Suicider: Please wait; Give one moment please?

Suicide is the strongest and last disapproval of life. It is all over the news that debonair Minister’s wife died in mysterious circumstances. How Sunanda Pushkar wife of Minister Shashi Tharoor died is wrapped in mystery. Cause of death is not known probably drug overdose. Ability to keep secrets is not the trait, known for this Minister but the Government machinery is expert in that till the press shred it by quoting ‘reliable sources’. It is apparent that the lady was under acute stress if not depression. It is also apparent that Tharoor was suspected to be romantically involved with a Pakistani Journalist. BTW adultery if committed by a male person in India, it is not a penal crime even if it may be a matrimonial misconduct.

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Aaron Swartz’s Prosecution in violation of International Law and Equity

Death of a crusader!

English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event.

English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aaron Swartz was a champion of the cause of free information. More so the freedom from intermediaries. First about his recent cause. JSTOR is a website which holds more than 1,400 journal titles in more than 50 disciplines from about 800 Universities, in a digital format. The authors of these articles get nothing from sharing their content but the JSTOR pays to the Publishers for participating the content in its database. BTW JSTOR also charges a fee for accessing its content.
Aaron was bulk downloading the contents via Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s  data network. JSTOR discovered and caught hold of Aaron. The matter was settled and Aaron returned the downloaded content to JSTOR. After the civil dispute between the affected parties was over, FBI arrested Aaron alleging wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer and claiming to be acting under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act {18 U.S.C. § 1030}. The question is:

Was prosecution of Aaron, even if legal, justified in overall circumstances? or was it a persecution to deter him from being a crusader of free information cause? Continue reading

Violent students on shoot out spree! Why?

Newtown in 1906

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Violence in educated people particularly students is a very serious matter. Adolescent age is the age of rebel. The newly acquired identity seeks protection by rebelling against known authority. Hormones do not help. Attention seeking behavior adds to the problems of adolescent. While adolescent age passes by, the habits acquired in this period do not part company easily. Children are raised in a pattern of military discipline, in schools, right from the Kinder Garden. Teachers often forget the human sensitiveness in their zeal to maintain school discipline. Matters get worse when the distinction between school and home is blurred for the purpose of discipline. Inside every mind are dark valleys of pain and dispair over disappointments over un-achieved results which everyone expects. A young lad keeping to himself, not mingling with his friends or having friends is a sure sign that he is drifting to the dark valleys of mind. Once in that valley, no relationship matters for pain overwhelms. For a parent killed by such an offspring, it becomes the last ignorant mistake in parenthood. The second last being the training to handle such weapon with dexterity.

Newtown in Connecticut is a small town with an area of 60 miles but population of less than thirty thousand and average household income of about $111000. It is also birthplace of famous game Scrabble. As regards Crime, the statistics for 2010 are as under:

Violent Crime      1
Rape                2
Robbery             3
Property Crime      248
Burglary            52
Motor Vehicle Theft 5
Larceny-theft       223

The above crime list shows one thing that people are not violent as the violent Crime is non-existent. In the face of above this is the news report, which was on front page of newspapers in India, as well:

A young gunman killed his mother and 25 other people, including 20 children, when he went on a shooting rampage inside US school, before turning the gun on himself, in one of the deadliest such incidents witnessed in the country.
The shooter whose act of firing indiscriminately at students and staff left the Connecticut city of Newtown shocked and paralyzed was identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
He first shot and killed his mother and then shot 20 students in the classroom before killing himself inside the school.
The incident occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown city of Connecticut state.
Lanza came dressed in all black carrying two guns. He opened fire first at the school’s office, then in his mother’s kindergarten class, according to news reports.” (Source:

It is time that we reconsider our need for discipline with the need for co-operation. There is complete lack of teaching for co-existence. Individuality has touched a new low in which personal feelings have precedence over community or parents or any other living being.
We must acknowledge that young people, do not understand transient nature of frustration and commit by taking drastic violent action in a very trivial matter. USA has a piquant position. Right to bear arm is a constitutional right. Controlling availability of arms has not been easy. It never will be. Killing in games, movies, TV and where not, has made it painless experience which is not true. Position is not very different in India, even though number of such incidence of violence are few and number of casualties have rarely passed beyond one or two. But one thing can not be denied that young alone can not be blamed. Educational Institution also can not escape its responsibility. Unless channel of communication is broken, hope keeps frustration lingering. Respect for life what to speak of human life is stooping low.

