Several legislators, too, have previously sought amendments to the Constitution, to recognise ‘right to health’ as a fundamental right.

Villupuram MP D Ravikumar addressing a press conference
news Rights Friday, July 09, 2021 - 18:25

As India grapples with the coronavirus pandemic crisis, Villupuram MP D Ravikumar has written to the Lok Sabha, proposing a law that guarantees ‘Right to Health’ to every citizen of the country. Currently, the Constitution of India does not explicitly recognise ‘right to health’ as a fundamental right, although Article 21 guarantees protection of life and personal liberty. The proposed Bill will be called the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021, and proposes to insert new Article 21(B). 

Under Right to Health, "(1) every person shall have access to affordable and quality health care services, and (2) the State shall take measures towards the progressive realisation of the right under clause (1),” Ravikumar wrote. The MP sought to insert a ‘new Article 21 B’ under which “no one shall be refused emergency medical treatment.”

There has been a growing voice to recognise ‘right to health’ as a fundamental right, in line with international conventions. Several legislators, too, have previously sought amendments to the Constitution, for a rights-based approach to health. In 2017, Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh, Vijayasai Reddy, had sought ‘Right to Health’ be made a fundamental right. The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Under this, the state shall provide health protection to all citizens, including prevention, treatment and control of diseases and access to essential medicines, the Bill had proposed. The Bill said that all citizens should also have access to basic health services, emergency medical treatment and mental healthcare. It further stated that the state should earmark not less than 8% of the annual financial statement towards healthcare.

Introducing the Bill, Vijayasai had said that the government expenditure on health is only 1.4% of the GDP and further added that the public health infrastructure is "inadequate and unequally distributed."

In 2018, Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Rupin Bora, had also written to the Parliament, seeking enactment of the Bill making health a fundamental right.

The MP said that the Indian Constitution does not recognise the Right to Health as a fundamental right although some provisions of the Directive Principles of State Policy are directly or indirectly related to public health. Article 47 directs the States to raise the nutrition levels and standard of living of people and to improve public health. 

The MP had reasoned, “The State expenditure on health is only 1.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which needs to be increased to at least 10%. India has one of the highest disease burdens in the world and India's poor health outcomes is one of our major developmental challenges.” 

Ripun had said, “There is an urgent need for a justiciable mechanism for protection of the health of all Indian citizens which includes prevention, treatment and control of diseases as well as access to free of cost or affordable medical treatment, diagnosis and essential medicines. Making the Right to Health a fundamental right will be a step towards achieving this goal. It is the duty of the State to provide free of cost or affordable healthcare services for all its citizens,” he further added.

As recently as 2019, MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi had also introduced Right to Universal and Free Health Care Bill in the Rajya Sabha which aimed "to provide right to free and compulsory healthcare services and universal health to people." 

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