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ARTICLE 21 AND EUTHANASIA

Shubham Kashyap

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INTRODUCTION:

The word Euthanasia originated from Greek origins “eu” that denotes “well” or “good” in addition to “Thanatos” which denotes “death”, so in essence Euthanasia signifies good death.

It basically indicates a deliberate termination of someone’s life by someone else at the clear request of the individual who wants to die. In practice, it involves the action of killing an individual who is ill and not curable out of care and compassion for that individual’s agony. Some even call it ‘mercy killing’. Merriam Webster defines Euthanasia as the action of killing or letting a hopelessly ill individual die in a comparatively pain free method for merciful intentions. Black’s Law Dictionary has a similar definition stating it to be the action of killing or causing death of an individual suffering from an ailment that isn’t curable, specially an agonizing one for merciful aims. Right to die has continually been a contentious subject globally. Article 21 of the Indian constitution states that “no individual should be deprived of life or personal freedom except in accordance with legally prescribed procedures”. The term liberty is the appreciation and attainment of choice and the attributes that go with that choice and the word life denotes the aim to have the same in a dignified way. Both of these are intertwined. Liberty permits people the space to reflect and perform without constraint and life deprived of liberty would be a pointless existence. Courts have included different aspects to

Right to life like right to have a respectable existence, right to food, to get adequately educated, to have a clean environment, to get adequate shelter, privacy and numerous different rights to allow people to enjoy a better and a more fruitful life.

ANALYSIS OF

ARTICLE 21

This generous dealing of Article 21 by the courts could be owed to the judiciary’s appreciation of the principle that constitutional provisions should be interpreted not in a limited sense but in a broad and liberal way. Benches have continually held that when understanding the correct implication and substance of right to life, the court must try to expand the scope of the fundamental right and not weaken its content.In Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, 1978 AIR 597, justice Bhagwati, in an attempt to make Article 21more meaningful, stated that “Courts should try to expand the scope and range of fundamental rights instead of attenuating their implication and substance by means of juridical construction”. This is why numerous of rights have been included in Article 21. In Francis Coralie Mullin v The Administrator, the Supreme court made huge development when it contended that Article 21 doesn’t amount to simply ‘animal existence’ but to something more than just that. It comprises of living with human dignity. In Shantisar builders v Narayanan Khimalal Totame, the Supreme Court distinguished between the shelter that humans require and those that animals require. They stated that animals require just the minimum bodily security but humans require a habitation that permits them to grow in all facets be it mentally or physically. So, it isn’t just right to survival but living a complete quality life of dignity and value. The Supreme Court has claimed article 21 to be ‘heart of fundamental rights’ and has consequently allowed very broad boundaries with widest conceivable understandings to this article and correctly so. It has evolved into a basis for many essential rights and procedural protections. It can be contended that at the very least, every individual has a right to live with modicum amount of dignity and where the existing condition drops beneath that point, the individual should be permitted to terminate such agonizing existence. There is no legislation in India that provides for Euthanasia, so people relied on the constitution to provide relief with the question being, ‘whether Right of Life under article 21 accommodates a Right to die?’.

