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A will can only be executed upon death: SC


New Delhi, July 15 :

The Supreme Court Tuesday said a will executed by a person can only be executed upon his or her death and not so long as he or she was alive even if in a vegetative state.

“A will can’t be executed till one is living be it in a vegetative condition,” said a constitution bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman.

The court observation came after finding itself unable to agree with counsel Prashant Bhushan’s plea for voluntary passive euthanasia in the case of a terminally ill person, who health was deteriorating and in medical opinion there was little hope of revival and recovery.

Supreme CourtThe voluntary passive euthanasia being canvassed by NGO Common Cause involves withdrawal of life support system to a terminally ill person and stopping medication.

The constitution bench was hearing a Feb 25 reference by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam (since retired), Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh seeking a clear enunciation of law on voluntary passive euthanasia in the light of social, legal, medical and constitutional perspective for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, urged the court to put in place a procedure under which a terminally ill person or whose health has deteriorated should be able to execute his or her will and ‘attorney authorisation’ for passive euthanasia as and when the situation arrives.

Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the plea for voluntary passive euthanasia was against public policy as it would be in the lines of abetment to suicide and attempt to commit suicide.

He said that since the issue concerned public policy, it can only be settled by parliament.

At one point, the court felt the entire matter could be referred to the Law Commission for examination, but Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said the commission by its Aug 11, 2012, report “Passive Euthanasia – A relook” had already dealt with the issue.

At this stage, the court asked Bhushan to peruse the Law Commission report and then take a call.

The court said if the issue raised by NGO Common Cause had already been addressed by the Law Commission, then it would proceed accordingly, otherwise it would ask the panel to examine the issue.

The court then adjourned the hearing till Wednesday.