Right to Health: Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

Introduction

The right to health has not been mentioned as an exclusive Fundamental Right under the Indian Constitution but has been incorporated as part of Article 21 (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty). The right to life includes the right to live a decent life, from which the right to health can be deduced.  The poor condition of the public health sector is a direct violation of our right to health. Even though India’s Supreme Court has recognized the citizens’ right to health as a fundamental right under Article 21 of our constitution, the reality is that these rights are not suitably catered to and remain neglected by the state.

Judicial observations

The government has failed to preserve the basic right to life of the people by providing restrictive access to healthcare to its citizens. In its landmark judgment, the Supreme Court ruled in Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal held that human health is of principal importance. The state must take all measures to ensure decent healthcare for all its citizens.

Further in State of Punjab v. Ram Labhaya Bagga and Rakesh Chandra Narayan v. the State of Bihar, it was held that Art. 21 is to be read with Art. 47 (Directive Principles of State Policy) to improve public health and standard of living.

Furthermore, our government hospitals lack various basic advanced facilities, such as effectively trained equipment and personnel, often resulting in the non-accessibility of basic and essential services, preventing individuals from asserting their guaranteed rights.

In “Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal”, the court held the failure to provide adequate healthcare is a direct violation of the right of its people. The state is obligated to give medical assistance and treatment to people suffering from illness, accident, or disease, failure of which will be considered a violation of Article 21. In several judgments, the Apex court has asserted the responsibility of the state under Article 21 to preserve the right to life of its citizens. Human life should be of utmost priority. Government hospitals and the medical professionals who operate there have been entrusted with providing medical aid to protect human life.

The right is life guaranteed under Article 21 is said to be infringed if a government-aided hospital fails to treat a person with timely medical assistance. Article 21 of the Constitution makes it mandatory for the government to protect people’s right to life. The idea that the ‘right to health’ is crucial to the ‘right to life’ was demonstrated in the “State of Punjab v. Mohinder Singh Chawl” case. Provision of amenities is a constitutional requirement. In the event of health concerns of a government employee, the state is responsible for the costs of his treatment. Courts have recognized that the government may not provide advanced hospitals in every hamlet around the country. However, the government must aid people in receiving and accessing care, and primary health centers should be constructed in the villages.

In the case of Paramanand Katara versus Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that every doctor, whether working in a public or private sector, has a professional responsibility to deliver his services to protect a patient’s life. As a result, it is the state’s responsibility to protect the public’s health.

Conclusion:

Healthcare services are one of the most important requirements for a person to have a decent living. The right to health is not a specific fundamental right, which impedes progress in the healthcare sector. The state prefers to remain resistant to the general public’s healthcare and medical demands. Public health care has always been a neglected subject by the state. However, it is time for the government to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one for holistic development. The pandemic (Covid-19) has proved to be a best example and experience. Like the 93rd Amendment to the constitution, which gave the right to education and constitutional protection, similar steps have to be taken to establish health as a distinct and specific fundamental right. 

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.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

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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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