The second wave of COVID-19 has struck India with greater ferocity than the first, claiming more lives and wreaking havoc on the country’s medical infrastructure, as evidenced by a shortage of beds, oxygen, ambulances, and medications. “Article 21 of the Indian constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.” In this article, the term “life” refers to a life of human dignity, not survival or animal nature. It encompasses a broader range of rights, including the right to a livelihood, a higher standard of living, sanitary working conditions, and recreational environments. The right to health is necessary for living a dignified life. According to a broad reading of Article 21, the Supreme Court determined that the right to health is an integral part of the right to life and thus a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, in the most literal sense of the word. The court has been critical in enforcing positive standards on government officials in order to safeguard and improve public health.
Although the universal right to health is not expressly recognised in the Indian Constitution, it is stated in Article 38 of the Directive Principles of State Policy, which commits the state to ensuring a social order conducive to the advancement of the public good. In order to do this, the recognition of public health is necessary. Article 39(e) addressed workers health and safety with Article 41 mandating that the state provided public assistance, particularly to the sick and disabled. Furthermore, Article 42 states that the State has a primary responsibility to protect the health of the child and mother through maternity benefits. The primary responsibility of the State, according to Article 47, is to improve citizens’ nutrition and quality of life. It encompasses a broader range of rights, including the right to a livelihood, a higher standard of living, and safe working and recreational environments. The right to health is necessary for living a dignified life.
Over 2 lakh deaths have been reported in India as a result of covid-19, according to official statistics. A nation of 1.38 billion people paying approximately Rs. 7.2 lakh crore (put in euros/or usd) in taxes annually has failed to save its citizens’ lives due to a lack of oxygen, medicines, beds, ambulances, and ventilators. In the country, a ventilator costs around 4-5 lakh (twice the average income of a middle-class family), an oxygen cylinder costs around Rs. 50000 (income of families falling below poverty line), COVID medicines namely Remdesivir costs Rs. 900, and COVID vaccines at Rs. 250 in private centres, ambulances charging thousands of rupees during COVID emergencies. The high costs that people face despite their legal right to medical care are cause for concern. According to budget estimates for fiscal year 2018, approximately 1.3 percent of India’s GDP was spent on public health, compared to 16.9 percent in the United States, 11.2 percent in Germany, 11.2 percent in France, and 10.9 percent in Japan. India spends the least of the BRICS countries, with Brazil spending the most at 9.2 percent, South Africa at 8.1 percent, Russia at 5.3 percent, and China at 5%. By examining the percentage of GDP spent on healthcare in India, which is 1.3 percent, it is clear what areas require additional attention in the country. India has a total of 25,778 public hospitals, 713,986 beds, 35,700 intensive care units, and 17,850 ventilators, accounting for 38% of the country’s health infrastructure. The expenditure in this area is a serious concern that neither the government nor the people prioritise adequately. In a society, citizens will cheerfully contribute to religious or cultural events but will hesitate to contribute to critical infrastructure such as healthcare. Now that the pandemic has struck the country, all that remains is for us to fight for medical facilities. Nuclear weapons, missiles, and all our defence mechanisms have been ineffective in containing a microscopic virus that is claiming thousands of lives daily.
 Constitution of india, article 21
 Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh
 Sher Singh vs State Of Hp on 6 February, 2014
 Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India
 Ministry of health and family welfare, Government of India
 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India
This article has been submitted by Srishti Srivastava, Student – B.A.LLB. (Hons), Kirit P Mehta School of Law, NMIMS Mumbai. She is reachable at srishtisrivastava06o6[at]gmail.com.
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