Topic: P.Rathinam v. Union of India
P.Rathinam v. Union of India
Equivalent Citations: 1994 AIR 1844, 1994 SCC (3) 394 - Bench: Hansaria B.L. (J), Sahai, R.M. (J) - Citation: 1994 Air 1844, 1994 Scc (3) 394, Jt 1994 (3) 392, 1994 Scale (2)674 - Date Of Judgment26/04/1994
The Judgment of the Court was delivered dy B. L. HANSARIA,J.--Gandhiji once observed: "Death is our friend, the trust of friends. He delivers us from agony. I do not want to die of a creeping paralyis of my faculties-- a defeated man".
The English poet William Ernest Henley wrote: "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."
2. Despite the above, Hamlet's dilemma of "to be or not to be" faces many a soul in times of distress, agony and suffering, when the question asked is "to die or not to die". If the decision be to die and the same is implemented to its fructification resulting in death, that is the end of the matter. The dead is relieved of the agony, pain and suffering and no evil consequences known to our law follow. But if the person concerned be unfortunate to survive, the attempt to commit suicide may see him behind bars, as the same is punishable under Section 309 of our Penal Code.
3. The two petitions at hand have assailed the validity of Section 309 by contending that the same is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and the prayer is to declare the section void. The additional prayer in Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 419 of 1987 is to quash the proceedings initiated against the petitioner (Nagbhusan) under Section
4. The judiciary of this country had occasion to deal with the aforesaid aspect; and we have three reported decisions of the three High Courts of the country, namely, Delhi, Bombay and Andhra Pradesh on the aforesaid question. There is also an unreported decision of the Delhi High Court. It would be appropriate and profitable to note at the threshold what the aforesaid three High Courts have held in this regard before we apply our mind to the issue at hand.
5. The first in point of time is the decision of a Division Bench of Delhi High Court in State v. Sanjay Kumar Bhatial in which the Court was seized with the question as to whether the investigation of the case under Section 309 should be allowed to continue beyond the period fixed by Section 368 CRPC. Some loud thinking was done by the Bench on the rationale of Section 309. Sachar, J., as he then was, observed for the Bench:
"It is ironic that Section 309 IPC still continues to be on our Penal Code. ... Strange paradox that in the age of votaries of Euthanasia, suicide should be criminally punishable. Instead of the society hanging its head in shame that there should be such social strains that a young man (the hope of tomorrow) should be driven to suicide compounds its inadequacy by treating the boy as a criminal. Instead of sending the young boy to psychiatric clinic it gleefully sends him to mingle with criminals.... The continuance of Section 309 IPC is an anachronism unworthy of a human society like ours. Medical clinics for such social misfits certainly but police and prisons never. The very idea is revolting. This concept seeks to meet the challenge of social strains of modem urban and competitive economy by ruthless suppression of mere symptoms this attempt can only result in failure. Need is for humane, civilised and socially oriented outlook and penology.... No wonder so long as society refuses to face this reality its coercive machinery will 1 1985 Cri LJ 931 :(1985) 2 DMC 153 (Del) invoke the provision like Section 309 IPC which has no justification to continue to remain on the statute book."
6. Soon came the Division Bench decision of Bombay High Court in Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra2 in which the Bench speaking through Sawant, J., as he then was, on being approached for quashing a prosecution launched against the petitioner under Section 309 of the Penal Code on the ground of unconstitutionality of the section, took the view and that the section was ultra vires being violative of Articles 14 and 21 and was therefore struck down. We would note the reasons for the view taken later.
7. Close on the heels was the decision of a Division Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court in Chenna Jagadeeswar v. State of A.p.3 in which on the High Court being approached against the conviction of the appellants under Section 309, inter alia, on the ground of the section being violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, the Bench held that the section was valid as it did not offend any of these articles. The Bombay view was dissented to; the reasons of which also we shall advert to later.