ANALYSIS OF INDIAN LEGAL JURISPRUDENCE ON EUTHANASIA

This issue first arose in the case of State of Maharashtra v Maruty Sripati Dubal. The court here held that Right to Life included Right to die and held Section 309 of IPC that made attempt to suicide a crime as unconstitutional. 29 The court reasoned those fundamental rights have both positive and negative facets. It also distinguished between suicide and euthanasia saying that the former includes the act done by the individual himself whereas the latter meant the act done by an intervening party. As opposed to this, in Chenna Jagdeshwar v Sate of AP, the court stated that right to die isn’t secured under article 21. In P. Rathinam v Union of India, the court followed Maruty Dubal case’s reasoning and stated that article 21 included the right not to lead a coerced life that is damaging, unfavorable and detested by someone. It also held attempt to suicide as not punishable by calling the provision against this as ‘ultra-viruses. This was a drastic approach and it could not last long. The court in Gian Kaur v State of Punjab while overruling this judgment, stated that Right to Life doesn’t incorporate the Right to die a death that isn’t natural and held suicide to be a criminal offence. They held s.309 of IPC that makes attempted suicide an offence to be constitutional. They reasoned that Article 21 is a natural right whereas the right to end one’s life by committing suicide would be unnatural.36 The court stated that dignity rights under the same only exist till the ‘natural’ termination of life. They distinguished Euthanasia from suicide and asserted that the former involves ending an individual’s life who is already fatally ill or in a PVS. They stated that in euthanasia, the course of dying has already begun and it merely accelerates this process of natural death and isn’t causing an unnatural termination. They therefore held that right to die a dignified death of a patient whose ‘life is ebbing out’ may come within the preview of right to a dignified life. So, in Gian Kaur, the court already acknowledged right to a dignified death specially for incurably ill patients, but they did not exactly rule on euthanasia be it active or passive. They just primarily focused on the legitimacy of anti-suicide laws. So, this issue was again brought up in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v Union of India. Runa Shanbaug was a nurse who was a victim of sexual assault, after which she wasn’t in the condition to feel anything anymore. The ruthless incident rendered her visionless, deaf, paralyzed and in a vegetative condition for 42 years. A petition was brought before the Supreme Court for her euthanasia. The court passed a ground-breaking judgement legalizing passive euthanasia. The court held that in cases were the natural progression of death had already initiated or the patient was in a permanent vegetative state, then it wouldn’t be an offense to passively quicken demise by refusal of medical support. 43 Here the court instead of dealing with right to die, dealt with whether there is a compulsion to lengthen life when the sufferer was fatally ill. It laid down the following checks and safeguards that need to be adhered to so that this aid isn’t abused, specially forbidding third party from being involved in the decision-making.

1-The decision to not continue with aids that lengthen the patient’s life must be undertaken by their lawful guardians, their partner, someone who is close to them,

2- The approval of the high court is mandatory as relatives might give approval to get inheritance benefits.

3- Two judges of the high court will take the call after taking assistance from a panel of three medical experts. The English case of Airedale has been one of the major cases that facilitated the benches to consider passive euthanasia in Indian framework. 48The aforementioned legal delivery had also been undertaken by the court in Airedale case cogitating the High Court to be ‘parens patriae’ and personally examining every case for securing the paramount interest of the individual given euthanasia like a rational and reliable parent.

In Common Cause v Union of India, the Constitutional Court performed an arduous undertaking of pronouncing Right to die with dignity as a fundamental right and a vital component of right to live a life of dignity as enshrined in Article 21. It arranged extensive system for protecting the dignity of fatally ill individuals and those in PVS with no prospect of recovery and in this course, it 1- legalized advance medical directives (AMD) and health attorneys and 2- put forth rules to give force to passive euthanasia. This is now the current law with respect to euthanasia till a legislature is made on the same. This court also scrutinized some discrepancies in the Aruna Shanbaug case. The constitutional court in Common Cause increased the extent of Euthanasia allowed in Aruna case by attaching the concept of living will, where individuals can leave written guidelines on the type of health care they could be administered with, in the occasion of them being in a unresponsive and incurably ill state .It is important to remember that only passive euthanasia has been allowed yet that involves withholding life-lengthening procedures voluntarily, when the patient requests this or when he leaves a living will behind that provides for this or, involuntarily when the patient isn’t in a conscious state and this decision is taken by his family, doctors, close affiliations with the approval of the high court. Active euthanasia is different as it involves positive action of using lethal drugs to cause deliberate demise of the individual through direct interference and this isn’t permitted. The Jurisprudence across the globe has grown on passive euthanasia and it has managed to get moral and legitimate approval more or less. This can’t be said for active euthanasia as there still exists some hesitation and doubt about it.

CONSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS OF DIGNITY AND PRIVACY THAT PLAY A ROLE HERE

According to prof Upendra Baxi, dignity means respect for a person built on the value of liberty and power to construct choices and a decent social system would be where dignity is respected by allowing settings to exercise uncontrolled and informed choices. Even though the term ‘dignity’ isn’t defined anywhere in the constitution or statutes, by analysing the views taken by courts, we can see the how intrinsic it is for Article 21. To deny an individual of his dignity at the conclusion of his life would deny him of meaningful existence. A subsistence that holds meaning would include individual’s right of self-determination and independence to choose their healthcare procedure. Respect for a person, particularly their right to decide how they must live their life amounts to self-autonomy or right of self-governance. It is the right against non-intervention by people that offers a competent individual that is in his majority, the right to decide things that concern his being and body, exclusive of other’s control or meddling. Individual’s right of self-rule and autonomy include their choice to whether and to whatever degree they are prepared to submit themselves to health treatments, deciding between alternate procedures or in that regard, deciding for no procedure at all, which according to their comprehension is in consonance with their personal desires and principles. 61 Nevertheless, a critical issue is yet to be addressed of whether right to die as a part of article 21 is absolute or it would be controlled by reasonable constraints. Considering this right involves the choice vis-à-vis terminating one’s life, the circumstances that accompany the meaning of ‘dignity’ need to be lucidly articulated. Without explicit reference of reasonable constraints influencing this right, the noble intent of the constitutional court advancing this judgement may prove ineffective.

In KS Puttaswammy v Union of India, the Constitutional Court that included nine justices held privacy to be a fundamental segment of right to life that also recognizes a person’s right to refuse health treatments that prolong lifespan. Here, Justice Chelameshwar stated that “force feeding of particular individuals by the Government raises alarms for privacy. A person’s right to deny healthcare that prolongs his existence or ends the same is a liberty that comes within the preview of privacy”. Article 21 guarantees privacy rights and in cases where individuals are in PVS or are bed ridden, unconscious to an extent where they are unable to eat own their own, switch clothes or even utilize the lavatory, whether or not their privacy rights are being met is something to reflect on. These are things that no one would normally like to rely on others for.

EUTHANASIA IN THE NETHERLANDS

Netherlands was the first European state that allowed euthanasia by introducing the statute ‘termination of life on request and assisted suicide act” in 2002. 69 This legislation permitted euthanasia in extremely rare and extraordinary circumstances.70 There, killing someone on their request or with their permission is illegal but this statue makes an exemption for doctors who perform euthanasia provided they meet the following factors:

1-If there isn’t any possibility for the patient’s condition to improve and they are in insufferable agony, 2-The patient themselves, voluntarily opt for this without any encouragement from others and this request should be persistent over a period,

3- The patient makes an informed decision with comprehensive information of his alternatives,

4-This issue must be discussed with other free doctors for confirming everything,

5-euthenesia must take place with proper process by competent doctors, and

6- patient must be minimum twelve years of age.

CONCLUSION

Low educational and legal knowledge being the reality of many people in India, there could be a chance of misuse of living wills by greed-stricken heirs and this should be appropriately attended by the parliament for the paramount usage of the novel right added in the binder of fundamental rights. Lack of sufficient and affordable healthcare and monetary limitations on middle class families may force them to opt for passive euthanasia or make living wills hastily out of compulsion. Therefore, mere allowing passive euthanasia by the benches isn’t enough till the parliament appropriately aids the matter by giving the required attention to health facilities and insurance, specially for economically backwards individuals. Appreciating the right of dying with dignity for terminal patients and persons in a PVS is only part of the picture, and the issue of how this right would be construed with respect to individuals wanting to die due to other serious reasons like agedness, indigence, dearth of prospects etc. to die with respect still remains. The apex court has only recognized this right to dignified death in terms of right to withdraw or deny life prolonging treatments for the aforementioned categories, so how this right should be construed with respect to patients who have terminal illnesses that hamper their life adversely but haven’t made them dependent on some life supporting machine is something to deliberate on. For instance, individuals permanently paralyzed from neck down, individuals with severe case of dementia that leaves them in a disoriented state, not recognizing themselves or their loved ones etc. These individuals aren’t dependent on life prolonging systems that they can withdraw but nevertheless they have to permanently depend on others for basic needs and their dignity, privacy, autonomy and quality of life can be said to be obstructed by their degenerated circumstances. To cause death in these situations, a positive action would be needed. This may have the capacity to unlock floodgates for Mandamus Writs before constitutional benches. In my opinion, active euthanasia, although very restrictively and only in extraordinary and rare instances, should also be included in right to dignified death under art 21. For this, heavy safeguards and riders are needed so that this right isn’t abused. This is also keeping in mind the broad frame the courts have given to ‘life’ under art21, to signify more than ‘animal survival’, to include a life of dignity, quality, good physical and psychological wellbeing. India’s legal situation shouldn’t be reviewed in isolation. We have drawn our constitution from the charters of diverse states and benches have frequently referred to several international decisions. Netherland’s statue with respect to Euthanasia should be examined and appreciated in Indian context and used to broaden euthanasia framework in India. Death is as essential is life in certain situations. Death shouldn’t be seen as negative or disappointing when the individual is going through unbearable agony from an ailment that isn’t curable for an alarmingly long time. Humane and proficient dealing for the dying is necessary.

