A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, which agreed to examine the issue, said that states must also be heard as the issue pertains not only to the Constitution, it involves morality, religion and medical science. (Agencies)
The Centre, however, strongly opposed the plea saying it cannot be legalized as it is a form of suicide which is an offence in the country. It said that if euthanasia is legalized, then it will be misused.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the issue should be debated and decided by the legislature and that it is not a matter to be adjudicated by the court.
"We do not accept passive euthanasia. It is one form of suicide and suicide is an offence," he said, adding, "It is a matter for legislature to decide."
The bench, also comprising justices JS Khehar, J Chelameswar, AK Sikri, and RF Nariman, during the hearing, raised the question on what safeguards should be put in place to prevent the misuse.
It asked the petitioner on what is least painful way to bring life to an end as there has been discussion going on across the world on the matter and there is no unanimous finding.
The bench said that the contention on the issue of misuse of the statute cannot be a ground for not legislating on euthanasia.
It appointed senior lawyer and former solicitor general TR Andhyarujina as amicus curiae to assist it in the case relating to legalizing euthanasia.
The Constitution Bench, hearing the matter, was set up after a three-judge bench had on February 25 referred the case to a larger bench saying it was extremely important to have a clear enunciation of law in view of inconsistent opinions in its previous judgement.
It had said that its earlier verdict of 2011 allowing passive euthanasia was delivered on a "wrong premise".
"In view of the inconsistent opinions rendered in Aruna Shanbaug case and also considering the important question of law involved which needs to be reflected in the light of social, legal, medical and constitutional perspective, it becomes extremely important to have a clear enunciation of the law. Thus, in our cogent opinion, the question of law involved requires careful consideration by a Constitution Bench of this court for the benefit of humanity as a whole," the court had said.
It had said that its earlier Constitution Bench verdict, which was wrongly relied in Aruna Shanbaug case, had held that the right to live with dignity will be inclusive of the right to die with dignity but the judgement did not arrive at a conclusion on validity of euthanasia.
The direction had came on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause which said when a medical expert opines that the person afflicted with a terminal disease has reached a point of no return, then he should be given the right to refuse being put on life support system as otherwise it would only prolong his agony.
The NGO had prayed for declaring right to die with dignity as a fundamental right and had sought a direction to the government to adopt suitable procedures to ensure that the persons with deteriorated health or the terminally ill should be able to execute living will and attorney authorization for termination of life.
The petitioner had contended that a person whose life was ebbing out should be allowed to die as the continuance of the life with the support system was an unnatural extension of the natural life span.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, which agreed to examine the issue, said that states must also be heard as the issue pertains not only to the Constitution, it involves morality, religion and medical science.