8. The unreported decision of the Delhi High Court has been noted in the articles of Shri B.B. Pande, Reader in Law, University of Delhi, as published in Islamic and Comparative Law Quarterly [Vol. VII(1), March 1987 at pp. 112 to 120] and of Shri Faizan Mustafa, Lecturer, Department of Law, Aligarh Muslim University [(1993) 1 SCJ Journal Section at pp. 36 to 42]. That decision was rendered in a suo motu proceeding titled as Court on its own Motion v. Yogesh Sharma4. The decision was rendered by Sachar, C.J. The Court once again pointed out the futility of creating criminal liability in suicide cases, but instead of striking down the section or declaring it invalid, what the learned Chief Justice did was to quash all the 119 proceedings pending in the trial courts on the ground that dragging of the prosecutions for years when the victims have had enough of misery and the accused also belonged to poorer section which added further insult to the injury, would be abuse of the process of the court. Being of this view, each of the accused was directed to be acquitted.
9. Striking down of the section by the Bombay High Court has come to be criticised by the aforesaid Shri Pande and Shri Mustafa, so also by Shri D.C. Pande, Research Professor, Indian Law Institute, in his article on "Criminal Law" [of Annual Survey of Indian Law, Vol. 23 (1987) at pp. 260 to 270 of published by the Indian Law Institute]. In the 'Editorial Note' titled 'Taking One's Life' [(1986-87) 91 CWN (Journal Section) at pp. 37 to 40] the Bombay decision received some criticism.
10. Before dealing with the points raised in these writings, it would be worthwhile to note that Shri V.S. Deshpande after his retirement as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court had expressed his view on this question in his 1 1987 Cri LJ 743 (1986) 88 Bom LR 589: 1986 Mah LJ 913 (Bom) 3 1988 Cri LJ 549 (1987) 2 Andh LJ 263 : 1987 APLJ (Cri) 110 (AP) 4 Registered as Cri. Revision No. 230 of 1985 article titled "To be or not to be" [(1984) 3 SCC (Journal) at pp. 10 to 15] Shri Deshpande, after referring to what had been held by this Court regarding the scope of Article 21, took the view that if Section 309 is restricted in its application to attempts to commit suicide which are cowardly and which are unworthy, then only this section would be in consonance with Article 21, because, if a person having had no duties to perform to himself or to others when he is terminally ill, decides to end his life and relieve himself from the pain of living and the others from the burden of looking after him, prosecution of such a person would be adding insult to injury and it was asked : "Should a Court construe Section 309 IPC to apply to such cases?"
11. Sometime afterwards appeared an article of Justice R.A. Jahagirdar of Bombay High Court in the Illustrated Weekly of India (September 29, 1985) in which the learned Judge took the view that Section 309 was unconstitutional for four reasons: (1) neither academicians nor jurists are agreed on what constitutes suicide, much less attempted suicide; (2) mens rea, without which no offence can be sustained, is not clearly discernible in such acts; (3) temporary insanity is the ultimate reason of such acts which is a valid defence even in homicides; and (4) individuals driven to suicide require psychiatric care.
12. Apart from the aforesaid judicial and legal thinking on the subject relating to justification and permissibility of punishing a man for attempting to commit suicide, there are proponents of the view that euthanasia (mercykilling) should be permitted by law. We do not propose to refer to the thinking on this subject, principally because the same is beyond the scope of the present petitions and also because in euthanasia a third person is either actively or passively involved about whom it may be said that he aids or abets the killing of another person. We propose to make a distinction between an attempt of a person to take his life and action of some others to bring to an end the life of a third person. Such a distinction can be made on principle and is conceptually permissible.
13. Though what we propose to decide in these cases would, therefore, relate to the offence of attempted suicide, it is nonetheless required to be stated that euthanasia is not much unrelated to the act of committing suicide inasmuch as wherever passive euthanasia has been held to be permissible under the law, one of the requirements insisted upon is consent of the patient or of his relations in case the patient be not in a position to give voluntary consent. The relationship between suicide and euthanasia has come to be highlighted in a decision of the Supreme Court of Nevada (one of the States of United States of America) in Mckay v. Bergstedt5 where a patient filed a petition to the court for permitting disconnection of his respirator. The district court, on the facts of the case, granted permission. The State appealed to the Supreme Court of Nevada which, after balancing the interest of the patient against the relevant State interest, affirmed the district court's judgment. The court took the view that the desire of the patient for withdrawal of his respirator did not tantamount to suicide the same was rather an exercise of his constitutional and common law right to discontinue unwanted medical treatment. This was the view taken by the majority. One of the Judges expressed a dissenting view.