Full facts have not surfaced yet. Small Towns are often more private than they appear to be. If schools are not safe, no place is. But it is a time that some mechanism may be brought into existence to study all such cases of violence and shoot outs and to recommend changes, which must be implemented even if it requires drastic changes in our way of living.


Added on 17 Dec. 2012:

The 21st Century religion called psychiatry is biggest hindrance. They think that by making few cosmetic changes they can discipline people. Here discipline is part of problem. What we need is to live and demonstrate a compassionate way of life based on co-existance. We should get rid of the 18th Century, violence based mentality and make a new beginning.
It appears that mother was shot dead by the son at home and then he headed to school in her mother’s car to finish little toddlers. The inhuman behaviour is explained by inhuman or violent way of life. It appears that mother was a gun enthusiast who owned five registered guns in her name and perhaps she taught her son how to shoot which resulted in precise shooting killing everyone who came in the way.
Any person who considers shooting by gun a sport, is barbaric. This is the problem. No one will admit to be a barbarian. Hence there shall be no solution to the problem which is hypocrisy.

Added on 22 Dec. 2012:
This is the picture of a school building with all its grandeur. On 18th December a 17-year-old boy studying in class XI jumped off the roof of this school building, due to his poor performance in the exams. Teacher had no clue. Nor can she have when there are 50 students in the class. Education with minimum interaction. What a loss of life. What a shame. Suicide is no different from killing. It is violence with self.

modern convent school sector 3 dwarka delhi

© Sandeep Bhalla

Courageous News Readers

News readers, who open newspapers in the morning are a courageous lot. It really take lots of guts to read news items like these:

Gurgaon: Meghalaya CM’s niece found dead

Mumbai: Blisters on skin drives man to suicide

Rajasthan: Girl commits suicide after harassment

Gurgaon: Man murders wife, daughters, kills self

Simran Sood behind model Viveka Babajee’s suicide?

Chennai: Student kills self over cheating claim

Raj: 20-yr-old girl commits suicide after harassment

Chennai: 1 student suicide each week this year

Stress kills another Anna University student

Woman forced into prostitution by husband ends life.


I know about many of my friends who have devised ways to deal with it. Some would open the sports channel first. Some will read the financial page and revert to other news in the evening. No doubt the newspapers are filled with superfluous activities or frivolous actions as News. For me, I discontinued the newspapers about three years ago. A habit which had continued for several decades and I do not regret it. But it is no solution. If only we discriminate between the need of the body and the ambition of mind, there would be less grievances from life and people. Even lesser repentance for our actions, if there is such a thing.


Right to dignity and duty to live

Existence in sub-human state for 37 years

Aruna Shanbaug was a staff Nurse working in King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai. On the evening of 27th November, 1973 she was attacked by a sweeper in the hospital who wrapped a dog chain around her neck and yanked her back with it. He tried to rape her but finding that she was menstruating, he sodomized her. To immobilize her during this act he twisted the chain around her neck. The next day on 28th November, 1973 at 7.45 a.m. a cleaner found her lying on the floor with blood all over in an unconscious condition. Due to strangulation by the dog chain the supply of oxygen to the brain stopped and the brain got damaged. Though she survived, she never fully recovered from the trauma and brain damage resulting from the assault and strangulation. She was unable to see, speak or move and was in permanent vegetative state for 37 years.