Low educational and legal knowledge being the reality of many people in India, there could be a chance of misuse of living wills by greed-stricken heirs and this should be appropriately attended by Parliament for the paramount usage of the novel right added in the binder of fundamental rights. Lack of sufficient and affordable healthcare and monetary limitations on middle class families may force them to opt for passive euthanasia or make living wills hastily out of compulsion.

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Legally Speaking

‘FAILURE TO PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF DECEASED’S INCOME DOES NOT JUSTIFY ADOPTION OF LOWEST TIER OF MINIMUM WAGE IN MOTOR ACCIDENT’

The bench comprising of Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua observed while deciding the appeal preferred by an insurance company against award of Rs 15,85,000 compensation to the bereaved mother by the Claims Tribunal.

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The Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case United India Insurance Company Ltd v. Smt. Sumna Devi recently observed that merely because the claimants were unable to produce documentary evidence to show the monthly income of the deceased and the same should not justify for adoption of lowest tier of minimum wage while computing the income.

The bench comprising of Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua observed while deciding the appeal preferred by an insurance company against award of Rs. 15,85,000/- compensation to the bereaved mother by the Claims Tribunal.

It was observed that the Tribunal had assessed deceased’s monthly income as 10,000/- whereas the Appellant argued that in absence of any documentary evidence to show the deceased’s income and as per the minimum wage rate, i.e., Rs. 7,000- per month, the award must be calculated.

Further, the deceased’s mother informed the Court that her son was earning Rs. 10,000/- per month only from agricultural pursuits. It was submitted by her that he had completed two-year NCVT course in Mechanic (Motor Vehicle) Trade and would have definitely earned much more than Rs. 10,000/- per month, had he lived.

It was noted by the court that where the deceased had an NCVT CTS course diploma in Mechanic (Motor Vehicle) Trade from a Government Industrial Training Institute and was also carrying out agricultural works, Rs. 10,000/- per month has been correctly assessed as his income which he would have earned on attaining the age of 25 years.

The court placed reliance on Chandra alias Chanda alias Chandra Ram & Anr. vs. Mukesh Kumar Yadav & Ors., wherein it was held that in absence of salary certificate the minimum wage notification can be a yardstick but at the same time cannot be an absolute one for fixing the income of the deceased. Thus, in absence of documentary evidence on record some amount of guesswork is required to be done. But at the same time the guesswork for assessing the deceased income should not be totally detached from reality.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition.

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VIOLATION OF RETRENCHMENT PROCEDURE U/S 25F & 25G OF INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES ACT WARRANTS REINSTATEMENT, NOT MERE COMPENSATION: GUJARAT HIGH COURT

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The Gujarat High Court in the case Rameshbhai Bhathibhai Pagi v/s Deputy Executive Engineer observed and has reiterated that once a Labour Court comes to the conclusion that Sections 25F, G and H of the Industrial Disputes Act have been violated and reinstatement of workman ought to follow.

