Health is Wealth is a golden saying. As we are experiencing the pandemic, we all have realized that more than money or any material object, our health is very precious. To lead a good lifestyle, it is very important to be healthy. For every human being, health is a matter of concern. Keeping aside age, caste, gender, religion, nationality, for any human being, health is an important asset.
Health is also an important indicator of the growth and development of any state. The state has a duty towards its citizens to provide them with medical facilities and assistance. The Indian Constitution considers ‘Right to Life’ to be a fundamental right and that it is the duty of the state to ensure the same for all the citizens. Right to Health is also a fundamental right which also falls under the ambit of Article 21 In simple words, it means that every person has a right of living a healthy life and getting adequate medical facilities and treatment. However, the mere statement of calling it a right is not enough, there has to be a legal sanction too. In other words, the backing of law and order to make this right enforceable is equally important
The Right to Health is a fundamental right and it is a part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, that gives the Right to Life provided under the said article a wider ambit and also includes the right to healthcare as a part of article 21. The Directive Principles of the State Policy determined under Part IV of the Constitution of India explicitly or inexplicitly states the required measures that the State should take to maintain the citizens or communal health.
Not only the Indian Constitution recognizes Right to Health it is recognized internationally as well. It is also a human right. The Human Right to health guarantees a proper system of health protection for all, which would not discriminate anyone on any parameters or by any and every means, also to provide treatment at low cost or free to those who cannot afford the same.
Right to Health – International Recognition
The World Health Organization in its Preamble of its Constitution elucidates health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” The World Health Organization has made policies on international as well as regional level on matters related to health. It has a human rights-based perspective while framing the policies. The WHO has while framing the policies not only gave importance to Physical health but also to Mental health. Mental health is the psychological well-being of every human.
The WHO further states that ‘Violations or lack of attention to human rights can have serious health consequences. Overt or implicit discrimination in the delivery of health services – both within the health workforce and between health workers and service users – acts as a powerful barrier to health services, and contributes to poor quality care.’[i] Simplifying it, human rights are inalienable rights, and it is the responsibility of the state to maintain them. It is important that there is no discrimination made on any ground while providing these healthcare facilities.
Under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “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.”[ii] In simple words, it means that every individual irrespective of his nationality has the right to the quality standard of living, not only for himself but also for his family. Nutritious food, safe drinking water, proper health facilities and shelter constitute a good standard of living. All these services i.e. the health care facilities must be available i.e. within reach, accessible and of good quality.
The right to health was also acknowledged as human rights in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the year 1966.
There are several international conventions that have recognized the Right to Health as well as other rights that are related to it. Not only the international organizations but also many regional organizations and non – profit organizations practice the right to health and try and make a reach to the people who do not have access to it and cannot afford it. To name some, Freedom from Hunger, Africa’s Right to Health Campaign, Central for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Global Health Council and Doctors of the World.
Right to Health- National Recognition
In India, the right to health has been upheld under the Constitution. As stated earlier, it is the duty and responsibility of the state to provide sufficient health care facilities to its citizens without any discrimination. The state must make sure that all required medical facilities should reach each and every part of the state. Article 21 in Part III and Article 39(e) (f), Article 42 and Article 47 in part IV of the Constitution has stated provisions related to Right to Health.
Article 21 of Constitution of India –
Right to Health is a fundamental right that is vowed to every citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution, although there is no direct provision related to the same. Article 21 clearly states that except according to the procedure established by law, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty. Right to Health is one of the vital elements of Right to Life. In the case of Vincent Parikurlangara Vs Union of India, [iii] the Supreme Court held the right to the maintenance and improvement of public health that is included in the right to live with human dignity and enshrined in Article 21.[iv] Article 21 of the Constitution puts an obligation on the state to protect and conserve life.
The word “life” in Article 21 does not only mean the existence of animal beings, but it is a wider term and includes the right to sanitation and proper hygienic conditions for living.
The hospitals that are regulated or administered by the government, have a duty to provide aid and assistance to every person. These government hospitals should have all the basic equipment for treating the patients or in severe cases for stabilizing the patient. There should be no delay or negligence while giving treatment to the patient. The government as well as the private medical practitioners have a duty of care towards the patients. The same was held in Parmananda Katara Vs Union of India. The remedy under Article 32 or under Article 226 can be sought with the right is breached. Several Public Interest Litigation has been filed under for the violation of the Right to Health.
Article 39 (e) and (f) of the Constitution of India –
Article 39 (e) talks about the health and the strength of the workers. It directs the protection against exploitation for economic reasons. It further states that men, women and even children should not be employed which is not suited to their strength. In that case, children should not be employed in places where they are exposed to hazard. Also, women and children should not be made to do hard labor.
