Recognizing Right to Health in India

Indian Constitution does not provide explicitly the “Right to Health” as a fundamental right. This has been one of the core reasons behind India’s poor and crumbling public health sector.

Constitution and indirect references to Right to Health:

Article 39 (E) – State to secure the health of workers

Article 42 – State to ensure just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief

Article 47 – State to raise the nutrition levels & standard of living & to improve public health.

Article 243G (read with 11th Schedule, Entry 23) – Duty of Panchayats and Municipalities to strengthen public health.

Courts interpreting Right to Health:

Bandhua Mukti Morcha v Union of India & Ors: SC interpreted the right to health under Article 21 which guarantees the right to life.

State of Punjab v Ram Lubhaya Bagga: SC stated it’s the State’s responsibility to maintain health services.

State of Punjab & Ors v Mohinder Singh Chawla: Supreme Court reaffirmed that the right to health is fundamental to the right to life and should be put on record that the government had a constitutional obligation to provide health services.

Sept 2019/15th Finance Commission recommended:

1. Recognize the right to health as a fundamental right.

2. Shift right to health from state to the concurrent list.

At present, health, as a domain, is exclusively controlled by the state.

Top performers in SDG 3 (Good health and wellbeing) – Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka (Source – SDG Index 2019 by NITI Aayog).

Poor performers in SDG 3 (Good health and wellbeing) – Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Madhya Pradesh (Source – SDG Index 2019 by NITI Aayog).

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