According to World Health organization, Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

The Constitution of India has provisions regarding the right to health. Though, right to health is not included directly in as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution. However, we find that some provisions of Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) directly or indirectly related with public health. The duty of the state to ensure the creation and maintaining of conditions favourable to good health is cast by the Constitutional provisions.

Part IV of the constitution deals with the certain Principles known as “Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).” Unlike, Fundamental Rights, the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are non- binding in nature which means they are not enforceable by the courts for their violation. However, the Constitution itself declares that “these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duly of the state to apply these principles in making laws.” Hence, they impose a moral obligation on the state authorities for their implementation.

Article 47. Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health:

Article 47 enumerates the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.

Article 47 was in limelight in 2016 when Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar countered the arguments that imposition of the total prohibition impinged on fundamental right of citizens by pointing to this directive principle to justify the ban on alcohol in the state. "Article 47 of the Constitution gives direction that the state should protect health and nutrition of its citizen and strive to achieve total prohibition," he said, to justify his government's decision to put a complete ban on alcohol. Prohibition in Conformity with Article 47 of Constitution: Nitish

Art 47 is helpful for imposing stringent conditions on liquor trade with reference to Article 19(6). In Vincent Panikurlangara v. Union of India[1] the Court stated that “maintenance and improvement of public health have to rank high as these are indispensable to the very physical existence of the community and on the betterment of these depends, the building of the society of which the Constitution makers envisaged. Attending to public health, in our opinion, therefore is of high priority perhaps the one at the top”.

The Supreme Court while interpreting Article 47 has rightly stated that public health is to be protected for the betterment of the society. Further it has been held that, in this welfare era raising the level of nutrition and improvement in standard of living of the people are primary duties of the State.

In M.C. Mehta V. Union of India[2], it was held that, “Art 47 by themselves cast a duty on the State to secure the health of the people and improve public health.

It is a significant view of the Supreme Court that first it interpreted Right to Health under Part IV i.e. Directive Principles of State Policy and noted that it is the duty of the State to look after the health of the people at large.

 

 


[1] AIR 1987 SC 990

[2] JT 2002 (3) SC 527