Right to Health and Medical Assistance

Every human being is the author of his health or disease

Buddha

Introduction

Human beings consider health as the most basic and essential asset of their life. The health of every person regardless of age, gender, class or background, is a matter of daily concern. Right to health provides freedom from non-consensual medical treatments, medical experiments or research, forced sterilization etc. The right to health is one of the fundamental aspects of human rights. On the international level, the right to health was initiated in the year 1946 in the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO). The preamble of WHO defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. In the Constitution of India, the right to health is not directly added as a fundamental right. But the framers of the Constitution has imposed the duty on the state in the form of Directive Principles of State Policy. Also, Article 21 which is Right to life, indicates or involve the right to health in the Constitution of India.

Right to health in the Constitution of India

Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides Right to life and personal liberty. The term life and personal liberty indicate a wide meaning. It involves right to livelihood, better standard of living etc. The right to health is also part of life and personal liberty. Article 21 of the Constitution of India should be read with articles 38, 42, 43 and 47 for better understanding of this right. In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the Supreme Court said that the right to life and personal liberty includes the right to health to every citizen. The right to life stated in Article 21 guarantees, right to live with dignity and all the necessities like nutrition, clothing, hygiene etc. The Supreme Court held that ‘Right to health is integral to right to life’ in the historic judgment of State of Punjab and Ors. v. Mohinder Singh Chawala.

Article 23(1) of the Constitution of India says traffic in human beings and beggar or any other forced labour are prohibited and is a punishable offence. Traffic in women leads to prostitution, which is a major cause of spread in disease AIDS. This article also indirectly protects health. Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories or mines or any other hazardous place. This article of the Constitution protects the health of children. Due to such dangerous work or working in factories or mines, children can fall ill and may have to suffer from various diseases.

Directive Principles of  State Policy are mentioned in part IV of the Constitution of India. These principles are to be followed by the state and are not enforceable by any court. Under these principles, some of the articles provide the right to health directly or indirectly. Article 38 under part IV speaks about the promotion of the welfare of the people. Health is majorly included in the welfare of the individual. This article protects health indirectly. The state must ensure the welfare of people including their health. Article 39(e) speaks about the health and strength of the workers. The state should ensure the health of the workers and the work under or suited to their age and strength.

Article 41 of the Constitution of India imposes a duty on the state to public assistance in cases of sickness and disablement. This article implies that people with any diseases or disability should be looked after and should be protected by the state. Article 42 mentions that the state holds a duty to provide maternity leave or maternity benefits and should protect the health of infants in every possible way. Article 47 brings on the duty of the state to increase the level of nutrition and to improve the standard of living. This article also mentions that the state should Endeavour to bring about the prohibition on the consumption of intoxicating drugs and alcohol which are injurious to health. In the eleventh and twelfth schedule of the Constitution of India, the village panchayats and municipalities organized by the state holds the duty to improve and protect public health that includes basic health such as sanitation, women and child development, water supply, facilities for physically and mentally retarded children etc.

Judgments

  • Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India

Bandhua Mukti Morcha is an organization for the cause of the release of bonded labours in India. This organization filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. This organization conducted a survey in which it resulted that in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and in Delhi, a large number of people were found working in stone quarries as bonded labourers in very inhuman conditions. On which the court stated that various rights of these people are violated especially right to health which is the part of Article 21 i.e. right to life and personal liberty.

  • The state of Punjab and others v. Mohinder Singh Chawala

Mohinder Singh Chawala was a heart patient and was required to replace the valves in the heart. This facility was not available in the state hospitals of Punjab. So, the permission was granted to Mohinder by Medical Board to conduct his treatment outside the state. Mohinder was sent to AIIMS hospital, New Delhi for his further treatment. The hospital charged him the bill of amount 1,29,000 Rs. Mohinder Singh as per his right sent this bill to the state for reimbursement. The state provided him with the amount of 20,000 Rs. which was the cost of the treatment and refused to pay the remaining amount as it was charged for his room. The court ordered that every individual have the right to his treatment and the state must provide necessary means for the same. The room charges should also be repaid as it was also part of the treatment.

  • Laxmi Mandal v. Deen Dayal Harinagar Hospital and ors.

In this case, a petition was filed on behalf of two pregnant women. They both were below poverty line (BPL). After reviewing their documents showing them BPL, the hospital refused to treat them during their pregnancy while all the facilities were available in the hospital. Due to the delay in their treatment, these two died while giving birth to their children. The court ordered the state to provide their children with basic health requirements and maternity benefits. Also, the right to health of these women was violated, the state shall benefit them with compensation and strict actions should be taken against the hospital.

  • Dr Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India and ors.

In this case, the petitioner Dr Ashwani Kumar kept some arguments regarding the health of senior citizens. The state shall provide free treatment or should provide some concession for the treatment of senior citizens. The court stated that every individual has the right to health including the health of senior citizens. They should be provided with the health requirements of the state. The criteria for senior citizens have been decided as above 80 years by the Supreme court.

Conclusion

Health matters to every person in the world are it a man or woman, rich or poor, a child or an elder. In the Constitution of India right to health is mentioned indirectly in Article 21, Directive Principles of State Policy, and  Schedules. Right to health should be protected and improved of every individual. For women, there must be maternity benefits,  children must be protected from major diseases, senior citizens should be benefited with health requirements, workers and labours are also the section of society to take care of. All these facilities are indirectly mentioned in our Constitution. Several schemes are made in this regard like:

  1. Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojna (RSBY)
  2. Aam Aadmi Bima Yojna (AABY)
  3. Janshree Bima Yojna (JBY)
  4. Ayushman Bharat and many more.

Many people from the poor section are not aware of these schemes or don’t know how to apply for these governmental schemes. More awareness is needed through media and radio so that every individual be benefited from these schemes. Personal hygiene and cleanliness are the most essential aspect ofof good health. As pollution causes various diseases. But these can be avoided if taken seriously not only by the government but by the people as well.

The matter of concern lies when it comes to mental healthhealth. There must be provisions regarding the the mental health of every individual. Awareness about this matter is essential in our nation. Most section of our society does not have an idea of what mental health is and how it should be reduced. Secondly, the treatment of the raped victim is a matter of concern. Due to the investigation procedure, the health of the victim is kept in danger. Provision should be made for hospitals and medical centres in this regard. Provisions are needed for the health of poor people or the people below the poverty line. Every human being deserved to be treated and taken care of their health.

Questions

  1. Do Constitution of India give emphasis to the health?

Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides Right to life and personal liberty. The term life and personal liberty indicate a wide meaning. It involves right to livelihood, better standard of living etc. The right to health is also part of life and personal liberty. Article 21 of the Constitution of India should be read with articles 38, 42, 43 and 47 for better understanding of this right. In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the Supreme Court said that the right to life and personal liberty includes the right to health to every citizen. The right to life stated in Article 21 guarantees, right to live with dignity and all the necessities like nutrition, clothing, hygiene etc. The Supreme Court held that ‘Right to health is integral to right to life’ in the historic judgment of State of Punjab and Ors. v. Mohinder Singh Chawala.

2. Which are the schemes by the Government of India supports the health of a citizen?

  1. Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojna (RSBY)
  2. Aam Aadmi Bima Yojna (AABY)
  3. Janshree Bima Yojna (JBY)

4. Ayushman Bharat

References

  • Constitution of India, 1949
  • 1984 AIR 802, 1984 SCR (2) 67

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