14. A comment has been made on the aforesaid decision [at pp. 829 to 838 of Suffolk University Law Review, Vol. 25 (1991)] by stating that the distinction made by the majority between suicide and euthanasia because of differences in motive and mental attitude, is not tenable and the commentator referred to the dissenting opinion in which it was observed that the patient was in fact requesting the court to sanction affirmative act which was entirely consistent with the court's definition of suicide, inasmuch as the majority had defined suicide as "an act or instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally; the deliberate and intentional destruction of his own life by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind; one that commits or attempts his self-murder". (This was indeed the definition given in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1968.)
15. We may now note the reasons given by the Bombay High Court in Shripati case2 for striking down the section as violation of Article 21. These reasons are basically three: (1) Article 21 has conferred a positive right to live which carries with it the negative right not to live. In this connection it has been first stated that the fundamental rights are to be read together as held in R. C. Cooper v. Union of India6. Mention was then made of freedom of speech and expression, as to which it was observed that the same includes freedom not to speak and to remain silent. Similarly, about the freedom of business and occupation, it was stated that it includes freedom not to do business. (2) Notice was then taken of the various causes which lead people to commit suicide. These being mental diseases and imbalances, unbearable physical ailments, affliction by socially-dreaded diseases, decrepit physical condition disabling the person from taking normal care of his body and performing the normal chores, the loss of all senses or of desire for the pleasures of any of the senses, extremely cruel or unbearable conditions of life making it painful to live, a sense of shame or disgrace or a need to defend one's honour or a sheer loss of interest in life or disenchantment with it, or a sense of fulfilment of the purpose for which one was born with nothing more left to do or to be achieved and a genuine urge to quit the world at the proper moment. (3) The Bench thereafter stated that in our country different forms of suicide are known. These being: Johars (mass suicides or self-immolation) of ladies from the royal houses to avoid being dishonoured by the enemies; Sati (self-immolation by the widow on the burning pyre of her deceased husband); Samadhi (termination of one's life by self-restraint on breathing); Prayopaveshan (starving unto death); and Atmarpana (self-sacrifice). It was also observed that the saints and savants, social, political and religious leaders have immolated themselves in the past and do so even today by one method or the other and society has not only 6 (1970) 2 SCC 298 : AIR 1970 SC 1318 not disapproved of the practice but has eulogised and commemorated the practitioners. It may be pointed out that the Bench made a distinction between "suicide" and "mercy- killing"; so also, between suicide and aiding or abetting the same.
16. The Bombay High Court held Section 309 as violation of Article 14 also mainly because of two reasons. First, which act or acts in series of acts will constitute attempt to suicide, where to draw the line, is not known some attempts may be serious while others non-serious. It was stated that in fact philosophers, moralists and sociologists were not agreed upon what constituted suicide. The want of plausible definition or even guidelines, made Section 309 arbitrary as per the learned Judges. Another reason given was that Section 309 treats all attempts to commit suicide by the same measure without referring to the circumstances in which attempts are made.
17. The first of the aforesaid reasons is not sound, according to us,because whatever differences there may be as to what constitutes suicide,there is no doubt that suicide is intentional taking of one's life, as stated at p. 1521 of Encyclopaedia of Crime and Justice, Vol. IV, 1983 Edn. Of course, there still exists difference among suicide researchers as to what constitutes suicidal behaviour, for example, whether narcotic addiction, chronic alcoholism, heavy cigarette smoking, reckless driving, other risk-taking behaviours are suicidal or not. It may also be that different methods are adopted for committing suicide, for example, use of firearms, poisoning especially by drugs, overdoses, hanging, inhalation of gas. Even so, suicide is capable of a broad definition, as has been given in the aforesaid Webster's Dictionary. Further, on a prosecution being launched it is always open to an accused to take the plea that his act did not constitute suicide whereupon the court would decide this aspect also.
18. Insofar as treating of different attempts to commit suicide by the same measure is concerned, the same also cannot be regarded as violative of Article 14, inasmuch as the nature, gravity and extent of attempt may be taken care of by tailoring the sentence appropriately. It is worth pointing out that Section 309 has only provided the maximum sentence which is up to one year. It provides for imposition of fine only as a punishment. It is this aspect which weighed with the Division Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court in its aforesaid decision to disagree with the Bombay view by stating that in certain cases even Probation of Offenders Act can be pressed into service, whose Section 12 enables the court to ensure that no stigma or disqualification is attached to such a person. (See para 32 of the judgment.)
