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SC refers Aruna Shanbaug case to panel of doctors

Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times | By Bhadra Sinha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2011 01:55 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Monday constituted a special panel of three doctors to examine a 60-year-old woman in Mumbai who has approached the apex court to permit her to end her life.

Aruna Ramachandran Shanbaug has been brain dead since 1973, after she was sodomised by a sweeper at KEM hospital, Mumbai. Shanbaug has moved the court through her friend Pinki Virani after her brother and sister abandoned her.

A bench comprising Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Gyansudha Misra appointed the panel in wake of the variance between the allegations in the petition and the affidavit filed by the hospital’s dean, Amar Ramaji Pazare.

Contrary to the petitioner’s claim, the dean’s affidavit has claimed that Shanbaug accepts food in normal course and responds by facial expressions. According to him, she also makes sounds whenever she wants to use the toilet. The nursing staff, he added, now identifies her sounds and attends to it.

“We do not want to commit a judicial murder,” the bench said while appointing senior advocate Andhyarjuna to assist the court in the matter. It also issued notice to the Attorney General G E Vahanvati and fixed February 22 for further hearing.

Directing the panel to examine and submit a report to the court about Shanbaug’s condition, the bench further said they would also examine Virani’s locus standi (right to file) the petition before the SC.

“Normally, it’s the kith or kin who files such petitions. Is it justified to entertain the petition as a friend has filed it? We also want to examine that in the absence of a legislature who is entitled to take a decision regarding the life of someone who is in a vegetable condition? Should the courts entertain such petitions?” the bench said.

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