In India the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 47 considers it the primary duty of the state to improve public health, securing of justice, human condition of works, extension of sickness, old age, disablement and maternity benefits. Further, State duty includes prohibition of consumption of intoxicating drinking and drugs as they are injurious to health. Article 48A ensures that State shall Endeavour to protect and impose the pollution free environment for good health. Article 47 makes improvement of public health a primary duty of state. Article 41 provides right to assistance in case of sickness and disablement. It deals with “The state shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in case of unemployment, Old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want”. Their implications in relation to health are obvious. Article 42 gives the power to State for making provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief and for the protection of environment as given by Article 48A and the same obligation imposed to Indian citizen by Article 51A.(g). |
The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights having a bearing on health care. Article 21deals with “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” In 1995, the Supreme Court held that right to health and medical care is a fundamental right covered by Article 21 since health is essential for making the life of workmen meaningful and purposeful and compatible with personal dignity. The state has an obligation under Article 21 to safeguard the right to life of every person, preservation of human life being of paramount importance. The Supreme Court has in the case of Parmanand Katra vs Union of India, held that whether the patient be an innocent person or be a criminal liable to punishment under the law, it is the obligation of those who are in charge of the health of the community to preserve life so that innocent may be protected and the guilty may be punished. The Supreme Court, in Paschim Banga Khet mazdoor Samity & ors v. State of West Bengal & ors, while widening the scope of art 21 and the government’s responsibility to provide medical aid to every person in the country, held that in a welfare state, the primary duty of the government is to secure the welfare of the people. Providing adequate medical facilities for the people is an obligation undertaken by the government in a welfare state. The government discharges this obligation by providing medical care to the persons seeking to avail those facilities. Article 21 imposes an obligation on the state to safeguard the right to life of every person. Preservation of human life is thus of paramount importance. The government hospitals run by the state are duty bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on the part of a government hospital to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need of such treatment, results in violation of his right to life guaranteed under Article 21.
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