19. We agree with the view taken by the Andhra Pradesh High Court as regards Section 309 qua Article 14. But the Bombay Bench itself was more involved with Article 21 and violation of it by Section 309, the reasons whereof have been noted. Whether these are sound and tenable, would be our real consideration.
20. The Bombay High Court's decision2 led some thinkers to express their own views. We have noted who they were. The broad points of their objection/criticism were these: (1) suicide is an act against religion; (2) it is immoral; (3) it produces adverse sociological effects; (4) it is against public policy (This has also been the main argument of the counsel of Union of India before us.); (5) it damages monopolistic power of the State, as State alone can take life; and (6) it would encourage aiding and abetting of suicide and may even lead to 'constitutional cannibalism'.
21. We shall in due course see whether the aforesaid objections raised against the Bombay judgment are valid. Concerned as we are with the broad contention that Section 309 is violative of Article 21, we shall first inform ourselves as to the content and reach of this article and then answer in a general way as to whether a person residing in India has a right to die. Section 309 being a part of our enacted law, we would desire to know what object a law seeks to achieve. This section having made attempt to commit suicide an offence, we shall ask the question as to why is a particular act treated as crime and what acts are so treated. We shall then apply our mind to the purposeful query as to how a crime can be prevented. Being seized with the crime of 'attempted suicide', we shall apprise ourselves as to why suicides are committed and how can they be really prevented. We would also desire to know what type of persons have been committing suicides and what had been their motivations. We would then view the act of committing suicide in the background of our accepted social ethos. Having done so, we shall take up the points of criticism noted above one by one and express our views on the same.
22. Having known that the Law Commission of India had in its 42nd Report of 1971 recommended deletion of Section 309, we shall put on record as to why was this recommendation made and how was the same viewed by the Central Government; and what steps, if any, were taken by it to implement the recommendation. What is the present thinking of the Union of India shall also be taken note of.
23. Finally, we shall open our mental window a little to allow breeze to come from other parts of the world, inter alia, because Gurudev (Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate) wanted us to do so. Globalisation has, in any case, been accepted by us in some other fields of our activities. We have stated opening of this window "a little" because we propose to confine ourselves to know whether attempt to commit suicide is presently a crime only in two other countries of the globe they being United Kingdom and United States of America. The reasons for our selecting these two countries shall be indicated when we shall advert to our 'global view' query. It may only be stated here that we are opening the window only a little, as, the little air that would pass through the little aperture would be enough, in our view, to enable us to have broad knowledge of global view on the subject under consideration.
24. The aforesaid mental odyssey would take us through a long path before we would reach our destination, our conclusion. Finale would, however, come after we have answered or known the following:
(1) Has Article 21 any positive content or is it merely negative in its reach? (2) Has a person residing in India a right to die?
(3) Why is a law enacted? What object(s) it seeks to achieve?
(4) Why is a particular act treated as
crime/What acts are so treated?
(5) How can crimes be prevented?
(6) Why is suicide committed?
(7) Who commits suicide? Secularisation of
(8) How suicide-prone persons should be
(9) Is suicide a non-religious act?
(10) Is suicide immoral?
(11) Does suicide produce adverse sociological effects?
(12) Is suicide against public policy? (13) Does commission of suicide damage the monopolistic power of the State to take life? (14) Is apprehension of 'constitutional cannibalism' justified?
(15) Recommendation of the Law Commission of India and follow-up steps taken, if any. (16) Global view. What is the legal position in other leading countries of the world regarding the matter at hand?
25. The aforesaid questions, which have been framed keeping in mind the information we thought necessary to enable us to decide the important matter at hand to our satisfaction, have been listed as above keeping in view their comparative importance for our purpose the most important being he first and so on; and we propose to answer them in the same sequence.
(1) Has Article 21 any positive content or is it merely negative in its reach?
26. This question is no longer res integra inasmuch as a Constitution Bench of this Court in Unnikrishnan v. State of A.p.7 [in which right to receive education up to the primary stage has been held to be a call of Article 1] has virtually answered this question. This would be apparent from what was stated by Mohan, J. in paragraph 19 and by Jeevan Reddy, J. in paragraph 170. In paragraph 30, Mohan, J. has mentioned about the rights which have been held to be covered under Article 21. These being:
(1) The right to go abroad. Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam APO, New Delhi8. . (2) The right to privacy. Gobind v. State of M.P.9 In this case reliance was placed on the American decision in Griswold v. Connecticut10.