The bench comprising of Justice Biren Vaishnav observed while hearing several petitions challenging the Labour Court’s order wherein compensation of Rs. 72,000 was awarded to each of the workmen-Petitioner rather than reinstatement with back wages.

It was submitted by the petitioner that their services were put to an end in August 2010 without following the procedure and without awarding compensation. It was pleaded by them that there was a clear violation of Sections 25(G) and (H).

However, the court stated that the Labour Courts had found the termination bad for each of the petitioners. While drawing an adverse inference against the Respondents, it has been awarded by the Labour Court the compensation which was meagre in the eyes of the petitioner, even as work was available. The Court observed that the Reliance was placed on Kalamuddin M. Ansari vs. Government of India, wherein similar facts and circumstances, the High Court ordered reinstatement of employees with continuity of service and had set aside the order of compensation.

The decision of the Labour Court was supported by the AGPs on the ground that there was a delay in raising the dispute. Further, the work had been outsourced at the canal. Therefore, the reinstatement was not possible.

The bench of Justice Vaishnav noted that the Labour Court had clearly concluded that there was a violation of sections 25(F), (G) and (H) of the ID Act. The only question raised was weather the Labour Court should have fallen short of awarding reinstatement with or without backwages.

In the present case, reference was made to Gauri Shanker vs. State of Rajasthan, wherein order of Labour Court had been modified by the Supreme Court of granting compensation in lieu of reinstatement. Further, Justice Vaishnav recalled the following observations of the Top Court:

The Division bench and the learned Single Judge under their supervisory jurisdiction should not have modified the award by awarding compensation in lieu of reinstatement which is contrary to the well settled principles of law laid down by this Court, in catena of cases.

Keeping in view the fact and the precedents that compensation would be detrimental to the Petitioners who had worked for more than 20 years. The order of the Labour Court was modified by the High Court of granting lump-sum compensation and ordered the employer to reinstate the workmen in service with continuity of service.

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CENTRE NOTIFIES APPOINTMENT OF ELEVEN ADDITIONAL JUDGES IN PUNJAB & HARYANA HC

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On Sunday, the Central Government notified the appointment of 11 advocates as Additional Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Advocates appointed as additional judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court are namely:

1. Nidhi Gupta,

2. Sanjay Vashisth,

3. Tribhuvan Dahiya,

4. Namit Kumar,

5. Harkesh Manuja,

6. Aman Chaudhary,

7. Naresh Singh,

8. Harsh Bunger,

9. Jagmohan Bansal,

10. Shri Deepak Manchanda,

11. Alok Jain

The present appointment will take the actual strength of the High Court to 57 judges against a sanctioned strength of 85.

The judges have been appointed for a period of two years with effect from the date they assume charge of their respective offices, an official notification read.

In its meeting held on July 25, 2022, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had recommended the names of these 11 advocates for elevation as Additional Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In 2021, the appointment tally in High Courts was 120 in addition to 9 appointments in the Supreme Court. However, the entire appointment process in higher judiciary has been put on a fast track.

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KERALA HC: BAIL GRANTED TO A DOCTOR ACCUSED OF POSTING DEFAMATORY ARTICLES AGAINST LAKSHADWEEP ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS

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The Kerala High Court in the case Dr K P Hamsakoya vs Union Territory of Lakshadweep observed and granted an anticipatory bail to a senior doctor who has been accused of posting on facebook defamatory articles against officers of the Administration of Lakshadweep.

The bench comprising of Justice Viju Abraham observed and was essentially dealing with the pre-arrest bail plea of Dr. K P Hamsakoya, who is one of the senior-most doctors serving the Lakshadweep Administration and that presently, he is under suspension.

The Court observed that Dr. Hamsakoya has been accused of posting defamatory articles on Facebook against officers of the Administration of Lakshadweep, thus causing a negative effect amongst the public against the Administration. He has been booked under Sections 505 (1) (b), 505 (2) and 500 of the IPC and Section 66 (A) (b) of the Information Technology Act.

