’s life saving requirement. The State, in terms of Article 21 of the Constitution, has a positive obligation and duty which flows from Article 47 read with Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The State for this purpose is both Central and State Governments as also Municipal Corporations and Local Authority including every Governmental agency responsible for providing life saving measures as oxygen essentially saves lives to sustain human existence.

Unfortunately, the right to oxygen is not yet recognised by the Indian judiciary though this may not be far behind. It is possible that it might take a turn of events similar to that of Kalyani Menon Sen’s ‘right to water’ judgment, which was later ratified as law by the Parliament. The Constitution obliges the State to ensure healthy conditions for life so long as it does not entail an excessive invasion of individual liberty or unduly impinge on another Fundamental Right, even if the said violation is well-intentioned.

The ruling in this case does have implications for all kinds of medicines and therefore is critical to address the issue adequately. A policy decision will have to be taken, if the State and the Medical Council of India decide to restrict or control the price of oxygen.The Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution is an absolute right and cannot be subjected to any form of deprivation. This is a legally settled position. Unfortunately, in our country the rich exercise their rights thus violating the Right to Life of others. We keep hearing that the citizens of this country should be sensitive towards fellow Indians, towards their nation and its honour, towards the integrity and sovereignty of the country. 

But we are not being told as to how? If we make it a habit not to destroy life, then it will automatically get demonstrated in every walk of our life.The court stressed on the fact that while deciding cases in future, rights which are recognised in statute as fundamental to the right to life should be interpreted as explicitly stated. These include right to clean water, pollution-free air and essential medicines.The right to breathe pure air cannot be sacrificed at the altar of an NGO’s commercial gains, even if in a guise of public interest and or for the poor. The people of Delhi will have to do with whatever is available as there is no immediate relief from this Supreme Court order. An inter-ministerial meeting has been called on Oct 8th and if it does not lead to remedial measures, one can expect more writ petitions by NGOs and interventions by courts.

The right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution is not confined to mere animal existence. It has a deeper connotation. When the power of state interferes with the fundamental rights of its citizens, it is required to prove that it does so for a legitimate purpose and within reasonable limits and procedures. The power shall be permitted only for the existing situations where there is overwhelming evidence that public interest cannot be safeguarded without invoking such power. There was no such overwhelming evidence in this case that no action was taken because the plant was run by a private owner. The Court may not permit undue interference in matters of ownership, management and administration of businesses – howsoever dangerous they might be – as long as it operates within their set up and permits protection systems to operate therein, provided they are in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements.



Aishwarya Says:

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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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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