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Right to Dignity

The word dignity comes from the Latin word dignitas, which means “worthiness”. Dignity suggests that each individual is worthy of respect. Dignity is a fundamental right provided to the citizens of India. With the surge in awareness about an individual’s rights there has been an evolution in the fundamental rights provided to every citizen of India. One such is Right to Dignity.

A] What do we mean by dignity?

Dignity has always had a critical relationship with caste, sex, class and gender. India is a country which is home to all kinds of traditions. It welcomes all kinds of castes, classes etc. Dignity means freedom to live in health and peace. Every human life is valuable and beautiful. We must pay respect to one’s human dignity. Thus, it is collectively recognised as the moral vision for the society.

B]What is right to dignity?

As Article 21 of The Indian Constitution suggests,

No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.

It discloses that, the clarification made by the Supreme Court for widening the scope and ambit of Article 21 has resulted a law of human right. To reference that this jurisprudence is now part of human dignity. The court has understood in such way a that, the right to life includes a dignified life in the landmark judgement of OligaTellis v. Bombay Muncipal Coroporation and others.

The judgement includes many more things about dignified life. So, in a way, scope of right to life has been expanded and given wider connotation to it and within its amplitudes the courts have covered many more rights. Hence, right to life includes anything which is essential to live life with dignity.

India has been growing immensely. We are now in the 21st century where everyone is well informed about their rights and duties and how the law functions. Females, in today’s time are still struggling for their basic rights. There have been so many instances where a women’s dignity is just a word and not taken seriously. Rape, honour killings, female infanticide and sexual objectification, women have been through it all. Women have always been deprived of their right to live with dignity.

C]There are two notions of Dignity laid down: –

  1. Right to Live with Dignity-

Everybody has the right to life, liberty and peace. Right to life is the most valuable fundamental right amongst all other human rights.  Constitution has not given any detailed provision about human dignity. Article 21 of Constitution of India implies that right to life has a wider meaning which includes the right to life with human dignity. It is a fundamental right without which we cannot live as human beings and includes all those aspects of life which go on to make a man’s life meaningful. Former Chief Justice of India,J. S. Verma categorically expressed his views about right to live with human dignity, as “the right to life is recognised as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

In the landmark judgement of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh the court held that the expression ‘Life’ was not limited to bodily restraint or confinement to prison only but something more than mere animal existence. Under Article 21 of Constitution it is stated that a right of a person to be free from any restriction or encroachment where directly or indirectly imposed on individual. The Supreme Court emphasized that, the right to life under Article 21 must be guaranteed to Indian citizens beyond just the life of an animal to include the needs of a human being.

In the landmark judgement of P. Rathinam v. Union of India, The term Life has been defined as ‘the right to live with human dignity and the same does not connote continued drudgery, it takes within its fold some of the graces of civilization which makes life worth living and that the widened concept of life would mean the tradition, culture and heritage of the concerned’.

Development of Life to Dignity

The Supreme Court did an interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution, the Apex Court evolved number of new fundamental rights available as part and parcel of right to life enriched in Article 21. Apex court interpreted right to life very narrowly for almost three decades spanning between 1950 and 1977, wherein, in the landmark judgment of Supreme Court in A. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras it was held that, the right to life under Article 21 was mutually exclusive of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution. This means that Article 19 was not applying to a law affecting personal liberty to which Article 21 would apply. It was further stated in the A. K. Gopalan Case that a law affecting right to life and personal liberty could not be declared unconstitutional on grounds of its failure to guarantee natural justice or due procedure. Therefore, a law prescribing an unfair and arbitrary procedure could deprive a citizen of his or her right to life and personal liberty as long as such law was enacted by a valid legislature. It is observed that, the expression personal liberty means only liberty relating to or concerning the person or body of the individual. Justice Mukherjea in the case of A.K. Gopalan observed that, personal liberty is the anti-thesis of physical restrain or coercion.

2] Right to die with dignity: –

On March 9, 2018, The Supreme Court upheld the right of a person to die with dignity. It was stated that it is now possible for all adults to make an advance directive specifying to their near and dear ones whether they would like to refuse the treatment or take the treatment provided.

Right to die with dignity is a part of right to live with dignity. It also means that a dignified death will be something earned. Someone who lives a good life, lives honourably, will die in that way. For the rest of us, death with dignity will be, like life with dignity, something to aim for, but only partially to attain. Similarly, unbearable (and uncontrollable) pain or other suffering may undermine someone’s ability to reason and to choose and, hence, to die with dignity.

Conclusion- We all are the same in the eyes of law.Right to life is a fundamental right gifted to all by the Constitution of India. Dignity should not be fought for; it is everyone’s right and should be treated in the same way. It’s only the law that can protect it because dignity is something which can’t be codified.

 

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