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Constitution bench asks Centre to ponder passive euthanasia issue in slow-moving Bhushan case

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to consider the matter of passive euthanasia and made it clear that pendency in the apex court should not come in the way of authorities to take a decision on the matter.

The Centre earlier told the court to allow a public debate on passive euthanasia or “living will” by terminally ill patients not willing to prolong their lives by the use of life-support system instead of determining the issue judicially, as sought by non-governmental organisation Common Cause.

Urging that the public debate on the contentious issue would be a better course, Additional Solicitor General PS Patwalia, appearing for the Centre, told an apex court bench of justices Anil R Dave, Kurian Joseph, Shiva Kirti Singh, AK Goel and Rohinton Nariman that the law commission report was under examination of the health ministry.

Seeking deferment of court hearing till July, Patwalia told the constitution bench that once the health ministry examined the law commission report, the law ministry will draft the necessary law.

Even as NGO counsel Prashant Bhushan urged the court to consider the limited issue of a terminally ill patient executing a ‘living will’ as the right to die with dignity was a part of the right to life, Justice Kurian Joseph asked him if he wanted “judicial decisions or the people’s decision”.

Allowing the Centre’s plea for more time, the bench adjourned the matter till 20 July, observing that the government was considering the issues of passive euthanasia and living will.

The court made it clear that the matter’s pendency before it should not come in the way of a decision by authorities who should go ahead with consideration of the issue.

As Prashant Bhushan pointed to a long adjournment saying the petition was filed in 2005, the court said” “We are only giving a reasonable time.”

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