Before the Court, the Counsels Ajit G Anjarlekar, G.P.Shinod, Govind Padmanaabhan, and Atul Mathews appearing argued that he has been falsely implicated in the case and has been booked under the offence punishable under Section 66 (A) (b) of the IT Act (a provision which has been struck down in its entirety by the Apex Court).

It was contended by the court that the offences under Section 500 IPC cannot be registered without a complaint being filed by a person who has been defamed.

The Court while considering the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature of the allegations, the pre-arrest bail was granted by the court to the petitioner and the court dismissed his plea with the following directions:

On August 29, 2022, the petitioner shall surrender before the investigating officer and shall co-operate with the investigation.

The court stated that in the event of the petitioner, he shall be produced before the jurisdictional Magistrate and shall be released on bail on his executing a bond for Rs.50,000/- with two solvent sureties each for the like sum as per the satisfaction of the jurisdictional Court.

It was stated by the court that if any of the aforesaid conditions are violated, the Investigating Officer of Minicoy Police Station, Union Territory of Lakshadweep has been given the liberty to file an application for cancellation of bail before the jurisdictional court.

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GUJARAT HC GRANTS RELIEF TO DIPLOMA HOLDERS: STUDENTS CAN’T BE FAULTED FOR PHARMACY COUNCIL’S FAILURE TO APPROVE MEDICAL STORES FOR IMPARTING TRAINING.

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The Gujarat High Court in the case Oza Nikun Dashrathbhai v/s State Of Gujarat observed and has come to the rescue of D.Pharm students who were denied registration as ‘Pharmacist’ by the State Pharmacy Council on the ground that they have not undertaken training from medical stores approved the Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015.

The Single bench comprising of Justice AS Supehia observed and noted that the Pharmacy Council of India has not approved any medical store under the Regulation for the purpose of imparting practical training of Diploma to the students in Pharmacy Course like the present petitioners.

Court Observations:

It was observed that the petitioners cannot be faulted for the action of the respondent authorities in not approving the medical stores under regulation 4.4 of the Regulation of 2015 and hence, no option was there to the petitioner to take their training from the respective medical stores.

It was claimed by the petitioner’s student that the State Council was not registering them as Pharmacists despite having undertaken the necessary training of 500 hours for three months from the respective medical stores.

Further, it was observed that the State had admitted that all documents of the Petitioners were genuine, however, the registration was denied solely for the aforesaid reason. Further, one of the governmental circulars had clarified that the process for granting approval of Chemist/ Pharmacy and Druggist will be notified through the online mode. But the same was targeted only at “prospective students” .

It was noted by the High Court that in order to avoid hardship to current students, who had already undergone or undergoing the D.Pharm course while taking the practical training under the Pharmacy, Chemist and Druggist licensed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, as per precedence students will be considered for the registration, provided the students had undergone the D.Pharm course in an institution approved under PCI under section 12 of the Act.

Accordingly, the High Court directed the State Council to register the Petitioners as Pharmacists within three months.

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UTTARAKHAND HC SAYS UTTARKASHI’S BAN ON “MEAT SHOPS” WITHIN 500 METRES OF “RIVER GANGA” IN LINE WITH CONSTITUTIONAL SCHEME

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It is interesting to note that while fully, firmly and finally very rightly and commendably upholding the ban that was imposed on meat shops that was enacted by the Zila Panchayat of Uttarkashi District, the Uttarakhand High Court in an extremely remarkable, robust, refreshing and rational judgment titled Naved Qureshi vs State of Uttarakhand & Ors in Writ Petition (MS) No. 2073 of 2016 that was pronounced recently on July 20, 2022 has expressed its consonance with a bye-law of Zila Panchayat, Uttarkashi to the effect that no shop for butchering animals and selling meat within 500m from the bank of river Ganga shall be permitted. It must be noticed here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra said quite clearly that keeping in view the “special status” of Uttarakhand and the river Ganga that emerges from District Uttarkashi and the sanctity attached with the river Ganga by majority of population of Uttarakhand, the decision taken by the Zila Panchayat by making the said bye-laws is in line with the scheme of Constitution of India, as envisaged in Part IX. It very rightly ruled that the District Magistrate had not committed any error in not issuing a no objection certificate to the petitioner to run a mutton shop, at a premises situated at 105 metres distance from the bank of Ganga.

