4. Case Law- Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug
Introduction- The Constitution of India guarantees Right to Life to all it's
citizens. But question that whether Right to Die can also read into the
In the present matter, the petition was filed by Ms. Pinki Virani, under
Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to allow for the termination of life of
Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug, who was attacked to sexual assault and left
to die for next 42 years, in permanent vegetative state(PVR).
She worked as a nurse at the King Edward Memorial Hospital(KEM) in
On the night of 27.11.1973, Shanbaug was sexually assaulted by Sohanlal
Bhartha, a sweeper on contract who attacked her while she was changing
clothes in the hospital basement.
He wrapped a dog chain around her neck and yanked her back with it and
tried to rape her but finding that she was menstruating, he sodomized her.
The next day on 28.11.1973 at 7:45 a.m. a cleaner found her lying on the floor
with blood all over in an unconscious condition since oxygen to the brain
stopped and the brain got damaged.
Sohanlal was caught and convicted for assault and robbery, and he served
two concurrent seven-year sentences, being released in1980. He was not
convicted of rape, sexual molestation, or unnatural sexual offense
(Punishment life imprisonment).
36 years had lapsed since the said incident. She had been surviving on
mashed food and could not move her hands or legs and she was entirely
dependent on KEM Hospital, Mumbai
A petition was filed by Ms. Pinki Virani, under Article 32 of the Indian
Constitution to allow for the Termination of Life of Aruna Ramchandra
On 17.12.2010, the Supreme Court, sought a report on Shanbaug's medical
condition from the hospital in Mumbai
On 24.01.2011, A 3 member medical panel was established to examine the
condition of Shanbaug, the panel concluded that she met "most of the
criteria of being in a permanent vegetative state"
When a person is in a permanent vegetative state (PVS), should
withholding or withdrawal of life sustaining therapies be permissible or
If the patient has previously expressed a wish not to have life-sustaining
treatments in case of futile care or a PVS , should his/her wishes be
respected when the situation arises?
On 7 March 2011, the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, issued a
set of broad guidelines legalizing Passive euthanasia in India.
The decision to withdraw treatment, nutrition, or water-establish that the
decision to discontinue life support must be taken by parents, spouse, or
other close relatives, or in the absence of them, by a "next friend".
The decision also requires court approval.
In this judgment, The court declined to recognize Virani as the "'next friend" of
Aruna Shanbaug hence her petition was declined.
Instead treated the KEM hospital staff as the “next friend”. Since the KEM
Hospital staff wished that Aruna Shanbaug be allowed to live.
However the court further stipulated that the KEM hospital staff, with the
approval of the Bombay High Court, had the option of withdrawing life
support if they changed their mind.
Shanbaug died of pneumonia on 18 May 2015, after being in a permanent
vegetative state for nearly 42 years.