7 (1993) 1 SCC 645
8 (1967) 3 SCR 525 AIR 1967 SC 1836
9 (1975) 2 SCC 148 1975 SCC (Cri) 468:
(1975) 3 SCR 946
10 381 US 479, 510: 14 L Ed2d 511 (1965)
(3) The right against solitary confinement. Sunil Batra v. Delhi Admn. 11 (4) The right against bar fetters. Charles Shobraj v. Supdt., Central Jail12. (5) The right to legal aid. M. H. Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra' 3.
(6) The right to speedy trial. Hussainara Khatoon(1) v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar14.
(7) The right against handcuffing. Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Admn.15 (8) The right against delayed execution. T. V. Vatheeswaran v. State of T. N. 16 (9) The right against custodial violence. Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtral7. (10) The right against public hanging. A.G. of India v. Lachma Devil'.
(11) Doctor's assistance. Paramanand Katra v. Union of India19.
(12) Shelter. Shantistar Builders v. N.K. Totame2O.
27. The aforesaid is enough to state that Article 21 has enough of positive content in it. As to why the rights mentioned above have been held covered by Article 21 need not be gone into, except stating that the originating idea in this regard is the view expressed by Field, J. in Munn v. IllinoiS21 in which it was held that the term 'life' (as appearing in the 5th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution) means something more than 'mere animal existence'. This view was accepted by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Sunil Batra v. Delhi Admn.22 (SCC paras 55 and 226 : AIR paras 56 and 226), to which further leaves were added in Board of Trustees of the Port of Bombay v. Dilipkumar Raghavendranath Nadkami23 (SCC para 13 : AIR para
13); Vikram Deo Singh Tomar v. State of Bihar24 (SCC para 5 : AIR para 5); and Ramsharan Autyanuprasi v. Union of India25 (SCC para 13 : AIR para 13). In these decisions it was held that the word 11 (1978) 4 SCC 494, 545: 1979 SCC (Cri) 155 12 (1978) 4 SCC 104: 1978 SCC (Cri) 542: (1979) 1 SCR 512 13 (1978) 3 SCC 544: 1978 SCC (Cri) 468: (1979) 1 SCR 192 14 (1980) 1 SCC 81 : 1980 SCC (Cri) 23 : (1979) 3 SCR 169 15 (1980) 3 SCC 526: 1980 SCC (Cri) 815 :(1980) 3 SCR 855 16 (1983) 2 SCC 68 : 1983 SCC (Cri) 342: AIR 1983 SC 361 17 (1983) 2 SCC 96: 1983 SCC (Cri) 353 18 1989 Supp (1) SCC 264: 1989 SCC (Cri) 413 : AIR 1986 SC 19 (1989) 4 SCC 286: 1989 SCC (Cri) 721 20 (1990) 1 SCC 520 21 (1877) 94 US 1 13 : 24 L Ed 77 (1877) 22 (1978) 4 SCC 494: 1979 SCC (Cri) 155: AIR 1978 SC 1675 23 (1983) 1 SCC 124: 1983 SCC (L&S) 61 : AIR 1983 SC 109 24 1988 Supp SCC 734: 1989 SCC (Cri) 66: AIR 1988 SC 1782 25 1989 Supp (1) SCC 251 : AIR 1989 SC 549 'life' in Article 21 means right to live with human dignity and the same does not merely connote continued drudgery. It takes within its fold "some of the finer graces of human civilization, which makes life worth living", and that the expanded concept of life would mean the "tradition, culture and heritage" of the person concerned.
28. It would be relevant to note the decision in State of H.P. v. Umed Ram Sharma26. It was observed there in paragraph 11 that the right to life embraces not only physical existence but the quality of life as understood in its richness and fullness by the ambit of the Constitution; and for residents of hilly areas access to road was held to be access to life itself, and so necessity of road communication in a reasonable condition was held to be a part of constitutional imperatives, because of which the direction given by the Himachal Pradesh High Court to build road in the hilly areas to enable its residents to earn livelihood was upheld. What can be more positive and kicking?