At the outset, this extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment authored by a Single Judge Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth lucidly in para 1 that, “By filing this writ petition, the petitioner has prayed for the following reliefs:

“i. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari calling for the original record and pleased to quash the impugned order dated 08.06.2016 (Annexure – 2) passed by the respondent no. 2 i.e. District Magistrate, Uttarkashi, District Uttarkashi.

ii. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of Mandamus directing and commanding the respondents that they shall not interfere in the peaceful business activities i.e. in running the mutton shop in his house situated at the roadside of Gangotri National Highway without any valid reason.

iii. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of Prohibition making declaration to the effect that after central enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 the bye-laws no. 3 framed by the respondent Zila Panchayat became illusionary and same are not applicable for the purpose of regulating food safety activities in rural area, therefore, no license from respondent Zila Panchayat is required to do business.””

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The facts of the case, not disputed at this stage, are that petitioner is a resident of village Hina Gaon, Police Station – Maneri, District – Uttarkashi. His father was recorded tenure holder having bhumidhari land bearing Khasra Nos. 1555 and 15556, situated in the aforesaid village. He was running a mutton shop since 2006 in a rented accommodation in village – Hina Gaon, after getting license from Zila Panchayat. Though, according to him, license was not required after enforcement of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as “FSS Act, 2006” for brevity). In the year 2012, he also obtained a license from the designated authority under the FSS Act, 2006. Till the year, 2015, he ran his shop at aforesaid rented premises and after construction of his own shop over the bhumidhari land, he shifted his business of butchering and selling mutton into it. On 27.02.2016, respondent no. 3 – Zila Panchayat, Uttarkashi, through Additional Mukhya Adhikari, issued a notice to the petitioner to shift his mutton shop, within 7 days to another place, as his shop is situated 105 metre away from the bank of river Ganga, which is violative of the existing by-laws. As per the by-laws, operation of mutton/chicken shop within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga is prohibited. On 15.03.2016, petitioner being aggrieved by the notice, preferred a Writ Petition (MS) No. 651 of 2016, which was disposed of, in limine, by this Court by giving opportunity to the petitioner to file a representation before the Authorities and with a direction to the Authorities to dispose of the same. Thereafter, on 09.05.2016, the petitioner served a copy of the aforesaid order on respondents no. 2 and 3 and prayed for issuance of license for the next financial year 2016-17 but the respondent no. 2 – District Magistrate, Uttarkashi vide order dated 09.05.2016 rejected the representation of the petitioner on the basis of the Resolutions of meeting held on 04.05.2016.”

In this same para 2, it is then further mentioned that, “Feeling aggrieved by the aforesaid order dated 09.05.2016 and minutes of meeting dated 04.05.2016, the petitioner preferred a Writ Petition (MS) No. 1383 of 2016 wherein respondents were directed to file counter affidavit within four weeks and the said writ petition is still pending. In the meantime, petitioner again represented before respondent no. 2 – District Magistrate, Uttarkashi to grant him no objection certificate, which was again rejected. The said order of the learned District Magistrate, Uttarkashi is assailed in this writ petition.”

On the one hand, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that the only ground on which his application for grant of no objection certificate has been rejected by the District Magistrate, Uttarkashi is that his shop is situated within 500 metre from the bank of river Ganga. According to the petitioner, after passing of the FSS Act, 2006, the jurisdiction of Zila Panchayat is ceased to operate and it is only the Designated Authority, under the FSS Act, 2006 has authority to grant license or reject it in favour of the petitioner for running a shop for selling and butchering the animals. Therefore, he prayed that annexure no. 2 to the writ petition be quashed and it be declared that FSS Act, 2006 shall have overriding effect on the by-laws issued by the Zila Panchayat.”

