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This article was written by Vidhatri Bharti, a student of Army Institute of Law.
“The right to live with human dignity encompasses within its manifold, some of the finer facets of human civilization which makes life worth living. The expanded connotation of life would mean the tradition and cultural heritage of the person concerned.” CERC v. Union of India
The Constitution of India is the Fundamental and Supreme law of the land and fundamental Rights form an indispensible part of this law. Forming the basic structure of the constitution they cannot be contravened or abridged by any statutory provision, any law that abrogates such rights would be violating the doctrine of basic structure.
Article 21, one of these fundamental rights, has been held to be the heart of the Constitution, the most organic and progressive provision in our living constitution, and the foundation of our laws. According to this Article no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.
The right to life is undoubtedly the most fundamental of all rights and has a broad meaning attached to it, rather, one of the most fascinating developments of the Indian Constitution is extension of the dimensions to Article 21. Right to Life covers under its ambit various aspects such as right to livelihood, right to shelter, right to privacy, right to reputation, right to health and also until a few years back right to sleep.
RIGHT TO SLEEP UNDER THE AMBIT OF ARTICLE 21:
“Sleep and Death are twin brothers” -Homer
Sleep is a biological necessity and has been said to have therapeutic and soothing capabilities. Moreover, it is a part of nature’s cycle of life and rejuvenation. Thus, sleep can be called a fundamental right of every human being. Not having a proper sleep cycle can have several drawbacks and also lead to disorders not only pertaining to cardiovascular or digestive system but rather the entire human body. It is also a device adopted during warfare where prisoners of war and those involved in espionage are subjected to treatments depriving them of normal sleep.
According to Dr. Alexandros N. Vgontzas “If you lose one night of sleep, your mental performance is like you are legally drunk.” In fact many studies have found that if we don’t get enough sleep, we start getting a sour view of circumstances and get easily irritable and frustrated.
In the case of Sayeed Maqsood Ali v. State of M.P., Justice Dipak Misra observed that “Every citizen is entitled under Article 21 of the Constitution to live in a decent environment and has the right to sleep peacefully at night. Not for nothing it has been said sleep is the best cure for waking troubles and the sleep of a labouring man is sweet. Sleep brings serenity. Lack of sleep creates lack of concentration, irritability and reduced efficiency. It cannot be lost sight of that silence invigorates the mind, energises the body and quietens the soul. That apart, the solitude can be chosen as a companion by a citizen. No one has a right to affect the rights of others to have proper sleep, peaceful living atmosphere and undisturbed thought. No citizen can be compelled to suffer annoying effects of noise as that eventually leads to many a malady which includes cardio vascular disturbance, digestive disorders and neuro psychiatric disturbance.”
The Supreme Court for the first time discussed Right to Sleep as a fundamental right in the landmark judgement of Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union of India. The Apex court propounded that if a person is deprived of sleep, the effect thereof, is treated to be torturous. “Sleep is essential for a human being to maintain the delicate balance of health necessary….. Sleep is, therefore, a fundamental and basic requirement…”Terming it as a basic human right, the apex court ruled that police action on a sleeping crowd amounted to violation of their crucial right. An individual is entitled to sleep as comfortably and as freely as he breathes. Sleep is essential for a human being to maintain the delicate balance of 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. To disturb sleep, therefore, would amount to torture which is now accepted as a violation of human right. It would be similar to a third degree method which at times is sought to be justified as a necessary police action to extract the truth out of an accused involved in heinous and coldblooded crimes.
In the instant case, Baba Ramdev had held a rally against corruption and black money at Ramlila Maidan in February 2011 and on 6th June went on a hunger strike. Just after midnight, at about 12:30 a.m., a huge contingent of about more than a thousand policemen surrounded the encampments while everybody was fast asleep inside and they were forcibly woken up by the police, assaulted physically and were virtually thrown out of their tents. This was done in the purported exercise of the police powers conferred under section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure but it was held to be malice in law.
However, the Supreme Court analysed that Article 355 of the Constitution provided that the government of every state should act in accordance with the provisions of the Indian constitution.
Greatness of a bench lies in creativity
– Justice P.N. Bhagwati
The dimensions to article 21 continue to march towards new frontiers, and continues to be explored by the Indian judiciary. The concept of “Life” guaranteed under our constitution remains inexhaustible and a proof of this fact is the various dimensions which have been held to be a part of this fundamental right by judicial pronouncements.
As can be observed from the various precedents and authorities cited above, right to sleep like many other aspects of right, though not explicitly mentioned in Article 21, is an important part of the fundamental right to life. The suo moto action taken by the Apex court in the Ramlila Maiden case is also a laudable step in the direction of judicial review. To summarise, it can be said that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has shown ingenuity of high substance while interpreting all fundamental rights in particular Article 21.
However, one of the drawbacks of Article 21 can be its broadness although paradoxically it also works as an advantage. Thus, Article 21 in its very essence of having broad ingredients should be left for further judicial interpretation.
 (1995) 3 SCC 42.
 State Of West Bengal v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, (2010) 3 SCC 571.
 Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1993) 1 SCC 645.
 M.P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law,7th ed., Pg. 1158.
 Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union of India, (2012) 5 SCC 1.
 Sayeed Maqsood Ali v. State of M.P., AIR 2001 M.P. 220.
 Supra Note 5.