The Case of Common Cause v Union of India (2023)

July 10, 2024

Advance directives are a catch-all word for a number of legal documents you can sign to assist ensure that your desires for medical care are understood and honoured if you are unable of speaking for yourself. A registered society called Common Cause petitioned the Supreme Court in 2005 under Article 32, requesting recognition of the right to a dignified death within the parameters of article 21 of the indian constitution. “right to life and liberty” is mentioned in Article 21.

common cause v union of india Case Facts

  • The petition aims to amend certain rules outlined in the 2018 Judgement in order to make it easier for terminally ill individuals to exercise their right to a dignified death, as the act’s procedure was somewhat convoluted.
  • The ruling in common cause v union of india 2018 established the first recognition of the right to die with dignity. The primary lesson was that if a patient does not request further medical treatment, then they should not receive it.
  • Despite the fact that this case was first heard by a three-judge bench, it was later moved to a constitution bench due to divergent rulings about the legislation pertaining to India’s right to die.
  • In the current instance, the applicant appeared before the court to request clarification on a few rules and to request that some of these guidelines be changed because the procedure was incredibly laborious and slow-moving.

common cause v union of india Issues

  • Should the Court establish guidelines or appropriate orders to facilitate the provision of Advance Directives?
  • Is it appropriate to remove a person from life support when they have a medical condition for which there is no chance of recovery, especially in the absence of Advance Directives?

Contentions by the Parties


  • In the original common cause v union of india 2018 case, the Petitioner/Appellant’s attorneys argued that each person is entitled to choose whether to live or die, provided they are terminally sick, receiving long-term medicine, and have little chance of recovery. This is relevant when someone has reached a point where death is imminent and they are permanently irreversible.
  • Additionally, the petitioner contended that allowing a person to pass away with dignity is a considerably preferable choice than letting them languish in a vegetative state.
  • The petitioners further said that maintaining individual autonomy or the right to make decisions falls under the purview of the right to privacy.


  • The right to die is not a part of the right to life and liberty stated in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution; rather, it refers to the availability of food, housing, and health.
  • Since it is widely held that the state’s main duty is to protect people’s lives, granting everyone the right to pass away with dignity would be in direct opposition to the fundamental freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

common cause v union of india Judgment

  • The Court reiterated that, as stated by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Gian Kaur case, the right to die with dignity constituted a fundamental right. The Court further explained that the idea of passive euthanasia was not introduced by the Gian Kaur ruling.
  • The Court talked about the differences between active and passive euthanasia, noting that the former calls for an overt act while the latter simply the act of turning off life support. It concluded that the Aruna Shanbaug Court erred in ruling that legislation was the sole way to legalize passive euthanasia.
  • Regarding living wills, the Court determined that there was ample evidence of this nation’s acceptance of the idea of advance medical directives. It went on to say that the ability to execute an Advance Medical Directive was a step in the right direction toward defending the autonomy and integrity of one’s body.
  • A guardian could make this decision on behalf of a patient in the event that the patient was unable to make an informed decision by applying the “best-interest” viewpoint.
  • The Court held that protecting these rights was an emanation of the right to privacy because they were tied to the fundamental rights to life and personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. The Court further held that the right to privacy mandated protecting the integrity of individual choice in the intimate realm of decisions relating to death.

The court’s 2018 recommendations needed to be amended because the ability to Die with Dignity not only protects an individual’s autonomy and ability to make their own decisions, but it also prolongs the suffering of those who are terminally ill. However, it extends to the families of those who are terminally ill in addition to the individuals themselves. They are constantly under financial strain, and they endure personal suffering when they witness their loved ones in danger. Therefore, the passive euthanasia procedure ought to be quick, easy, and convenient.

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