An Appreciation of Legal Semiotics in the Judgement of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug Vs Union of India & Ors ​

Anoushka Singh
Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai, India.

Volume III, Issue VI, 2020

On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court of India SCI delivered a progressive judgement with far-reaching implications for euthanasia in India. The 110-page document written by Justice Markandey Katju begins with a quote from Mirza Ghalib: “Marte hain arzoo mein marne ki, maut aati hai par nahi aati.” (We perish with the wish to die / Death mocks, but it will not arrive.) The line amazingly encompasses the dilemma behind the issue presented in the case. Justice Katju then goes on to include a careful analysis of legal opinions from across the world before opining that passive euthanasia can be practiced legally in India. The judgement is a beautiful read; it carries the reader on the journey of the Indian judiciary deliberating in the battle of morality against mortality, and dignity against death. Predictably, India resorted to its usual stance of bewildered obstreperousness when time came to actually decide on the issue of right to life equating to the right to die. However, the contents of the judgement touched on every delicate and controversial topic related to euthanasia, sparking a fairly predictable shouting match with opposing arguments carrying the power of logic, as well as the dead weight of sanctimonious posturing. The article talks about the bravery that oozes from the judgement and how language has been smartly used to present liberal opinions on whether right to life includes a concomitant right to die.

Keywords: Article 21, Constitution, Euthanasia.