Declaration of rights
Right to sleep a fundamental right, says Supreme Court
TNN, February 25
Without prejudice, the worthy members of the Bar do not seem to have realised that the honourable Supreme Court's judgment on the Right to Sleep has enormous implications for jurisprudence. The exalted judge has said, inter alia: "The right to sleep… (has).. always been treated to be a fundamental right like a right to breathe, to eat, to drink, to blink etc."
Prima facie, the Right to Blink appears trivial. But, to realise its importance, contrast it with the Right to Wink, which is not a fundamental right at all. That is because while the Right to Blink is an essential component of the Right to Life, the aforementioned Right to Wink is not.
Blinking is an involuntary act, which comes naturally, while Section 23 (5) (e), para viii of the Indian Venal Code deals with cold-blooded, premeditated winking.
But if the Right to Eat is fundamental, so too must be its opposite. Just as night and day go together, so too do the Right to Eat and the Right to Excrete. It is a simple matter of dialectics. The squeamish may not wish to discuss such issues, but it's entirely appropriate in view of India's status as a member of the Turd World.
Consider also the right to urinate, or, in legal parlance, the Right to Pee. Herein lies the importance of custom. In England, the people who pee the most are called Peers of the Realm and are addressed as ‘Your Lordship'. In India, it has long been our custom for male peers to pee on roadsides. Just as depriving a person of sleep results in "energy misbalance, indigestion and also affects cardiovascular health", as the said judgement put it, stopping a person from relieving himself also has ill effects. There is, therefore, a strong case for enacting a Right to Pee in the Open Air. Spitting, on the other hand, is more a national sport than a custom and should be accorded the status of kabaddi or kho-kho, instead of insisting on a Right to Expectorate.
The legal question that arises is: what about other involuntary acts, such a belching, coughing, sneezing or, indeed, farting? Quo vadis, no sorry, nota bene, the test should be where the involuntary act is done. Nobody should pass wind in Parliament, heretofore or hereinafter, unless the honourable members authorise it. Also, these rights must not be taken lightly. The Right to Pass Wind should be exercised with gravity and decorum, preferably after an affidavit has been filed. There also exist another class of involuntary actions that can best be described as passive, and there is a need, caeteris paribus, for a Right to Have Smelly Underarms. Opinion is divided, however, on a Right to Halitosis.
We come now to the nuances of the Right to Sleep. Does it include the Right to Yawn? Pranab Mukherjee has complained that rising subsidy bills are giving him sleepless nights. Does it give him, ipso facto, the Right to Yawn during the Budget Speech? The Supreme Court has said the Right to Sleep does not apply in Parliament, but there is the important matter of delineating the legal distinctions between naps, snoozes, light dozes and forty winks. Ergo, there is a crying need for Parliament to frame detailed laws clarifying the position on all these new fundamental rights. And the nation also needs to contemplate, if there is a Right to Sleep, can the Right to Snore be far behind?
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. Views expressed by the author are personal.