In Kirloskar Brothers Ltd Vs Employees State Insurance Corporation,[v] the Apex Court had held that the Right to Health is a fundamental right guaranteed to the workmen.
Article 39 (f) of the Constitution states that children should be given opportunities and facilities. It’s a mandate against the mental, emotional, physical, moral and economic exploitation of children. Children and youth should be protected against exploitation.
Article 41 of Constitution of India –
The article also imposes an obligation and responsibility on the state to provide aid and assistance to those who are disabled, sick and ailing within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
Article 42 of Constitution of India –
Article 42 directs the state to make provisions for securing just humane conditions for individuals to work and also provide for maternity relief. The implementation can be seen in, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. It is the obligation and responsibility of the state to protect the mother. It is important to provide safe and secure environmental conditions and a minimum condition for the workers ensuring dignity at the workplace. This right is also linked with right to live with human dignity.
Article 47 of Constitution of India –
Article 47 affirms that it is the foremost responsibility of the State to increase the level of nutrition and also the standard of living. For making this enforceable, the state drafts certain policies that would benefit people. These policies are made especially for those who cannot afford the basic needs.
It is also the duty of the state to prohibit the consumption of drinks as well as substances that are intoxicating and injurious to health, except for those that are used and consumed for medicinal purposes. There are few states like Gujarat, that have banned intoxicating drinks.
It is also important to understand that for maintaining good health it is important to have a clean environment. It is not only the duty of the state but also of every citizen to keep the environment clean (Article 48 A).
The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution also has a certain proviso for Right to Health, though there is no explicit mention of the same. Entry 6 of the state list states that proper health care is also the responsibility of the state government. It states about the Public Health and Sanitization and certain provisions related to Hospitals and Dispensaries.
Entry 7 of the same list is related to health law. It states that consumption of alcohol or consumption of any intoxicating drink is harmful to the health and thus the State has the power to make laws with regards to the same. The laws may be with regards to the manufacturing, production, distribution, transportation, or purchase of alcohol.
The third list, the Concurrent list, states that both, the central government and the state government have the power to make laws in matters concerning health.
Laws and Schemes Related to Healthcare in India –
There are various legislations and schemes related to healthcare in India, governing varied aspects of healthcare.
India has laws governing the medical practice like The Indian Medical Council Act, 1956; Indian Medical Degree Act, 1916; Indian Nursing Council Act, 1947, etc. We also have legislation related to patients, like The Mental Health Act, 1987; The Epidemic Disease Act 1897, Transplantation of Human Organ Act 1994 Rules, 1995. The government has also passed legislation with respect to women and their health, like The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971; Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, etc. Laws like The Drugs and Cosmetic Act; 1940, The Pharmacy Act governs the sale, manufacture, distribution of medicines.
The government has also designed and implemented various schemes and programs for healthcare in accordance with the Directive Principle of State Policy. Schemes and programs like Mission Indradhanush, Pulse Polio, Ayushman Bharat Yojana, Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, etc. to provide the citizen with good healthcare facilities and some to eradicate the diseases.
The right to health is an intrinsic component of fundamental rights. Safeguarding human life is of the greatest importance. It is the primary duty of every state to secure the health of its citizen by providing them with proper medical assistance. The state has to make the necessary legislation to ensure the community health is taken care of. It is also essential that the people are enlightened, especially in the rural areas, about the health care facilities that are provided to them by the government and about how they can take care of their health. It is also important to make people aware of various diseases and the medications available for the same. Health care should be given prime importance, as for any country to develop, a healthy working population is very crucial. Public health should be a state prime concern. Constructive steps must be taken to safeguard this right. The right to Health is thus a vital right.
[i] Human Rights and Health, World Health Organization – Newsroom
[ii] Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 25
[iii] AIR 1987 2 SCC 165
[iv] Constitutional law of India – by J N Pandey
[v] AIR 1996 2 SCC 682
Other References –
The Right to Health –https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Factsheet31.pdf
Human Rights and Health –https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/human-rights-and-health
Laws Applicable to Medical Practice and Hospitals in India –https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269662118_Laws_Applicable_to_Medical_Practice_and_Hospitals_in_India#:~:text=Abstract%20Healthcare%20in%20India%20features,the%20constituent%20states%20and%20territories.&text=The%20first%20legal%20recognition%20and,act%20was%20passed%20in%201938.
Healthcare Schemes in India – https://www.oxfamindia.org/blog/15-healthcare-schemes-india-you-must-know-about?gclid=Cj0KCQjwu8r4BRCzARIsAA21i_BXVl96svNI4D2Bl2Xsw_ZFtme58TbHqFM4cocpqY13xRJmVLArwu0aAmBQEALw_wcB
This Article is Authored by Priya Bhalerao, Student at Amity Law School, Mumbai.
Also Read – The Constitution Of India On Right To Health
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