Right to Sleep: Legal Connotations in Consonance with Article 21, Constitution of India

This Article discusses the growing scope of Right to Life and how it has now encompassed Right to sleep with special reference to the Ramlila Maidan case.

Right to Sleep & Article 21

For a human being to exist and have a balanced life, sleep is an integral part. Recently, the Supreme Court of India has widened the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution of India and included Right to Sleep under the Right to life. Article 21 reads, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Article 21 confers on every person the fundamental right to life and personal liberty. The right to life is not just confined to a guarantee against taking away an individual’s life but has a wider connotation. The Supreme Court in a catena of cases held that “any act which damages or injuries or interferes with the use of any limb or faculty of a person wither permanently or temporarily, would be within the inhibition of Article 21”. The object of Article 21 is to serve as a restraint upon the executive, so that it may not proceed against the life or personal liberty of the individual, except under the authority of some law and in conformity with the procedure laid down therein. This Article can be invoked only if a person is detained by or under the authority of the State.

Landmark Cases under Right to Sleep

Prior to Maneka Gandhi’s decision, Article 21 guaranteed the right to life and personal liberty to citizens only against the arbitrary action of the executive, and not from the legislative actions. But after the Maneka Gandhi’s decision, Article 21 now protects the right to life and personal liberty of citizens not only from the executive action but also from the legislative actions. From time to time the scope of the right to life has been widened by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in Unni Krishnan v. State of AP[1], a five-judge Constitutional bench held that the Right to Education is implicit in Right to Life and Personal Liberty. Similarly, in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[2], the Court held that Right to livelihood is included in the Right to life as no person can live without the means of living.

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Recently, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has broadened the ambit of the right of life to bring in a citizen’s right to sleep peacefully under it. A citizen of a country has a right to sound sleep because it is fundamental to life, the Supreme Court said while ruling that the police action on a sleeping crowd at Baba Ramdev’s rally at Ramlila Maidan amounted to the violation of their crucial right.
The Supreme Court further added that sleep is essential for a human being to maintain the health necessary for its very existence and survival. Sleep is, therefore, a fundamental and basic requirement without which the existence of life itself would be in peril, and thereby termed as a basic human right.

Conclusion

In the Ramlila Maidan [3]case, a decision was taken by a Two Judge Bench, comprising of Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar that the Right to Sleep constitutes to Right to Life. One of the Justices further added that the Delhi Police has breached the Right to Privacy by using unwarranted force on the sleeping crowd.
Further, in the explanation given by the Justices, it was held that Right to sleep is no more a luxury to a person but a basic necessity for a human life. Reasonable regulations of time and place have to be followed in exercising of such a right.

Also read Legality of Euthanasia vis-à-vis Right to Life – An Incessant Dilemma in the Periphery of International Human Rights Law


[1]1993 AIR 217

[2]1986 AIR 180

[3]Ramlila Maidan Incident, In Re.

 (2012) 5 SCC 1