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Right To Health Care

Updated: Jan 15


Being the citizens of India, it has been provided with various rights against the state as well as private individuals, Part III of the Indian constitution deals with most important and basic rights for an individual i.e. Fundamental Rights, some of them are provided to non-citizens also.

When the Right to healthcare is directly seen within the Indian Constitution it is nowhere provided, but it has been evolved through various case laws decided by the judiciary and wide interpretation of constitutional provisions has been executed.

Article 21 of the constitution provides,No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.” It casts an obligation on the state to preserve and protect the life of its subjects. The term ‘Life’ under this provision has been broadly and liberally interpreted by the Supreme Court time and again. As held in the case of Francis Coralie, ‘Life under article 21 does not connote mere animal or physical existence but embraces more’. This judgment was based on the US Supreme Court’s judgment in Munn v. Illinois.

Article 21 derives its wider interpretation when reading along with provisions 39(e), 39(f), 41 and 42, provided under Part IV of the Constitution. This provides that there are some minimal requirements that a state should provide to its citizens enabling them to live that too with dignity and no action of the government (central or state) would deprive a person of such basic rights. As per Article 47 of the constitution,’ Improvement of public health is one of the primary duties of a state’.

As ruled out by the court in the court in the case of Paschim Banga Khet Majdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal that, “Article 21 imposes an obligation on the state to safeguard the right to life of every person and thus preservation of human life is of paramount importance.” Further, it has also been held that the right to health is an integral part of the right to life and the government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities to every person.

After a plethora of Public Interest Litigations and various judgments by Apex Court, it is clear that the right to health is an integral part of the right to life as provided U/A 21 of the constitution and it is the duty of the state to provide healthcare facilities to every person.

Recently in a Public Interest Litigation, Supreme Court ordered various private testing labs across the country to offer free coronavirus tests to people. Later on, the order was modified and this free testing facility was given only to people unable to afford it so that no unnecessary burden falls on private labs.

Under International law –

International Human Rights law guarantees every person to have the right to the highest attainable standard of health. It also accepts that under conditions of public emergencies some restrictions on these rights are justified and are not arbitrary.

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – It is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. Article 12 of this covenant provides that,” The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. It requires the state parties to take various steps to improve the health of their citizens including controlling and treating epidemic diseases. This right to health not only extends to appropriate health care but also to various determinants of health. India is a signatory and also ratified this covenant, making it the duty of government to bind by provisions of this covenant and provide various rights relating to health to citizens.

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights – It was adopted by UNGA on 10 December 1948. 48 out of 58 member states of the UN voted in favor of UDHR including India. The declaration consists of 30 articles relating to the individual’s rights. Although it is not legally binding, these articles have been elaborated in various international treaties and human rights instruments. Article 25 of UDHR provides that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

There are various other international treaties that contend for the right to healthcare facilities as basic rights that should be available to every person.


Anubhav Maheshwari, 2nd year BA LL.B(Honours) Student from Institue of Nirma University,

You can contact the author at https://www.linkedin.com/in/anubhav-maheshwari-34917b197/

Editor: Vijayalakshmi Raju.

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