On the other hand, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “Learned counsel for the State would submit that petitioner was granted license by the Designated Authority to run the shop at a particular place but he shifted his shop, after getting the license from the Designated Authority under the FSS Act, 2006, to another place, which came within 500 metre from the bank of river Ganga, therefore, no objection certificate was not granted to him and order passed by District Magistrate, Uttarkashi does not have any infirmity or perversity and requires no interference.”

Furthermore, the Bench then succinctly discloses in para 5 that, “Learned counsel for the State further submits that as per Section 106 (1) of the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act, 2016, the Zila Panchayats have powers to make by-laws. Section 106 of the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act, 2016 is quoted as under:

“106 Powers of Zila Panchayat to make bye-laws (1) A Zila Panchayat may, and where required by the State Government shall, make bye-laws for its own purposes and for the purposes of {Kshettra Panchayats}, applicable to the whole or any part of the rural area of the district, consistent with this Act and with any rule, in respect of matters required by this Act to be governed by bye-laws and for the purposes of promoting or maintaining the health, safety and convenience of the inhabitants of the rural area of the district and for the furtherance of the administration of this Act in the Khand and the district.””

Needless to state, the Bench then notes explicitly in para 6 that, “Article 243 (Part IX) of the Constitution of India provides for formation of Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat. Article 243 G provides for the powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats. For better appreciation of the matter, it is quoted below:

“243G. Powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats – Subject to the provisions of this Constitution the Legislature of a State may, by law, endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority and may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government and such law may contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats, at the appropriate level, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, with respect to –

(a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice;

(b) the implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them including those in relation to the matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.””

Quite ostensibly, the Bench then enunciates in para 7 that, “Thus, it is apparent from the aforesaid Article that the Constitution recognises the Zila Panchayats, as sovereign authorities, having powers to plan for economic development and social justice, as may be entrusted to them including those in relation to the matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule. Article 243 G also provides that the Legislature of a State, may by law, endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government. Entry 4 in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution of India provides for animal husbandry, dairying and poultry. Entry 22 provides for markets and fairs. Thus, it is clear that as far as markets and fairs and animal husbandry, dairying and poultry are concerned, the Zila Panchayat, as an institution of self government, may function to regulate animal husbandry etc. as mentioned above.”

Be it noted, the Bench then quite forthrightly holds in para 8 that, “Therefore, the contention of learned counsel for the petitioner that after passing of the FSS Act, 2006, the powers of Zila Panchayat ceased to operate with respect to food items does not appears to be correct. Since, the Zila Panchayats have been granted powers to act as institutions of self government, the provisions made by Zila Panchayat has to be harmoniously constructed with the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006.”

Most significantly, what truly constitutes the cornerstone of this notable judgment is then encapsulated in para 9 wherein it is held that, “In view of the above, this Court is of the opinion that no objection certificate is mandatory to be obtained from the Zila Panchayat or the District Magistrate for running a mutton shop in the present matter. At the same time, keeping in view the special status of State of Uttarakhand and the river Ganga that emerges from District Uttarkashi and the sanctity attached with the river Ganga by majority of population of Uttarakhand, the decision taken by the Zila Panchayat by making by-laws to the effect that no shop for butchering the animals and selling the meat within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga appears in line with the scheme of Constitution of India, as envisaged in Part IX. Hence, this Court is of the view that respondent no. 2, District Magistrate, Uttarkashi has not committed any error in not issuing no objection certificate to the petitioner to run a mutton shop within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes aptly by directing in para 10 that, “Accordingly, the writ petition fails and is hereby dismissed. It is observed that any person, who runs a meat shop for selling and butchering the animals in District Uttarkashi, shall obtain no objection certificate from the concerned authority, in the light of by-laws made by the Zila Panchayat and also obtain license from the designated authority.”

In sum, the Uttarakhand High Court has very rightly held that Uttarkashi’s ban on meat shops within 500 meters of the river Ganga is in line with constitutional scheme. So it definitely merits no reiteration of any kind that the same has to be complied with accordingly in its entirety! No denying it!

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