29. We may also refer to the article of Dr M. Indira and Dr Alka Dhal under the caption "Meaning of Life, Suffering and Death" as read in the International Conference on Health Policy, Ethics and Human Values held at New Delhi in 1986. This is what the learned authors stated about life in their article:
Life is not mere living but living in health. Health is not the absence of illness but a glowing vitality the feeling of wholeness with a capacity for continuous intellectual and spiritual growth. Physical, social, spiritual and psychological well-being are intrinsically interwoven into the fabric of life. According to Indian philosophy that which is born must die. Death is the only certain thing in life."
30. May it be said that in C.E.S.C. Ltd. v. Subhash Chandra Bose27 it has been opined by Ramaswamy, J. (who is, of course, a minority Judge) that physical and mental health have to be treated as integral part of right to life, because without good health the civil and political rights assured by our Constitution cannot be enjoyed. (2) Has a person residing in India right to die?
31. If a person has a right to live, question is whether he has right not to live. The Bombay High Court stated in paragraph 10 of its judgment that as all the fundamental rights are to be read together, as held in R.C. Cooper v. Union of India6 what is true of one fundamental right is also true of another fundamental right. It was then stated that it is not, and cannot be, seriously disputed that fundamental rights have their positive as well as negative aspects. For example, freedom of speech and expression includes freedom not to speak. Similarly, the freedom of association and movement includes freedom not to join any association or move anywhere. So too, freedom of business includes freedom not to do business. It was, therefore, stated that 26 (1986) 2 SCC 68: AIR 1986 SC 847 27 (1992) 1 SCC 441 :1992 SCC (L&S) 313 logically it must follow that the right to live will include right not to live, i.e., right to die or to terminate one's life.
32. Two of the abovenamed critics of the Bombay judgment have stated that the aforesaid analogy is "misplaced", which could have arisen on account of superficial comparison between the freedoms, ignoring the inherent difference between one fundamental right and the other. It has been argued that the negative aspect of the right to live would mean the end or extinction of the positive aspect, and so, it is not the suspension as such of the right as is in the case of 'silence' or 'non-association' and 'no movement'. It has also been stated that the right to life stands on different footing from other rights as all other rights are derivable from the right to live.
33. The aforesaid criticism is only partially correct inasmuch as though the negative aspect may not be inferable on the analogy of the rights conferred by different clauses of Article 19, one may refuse to live, if his life be not according to the person concerned worth living or if the richness and fullness of life were not to demand living further. One may rightly think that having achieved all worldly pleasures or happiness, he has something to achieve beyond this life. This desire for communion with God may very rightly lead even a very healthy mind to think that he would forego his right to live and would rather choose not to live. In any case, a person cannot be forced to enjoy right to life to his detriment, disadvantage or disliking.
34. From what has been stated above, it may not be understood that according to us the right encompassed or conferred by Article 21 can be waived. Need for this observation has been felt because it has been held by a Constitution Bench in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corpn.28 that a fundamental right cannot be waived. A perusal of that judgment, however, shows that it dealt more with the question of estoppel by conduct about which it can be said that the same is a facet of waiver. In the present cases, we are, however, not on the question of estoppel but of not taking advantage of the right conferred by Article
35. Keeping in view all the above, we state that right to live of which Article 21 speaks of can be said to bring in its trail the right not to live a forced life.
36. In this context, reference may be made to what Alan A. Stone, while serving as Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Harvard University stated in his 1987 Jonas Robitscher Memorial Lecture in Law and Psychiatry, under the caption "The Right to Die : New Problems for Law and Medicine and Psychiatry". (This lecture has been printed at pp. 627 to 643 of Emory Law Journal, Vol. 37, 1988). One of the basic theories of the lecture of Professor Stone was that right to die inevitably leads to the right to commit suicide. 28 (1985) 3 SCC 545 : AIR 1986 SC 180 (3) Why is a law enacted? What object(s) it seeks to serve?
37. Section 309 being a part of our enacted law, let it be known as to why a law is framed or is required to be framed. To put it differently, what objects are sought to be achieved by framing laws. For our purpose it would be enough if what has been stated by Shri M. Ruthnaswamy in Chapters 5 and 6 of his book Legislation: Principles and Practice (1st Edn., 1974) (the Chapter headings being "Principles of Legislation in History" and "Contemporary Principles of Legislation"), is noted. The learned author has within a short compass brought home the different principles which had held sway in different parts of the world at different points of time. Ruthnaswamy starts in Chapter 5 by saying that it is from the time of the Renaissance and the Reformation when men, as a result of these great revolutionary movements broke away from rule of custom and tradition, that legislation began its career as an instrument of social and political, and even religious, change. The readers are then informed as to what Richard Hooker (15541600) thought on the question of law Which, according to him, has to be influenced by experience and supported by reason.