A petition was filed on behalf of Aruna by Ms. Pinki Virani, a journalist/writer; before Supreme Court of India seeking a direction to Withdraw/withhold hydration/food/medical support so that Aruna could die. The Supreme Court of India in its previous Constitution Bench decision in Gian Kaur vs. State of Punjab, 1996(2) SCC 648 (vide paragraphs 22 and 23) had already held that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution does not include the right to die.
It is a burning question that if a person is reduced to near vegetable existence and is conscious or unconscious, and abandoned by relatives, should he/she be forced to undergo the torture of existence in pain and suffering?
The court appointed a panel of Doctors to examine Aruna who formulated the above question asunder:

Issues in this case (and other similar cases) are:
1. If a person who is in a permanent vegetative state (PVS), should withholding or withdrawal of life sustaining therapies (many authorities would include placement of an artificial feeding tube as a life sustaining intervention) be permissible or `not unlawful’ ?
2. If the patient has previously expressed a wish not to have life-sustaining treatments in case of futile care or a PVS, should his / her wishes be respected when the situation arises?
3. In case a person has not previously expressed such a wish, if his family or next of kin makes a request to withhold or withdraw futile life-sustaining treatments, should their wishes be respected?
4. Aruna Shanbaug has been abandoned by her family and is being looked after for the last 37 years by the staff of KEM Hospital. Who should take decisions on her behalf?

They suggested that the Dean of the Hospital and the staff of the Hospital which had been taking care of the Aruna for last 37 years would be the competent surrogate to take the decision about Withdrawing/withholding of hydration/food/medical support.

Hospital Staff denied the locus standi of Pinky Virani to file the petition as next friend. They also expressed that they had no problem in taking care of Aruna.

The Court referred to the laws enacted in various countries permitting physician assisted death (Active Euthanasia) and withdrawal of treatment/supplement (Passive Euthanasia) referred to decision of House of Lords in Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland (1993) All E.R. 82) (H.L.) and after extensively referring to its facts and quoting from it, they also referred to following concise observation of Lord Mustill:

” Threaded through the technical arguments addressed to the House were the strands of a much wider position, that it is in the best interests of the community at large that Anthony Bland’s life should now end. The doctors have done all they can. Nothing will be gained by going on and much will be lost. The distress of the family will get steadily worse. The strain on the devotion of a medical staff charged with the care of a patient whose condition will never improve, who may live for years and who does not even recognize that he is being cared for, will continue to mount. The large resources of skill, labour and money now being devoted to Anthony Bland might in the opinion of many be more fruitfully employed in improving the condition of other patients, who if treated may have useful, healthy and enjoyable lives for years to come. “

In regard to the scope of its jurisdiction it observed:
” 77. It is ultimately for the Court to decide, as parens patriae, as to what is in the best interest of the patient, though the wishes of close relatives and next friend, and opinion of medical practitioners should be given due weight in coming to its decision. As stated by Balcombe, J. in In Re J ( A Minor Wardship : Medical Treatment) 1990(3) All E.R. 930, the Court as representative of the Sovereign as parens patriae will adopt the same standard which a reasonable and responsible parent would do.
78. The parens patriae (father of the country) jurisdiction was the jurisdiction of the Crown, which, as stated in Airedale, could be traced to the 13th Century. This principle laid down that as the Sovereign it was the duty of the King to protect the person and property of those who were unable to protect themselves. The Court, as a wing of the State, has inherited the parens patriae jurisdiction which formerly belonged to the King. “

It also referred to and relied on Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497 U.S. 261(1990) and quoted the following passage from the judgement of Chief Justice Rehnquist:

“Not all incompetent patients will have loved ones available to serve as surrogate decision makers. And even where family members are present, there will be, of course, some unfortunate situations in which family members will not act to protect a patient. A State is entitled to guard against potential abuses in such situations.
An erroneous decision not to terminate results in maintenance of the status quo; the possibility of subsequent developments such as advancements in medical science, the discovery of new evidence regarding the patient’s intent, changes in the law, or simply the unexpected death of the patient despite the administration of life-sustaining treatment, at least create the potential that a wrong decision will eventually be corrected or its impact mitigated. An erroneous decision to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, however, is not susceptible of correction. “

Then it formulated the issue for its decision as under:

“101. It may be noted that in Gian Kaur’s case (supra) although the Supreme Court has quoted with approval the view of the House of Lords in Airedale’s case (supra), it has not clarified who can decide whether life support should be discontinued in the case of an incompetent person e.g. a person in coma or PVS. This vexed question has been arising often in India because there are a large number of cases where persons go into coma (due to an accident or some other reason) or for some other reason are unable to give consent, and then the question arises as to who should give consent for withdrawal of life support.
102. This is an extremely important question in India because of the unfortunate low level of ethical standards to which our society has descended, its raw and widespread commercialization, and the rampant corruption, and hence, the Court has to be very cautious that unscrupulous persons who wish to inherit the property of someone may not get him eliminated by some crooked method.
103. Also, since medical science is advancing fast, doctors must not declare a patient to be a hopeless case unless there appears to be no reasonable possibility of any improvement by some newly discovered medical method in the near future. In this connection we may refer to a recent news item which we have come across on the internet of an Arkansas man Terry Wallis, who was 19 years of age and newly married with a baby daughter when in 1984 his truck plunged through a guard rail, falling 25 feet. He went into coma in the crash in 1984, but after 24 years he has regained consciousness. This was perhaps because his brain spontaneously rewired itself by growing tiny new nerve connections to replace the ones sheared apart in the car crash. Probably the nerve fibers from Terry Wallis’ cells were severed but the cells themselves remained intact, unlike Terri Schiavo, whose brain cells had died (see Terri Schiavo’s case on Google).
104. However, we make it clear that it is experts like medical practitioners who can decide whether there is any reasonable possibility of a new medical discovery which could enable such a patient to revive in the near future.”

It thereafter relied upon the following definition of ‘Brain Stem Death’ as given in Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 enacted by the Indian Parliament.
” brain-stem death ” means the sage at which all functions of the brain-stem have permanently and irreversibly ceased and is so certified under sub-section (6) of section 3.”

The court declared that Aruna was not dead with the following reasoning:

121. From the above angle, it cannot be said that Aruna Shanbaug is dead. Even from the report of Committee of Doctors which we have quoted above it appears that she has some brain activity, though very little.
122. She recognizes that persons are around her and expresses her like or dislike by making some vocal sound and waving her hand by certain movements. She smiles if she receives her favourite food, fish and chicken soup. She breathes normally and does not require a heart lung machine or intravenous tube for feeding. Her pulse rate and respiratory rate and blood pressure are normal. She was able to blink well and could see her doctors who examined her. When an attempt was made to feed her through mouth she accepted a spoonful of water, some sugar and mashed banana. She also licked the sugar and banana paste sticking on her upper lips and swallowed it. She would get disturbed when many people entered her room, but she appeared to calm down when she was touched or caressed gently.
123. Aruna Shanbaug meets most of the criteria for being in a permanent vegetative state which has resulted for 37 years. However, her dementia has not progressed and has remained stable for many years.
124. From the above examination by the team of doctors, it cannot be said that Aruna Shanbaug is dead. Whatever the condition of her cortex, her brain stem is certainly alive. She does not need a heart–lung machine. She breathes on her own without the help of a respirator. She digests food, and her body performs other involuntary function without any help. From the CD (which we had screened in the courtroom on 2.3.2011 in the presence of counsels and others) it appears that she can certainly not be called dead. She was making some sounds, blinking, eating food put in her mouth, and even licking with her tongue morsels on her mouth.
125. However, there appears little possibility of her coming out of PVS in which she is in. In all probability, she will continue to be in the state in which she is in till her death. The question now is whether her life support system (which is done by feeding her) should be withdrawn, and at whose instance?

It decided the question in these words:

“In the present case, we have already noted that Aruna Shanbaug’s parents are dead and other close relatives are not interested in her ever since she had the unfortunate assault on her. As already noted above, it is the KEM hospital staff, who have been amazingly caring for her day and night for so many long years, who really are her next friends, and not Ms. Pinky”

As regards the passive euthanasia, it permitted the same with following, cautionary procedure:

“However, assuming that the KEM hospital staff at some future time changes its mind, in our opinion in such a situation the KEM hospital would have to apply to the Bombay High Court for approval of the decision to withdraw life support. (ii) Hence, even if a decision is taken by the near relatives or doctors or next friend to withdraw life support, such a decision requires approval from the High Court concerned as laid down in Airedale’s case (supra).
In our opinion, this is even more necessary in our country as we cannot rule out the possibility of mischief being done by relatives or others for inheriting the property of the patient.”

Thus Aruna got to live on in her sub-human condition. But reading the judgment, the judges had onerous task. How a human being may decide to kill another just because it has fallen into a state of sub-human if not into an entirely vegetable state?

The full judgment  of this case can be found here.