Should a woman who has been lying unconsious in a Mumbai hospital for 36 years be allowed to die or be left in the current vegetative state?
That was the question put before the Supreme Court today when it said that “under the law of the country, we cannot allow a person to die”.
The remarks by a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices A K Ganguly and B S Chauhan came when a direction was sought that the woman be not fed.
The Bench sought a response from the Centre and Maharashtra government on a petition moved by 59-year-old Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug who has been lying in a vegetative state for last 36 years in Mumbai’s KEM hospital after being sexually assaulted by a sweeper.
The Bench, which was hesitant to entertain the petition, agreed to issue the notice after advocate Shekhar Nafde explained it is not the case of “euthanasia” and the plea on behalf of the hapless woman was moved by her next friend Pinki Virani.
“This is no human right. Her life is worse than animal existence,” the advocate said referring to Shanbaug.
He said Shanbaug, who had joined as a nurse in the KEM hospital in 1966, was sexually assaulted in 1973, rendered immobile and unconscious and has been lying on bed after the incident.
The petition sought a direction for the state government and Municipal Corporation of Brihan Mumbai to carry out tests to ascertain the medical condition of the woman.