38. The next important thinker of England after Hooker was the famous Francis Bacon (1561-1626). In his Essays (the most popular of his works) we find his views on legislators and legislation. Bacon stood out for progress and utility and was of the view that it was not good to try experiments in legislation. As against Bacon there was Sir Edward Coke, who was a defender of the rights of the Parliament. Mention is then made about John Locke (1632-1704) according to whom the laws made must respect the right to liberty and property; and laws must be made for the good of the people.
39. Ruthnaswamy then takes the reader to France and mentions about Montesquieu (1689-1755), who in his famous Spirit of Laws published in 1748, which has been regarded as a great classic of political and legal literature, rendered immemorial service to legislation and legislatures. In this monumental work, he insists that laws and legislation should be in conformity with the spirit of the people, if its traditions, its philosophy of life, even the physical surroundings of the people, including the climate. The journey is then to Germany, where Leibnitz (1646-1717), a philosopher, mathematician and adviser of kings and princes in Germany and Europe, took the view that greatness of law is proved by the fact that great rulers were also great law- givers. Names of Augustus, Constantine and Justinian are mentioned in this regard. The German philosopher further said that the law must serve morality, because what is against morals is bad law.
40. Readers then find themselves in Italy and they are acquainted with Beccaria (1739-1794), who through his pamphlet under the title Delict and Crimes published in 1766 brought a revolution in the theory and practice of punishment, because, according to him, punishment of crime must be used only for the defence of the State and the people and not for retribution and revenge which principles were holding the field then.
41. As per sequence of time, the next writer to be mentioned is Edmund Burke (1727-1797), who was a parliamentarian, statesman and political thinker. According to him the main essential of good laws and legislation is that the same should be fit and equitable, so that the legislature has a right to demand obedience. He would say there are two fundamental principles of legislation equity and utility.
42. Blackstone is a name which is immortal in the world of legal jurisprudence. It is his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) which has made him so. He emphasised on the inviolability of common law, freedom of persons and property. After Blackstone, came Bentham (17481832) and the Utilitarians.
43. Ruthnaswamy has also acquainted the readers about the views of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Thomas Aquinas, so also what Voltaire (16941773) had to say. We do not propose to burden this judgment with their views; but what was said by Macaulay (1800-1859) has to be noted, because it is he who had drafted our Penal Code. Macaulay believed in the efficacy of law in improving people and their character. He wrote:
"When a good system of law and police is established, when justice is administered cheaply and firmly, when idle technicalities and unreasonable rules of evidence no longer obstruct the search for truth, a great change of the better may be expected which shall produce a great effect on the national character."
44. In Chapter 6 of the book, Runthnaswamy has stated that after the principles of Benthamism and utilitarianism, reason, utility and individual liberty had exhausted themselves, humanitarianism occupied the field and it is this principle which has seen the enactments of statutes like Workmen's Compensation Act, Factories Act and various other statutes dealing with public health, sanitation and weaker sections.
45. We do not propose to dive further and would close this discussion by referring to what was stated by Ihering (1818- 1892) in his "Geist Des Romisches Rechts" (The Spirit of Roman Law), which has been accepted as a legal classic. According to Ihering, law is a means to an end. He laid down the following general principles of legislation:
"1. Laws should be known to be obeyed.
2. Laws should answer expectations.
3. Laws should be consistent with one another.
4. Laws should serve the principle of Utility.
5. Laws should be methodical.
6. Laws must be certain to be obeyed, must not become a dead letter.
7. Laws are necessary to ward off the danger of the operations of egoism or self- interest, the ordinary motives of human action.
8. Law and legislation must aim at justice which is that which suits all.
9. Laws are interconnected "laws like human beings lean on one another."
46. That humanitarianism is the throbbing principle of legislation presently has also been highlighted by Kartar Singh Mann in his article "Working of Legislatures in the matter of Legislation" appearing at pp. 491 to 495 of the Journal of Parliamentary Information, Vol. 33, 1987. What has been stated by Mann at p. 493 is relevant for purpose the same being: