Right to Sleep –The Apex Court’s Lullaby!
Principal, Manair College of Law, Khammam
The recent alarming Ram Leela Maidan incident and the suo moto judgment evoked controversy and the Chief Justice of India Mr. Justice S.H.Kapadia made an extra judicial statement keeping in view of the judgment. He exclaimed that the Court was directionless and it should not perform the functions of the government. An attempt is made to appreciate the judgment and to retreat the criticism in this article.
An Irish Proverb goes on to say that the beginning of health is sleep. The state of sleep has been described by Homer in the famous epic Iliad as “sleep is the twin of death”. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher has said that all men are alike when asleep.
Sleep is an unconscious state or condition regularly and naturally assumed by man and other living beings during which the activity of the nervous system is almost or entirely suspended. It is the state of slumber and repose. It is a necessity and not a luxury. It is essential for optimal health and happiness as it directly affects the quality of the life of an individual when awake inducing his mental sharpness, emotional balance, creativity and vitality. It is believed that a person who is sleeping, is half dead. His mental faculties are in an inactive state.
Sleep is a biological and essential ingredient of the basic necessities of life. If sleep is disturbed, the mind gets disoriented and it disrupts the health cycle. Sleep, therefore, is a self rejuvenating element of our life cycle and is, therefore, part and partial of human life. The state of sleeping is assumed by an individual when he is in a safe atmosphere. It is for this reason that this natural system has been inbuilt by our creator to provide relaxation to a human being. The muscles are relaxed and this cycle which has a normal recurrence every night and lasts for several hours. It is so essential that even all our transport systems provide for facilities of sleep while travelling. Sleep is therefore, both, life and inherent liberty which cannot be taken away by any unscrupulous action.
Sleep is a natural process which is inherent in a human being, if disturbed obviously affects basic life. It is for this reason that if a person is deprived of sleep, the effect thereof, is treated to be torturous. Disruption of sleep has a wide range of negative effects. If disruption is brought about in odd hours preventing an individual from getting normal sleep, it also causes energy dis balance, indigestion and also affects cardiovascular health. These symptoms, therefore, make sleep so essential that its deprivation would result in mental and physical torture both. It also impairs the normal functioning and performance of an individual which is compulsory in day-to-day life of a human being.
The disruption of sleep is to deprive a person of a basic priority, resulting in adverse metabolic effects. It is a medicine for weariness which if impeded would lead to disastrous results. Deprivation of sleep has tumultuous adverse effects. It causes a stir and disturbs the quiet and peace of an individual's physical state. To take away the right of natural rest is also therefore violation of a human right. It becomes a violation of a fundamental right when it is disturbed intentionally, unlawfully and for no justification. To arouse a person suddenly, brings about a feeling of shock and benumbness. The pressure of a sudden awakening results in almost a void of sensation. Such an action, therefore, does affect the basic life of an individual.
Right to Privacy
Art. 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) refers to privacy and it states: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
Article 17 of United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference and attacks.”
Article 8(1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in 1950 says that ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’.
Right to privacy has been held to be a fundamental right of the citizen being an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Constitution of India does not merely speak for human right protection. Our Constitution professes for collective life and collective responsibility on one hand and individual rights and responsibilities on the other hand. Privacy and dignity of human life has always been considered a fundamental human right of every human being like any other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech. Therefore, every act which offends or impairs human dignity tantamount to deprivation pro tanto of his right to live and the State action must be in accordance with reasonable, fair and just procedure established by law which stands the test of other fundamental rights.
Case Law on Right to Privacy
In Kharak Singh v. State of U.P.,  the Supreme Court held that domiciliary visits (visits by the Police in the night to the private house for the purpose of ensuring that the suspect is staying at home) of the police men were an invasion on the petitioners personal liberty. There it was held by a majority that regulation 236(b) providing for domiciliary visits was unconstitutional for the reason that it abridged the fundamental right of a person under Article 21 and since Regulation 236(b) did not have the force of law, the regulation was declared bad.
In Govind v. State of Madhya Pradesh , the Supreme Court held that right to privacy is a part of life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court held that the power conferred under MP Police Regulations 855 and 856 authorizing the domiciliary visits had the force of law and therefore, be treated as reasonable restriction on the right to privacy.
In People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, the famous phone tapping case, the Apex Court entertaining a Public Interest Litigation, held that Telephone tapping was a serious invasion into an individual’s right to privacy which was a part of right to life and personal liberty.
Daily Rated Casual Labour ... v. Union Of India The citizens/persons have a right to leisure; to sleep; not to hear (noise pollution) and to remain silent. The knock at the door, whether by day or by night, as a prelude to a search without authority of law amounts to be police incursion into privacy and violation of fundamental right of a citizen.
Illegitimate intrusion into privacy of a person is not permissible as right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed under our Constitution. Such a right has been extended even to woman of easy virtues as she has been held to be entitled to her right of privacy.
In Ram Jethmalani v. Union of India, the Apex Court had dealt with the right of privacy elaborately. It was held that Right to privacy is an integral part of right to life. That was a cherished Constitutional value. It is important that human beings be allowed domains of freedom that are free of public scrutiny unless they act in an unlawful manner.... The notion of fundamental rights, such as a right to privacy as part of right to life, is not merely that the State is enjoined from derogating from them. It also includes the responsibility of the State to uphold them against the actions of others in the society, even in the context of exercise of fundamental rights by those others”.
In Forum, Prevention of Environment and Sound Pollution v. Union of India, the Supreme court issued several directions including banning of using the fireworks or fire crackers except between 6.00 a.m. and 10.00 p.m. There shall be no use of fire crackers in silence zone i.e. within the area less than 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions, courts, religious places. It is in view of this fact that, in many countries there are complete night curfews (at the airport i.e. banning of landing and taking off between the night hours), for the reason that the concept of sound sleep has been associated with sound health which is inseparable facet of Article 21 of the Constitution.
It may also be pertinent to mention here that various statutory provisions prohibit arrest of a judgment debtor, a woman in the night and restrain to enter in the night into a constructed area suspected to have been raised in violation of the sanctioned plan, master plan or Zonal Plan for the purpose of survey or demolition.
While determining such matters the crucial issue in fact is not whether such rights exist, but whether the State has a compelling interest in the regulation of a subject which is within the police power of the State. Undoubtedly, reasonable regulation of time, place and manner of the act of sleeping would not violate any constitutional guarantee, for the reason that a person may not claim that sleeping is his fundamental right, and therefore, he has a right to sleep in the premises of the Supreme Court itself or within the precincts of the Parliament.
In H.H. Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao Jivaji Rao Scindia Bahadur & Ors. v. Union of India, the Apex Court held that even in civil commotion or even in war or peace, the State cannot act catastrophically outside the ordinary law and there is legal remedy for its wrongful acts against its own subjects or even a friendly alien within the State.
In M/S Motilal Padampat Sugar Mills Co. Ltd. v. State of U.P. & Ors., the Supreme Court held that rule of law means, no one, however, high or low is above the law. Everyone is subject to the law fully and completely as any other and the Government is no exception. Therefore, the State authorities are under a legal obligation to act in a manner that is fair and just. It has to act honestly and in good faith. The purpose of the Government is always to serve the country and ensure the public good.
While dealing with the violation of Human Rights by Police Officials, the Supreme Court in Prithipal Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Anr., held as under:
“The right to life has rightly been characterized as “supreme” and 'basic'; it includes both so-called negative and positive obligations for the State”. The negative obligation means the overall prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of life. In this context, positive obligation requires that State has an overriding obligation to protect the right to life of every person within its territorial jurisdiction.”
Thus, it is evident that right of privacy and the right to sleep have always been treated to be a fundamental right like a right to breathe, to eat, to drink, to blink, etc.
‘Suo Motu’ Rescue to Protect Fundamental Rights
Recalling Paster Niemoller’s statement, ‘‘when they arrested my neighbour I did not protest! when they arrested men and women in opposite houses I did not protest!! when they finally came for me there was no body left to protest….,’ we may applaud the suo moto cognizance of the Supreme Court as guarantor and savior of the fundamental rights to the people of India.
In Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt . v Home Secretary, case on 4th June, 2011, Baba Ramdev’s hunger strike began with the motto of `Bhrashtachar Mitao Satyagraha. Baba Ramdev had been granted permission to hold satyagraha at Jantar Mantar, of course, with a very limited number of persons. Despite that, the crowd at the Ramlila Maidan swelled to more than fifty thousand. No yoga training was held for the entire day. At about 1.00 p.m., Baba Ramdev decided to march to Jantar Mantar for holding a dharna along with the entire gathering. Keeping in view the fact that Jantar Mantar could not accommodate such a large crowd, the permission for holding the dharna was withdrawn by the authorities.
Negotiations took place between Baba Ramdev and some of the ministers on telephone, but, Baba Ramdev revived his earlier condition of time-bound action, an ordinance to bring black money back and the items missing on his initial list of demands. At about 11.15 p.m., it is stated that Centre’s emissary reached Baba Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan with the letter assuring a law to declare black money hoarded abroad as a national asset. The messenger kept his mobile on so the Government negotiators could listen to Baba Ramdev and his aides. The conversation with Baba Ramdev convinced the Government that Baba Ramdev will not wind up his protest. At about 11.30 p.m., a team of Police, led by the Joint Commissioner of Police, met Baba Ramdev and informed him that the permission to hold the camp had been withdrawn and that he would be detained. At about 12.30 a.m., a large number of CRPF, Delhi Police force and Rapid Action Force personnel, totaling approximately to 5000 (as stated in the notes of the Amicus. However, from the record it appears to be 1200), reached the Ramlila Maidan. At that time, the protestors were peacefully sleeping.
Thereafter, at about 1.10 a.m., the Police reached the dais/platform to take Baba Ramdev out, which action was resisted by his supporters. At 1.25 a.m., Baba Ramdev jumped into the crowd from the stage and disappeared amongst his supporters. He, thereafter, climbed on the shoulders of one of his supporters, exhorting women to form a barricade around him. A scuffle between the security forces and the supporters of Baba Ramdev took place and eight rounds of teargas shells were fired. By 2.10 a.m., almost all the supporters had been driven out of the Ramlila Maidan.
The Apex Court passed the verdict after taking ‘suo motu’ cognizance of media reports showing the brutality of police action against the followers of Ramdev who were sleeping. The Court speaking through Justice Swatantar Kumar and Justice Chauhan gauged the dimensions of legal provisions in relation to the exercise of jurisdiction by the empowered officer in passing an order under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. While appreciating that there might be a reason available to impose prohibitory orders calling upon an assembly to disperse, the Court opined that there did not appear to be any plausible reason for the police to resort to blows on a sleeping crowd and to throw them out of their encampments abruptly. The affidavits and explanation given did not disclose as to why the police could not wait till morning and provide a reasonable time to this crowd to disperse peacefully. The undue haste caused huge disarray and resulted in a catastrophe that was witnessed on Media and Television throughout the country.
According to the Court, a person cannot be presumed to be engaged in a criminal activity or an activity to disturb peace of mind when asleep. Justice Chauhan opined, ‘To presume that a person was scheming to disrupt public peace while asleep would be unjust and would be entering into the dreams of that person. ‘I am bewildered to find out as to how such declaration of the intention to impose the prohibition was affected on a sleeping crowd.’
There was no reasonable explanation for the gravity or the urgent situation requiring such an emergent action at this dark hour of midnight. Therefore, in the absence of any such justification the Court had no option but to deprecate such action and it also casts a serious doubt about the existence of the sufficiency of reasons for such action. The incident in Ram Leela Maidan incident was held ‘an example of a weird expression of the desire of a tyrannical mind to threaten peaceful life suddenly for no justification’. The Court viewed that coupled with what was understood of sleep would make it clear that the precipitate action was nothing but a clear violation of human rights and a definite violation of procedure for achieving the end of dispersing a crowd.
The Supreme Court analyzed Article 355 of the Constitution of India provides that the Government of every State would act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The primary task of the State is to provide security to all citizens without violating human dignity. Powers conferred upon the statutory authorities have to be, perforce, admitted. Nonetheless, the very essence of constitutionalist is also that no organ of the State may arrogate to itself powers beyond what is specified in the Constitution.
Disturbing Sleep Violates Fundamental 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 cold- blooded crimes. 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.
Can such an attempt be permitted or justified in the given circumstances of the present case? Judicially and on the strength of impartial logic, the answer has to be in the negative as a sleeping crowd cannot be included within the bracket of an unlawful category unless there is sufficient material to brand it as such. The facts as uncovered and the procedural mandate having been blatantly violated, is malice in law and also the part played by the police and administration shows the outrageous behaviour which cannot be justified by law in any civilized society. For the reasons aforesaid, Dr. B.S. Chauhan concurred with the directions issued by Justice Swatantar Kumar with a forewarning to the Respondents State and the Police to prevent any repetition of such hasty and unwarranted act affecting the safe living conditions of the citizens/persons in the country.
Criticism against the Ram Leela Maidan Judgment
Delivering a lecture on "Jurisprudence of Constitutional Structure", S.H.Kapadia, [former] the Chief Justice of India, was making an apparent reference to the recent Supreme Court judgment in the Ramlila Maidan police action against Ramdev's supporters in which "Right to Sleep" was declared a fundamental right. The C.J. stated, ‘Now, we have included right to sleep, where are we going? It is not a criticism. Is it capable of being enforced? When you expand the right, the judge must explore the enforceability. "Questions which judges must ask are if it is capable of being enforced. Judges must apply enforceability test. Today, if a judge proposes a policy matter, government says we are not going to follow. Are you going by way of contempt or implement it?" he asked. He also wondered what would happen if the executive refuses to comply with judiciary's directives that may not be enforceable. "Right to life, we have said, includes environmental protection, right to live with dignity. "Judges should not govern this country. We need to go by strict principle. Whenever you lay down a law, it should not interfere with governance. We are not accountable to people. Objectivity, certainty enshrined in the basic principles of the Constitution has to be given weightage," he said. Kapadia said judges should go strictly by the Constitutional principles which has clearly demarcate the separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.
With due respects to the Justice, the opinions must be taken as personal. The assertions that ‘Whenever you lay down a law, it should not interfere with governance. We are not accountable to people,’ -is untenable. The Court is expected to interfere even with the governance whenever there is i) violation of rule of Law, ii) an ultravires/excessive actions of the power conferred by Law, iii) the basic and fundamental human freedoms are violated and iv) the basic structures of the Constitution are deviated. The Constitutional principles envisage judicial intervention interpretative function and diligent interference for upholding the Constitution and the Rule of Law. The Courts are also accountable to people though not directly. If, judgments are given based on unscrupulous principles only to support a government in power, there would be serious consequences. [ as Justice Krishna Iyyer aptly stated ] the Court is also a Political Institution [ meant to do good to people.]
The judgment of the Supreme Court was indeed like a lullaby for the citizens of the country in general. The State cannot adversely affect the natural and personal freedom implicitly read by the Court to include right to sleep.
S. H. Kapadia’s criticism is redundant. The criticism is not even an ‘obiter dictum’. Therefore, fortunately, it is not binding on the Courts. As far as the enforceability of the right to sleep is concerned, with such laudable judgments, excessive State/police actions can be controlled. Pursuant to the judgment, the Police shall not resort to midnight operations akin to Dr. Karunanidhi’s arrest. Lest, the citizens should get right to remedy for such late night police operations. The ‘judicial right’ expanding the new vistas would open scope and hope for the needy and deserving indigent public would get in future, their rights realized through the judgment.
However, the Supreme Court was not ‘definitely dealing in Ram Leela Maidan Case, with the rights of homeless persons who may claim right to sleep on footpath or public premises…’ but restricted the case only to the extent as under what circumstances a sleeping person may be disturbed. The Apex Court categorically maintained that the State authorities cannot deprive a person of that right to sleep anywhere and at all times. The verdict creates a hope for many homeless pavement dwellers and reminds the governments’ responsibility to protect the right to sleep of the indigent, homeless orphans, pavement/street dwellers including the vulnerable women, adolescents, kids and the aged.
** (Dr.)Mohan Rao B,
# Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt . v. Home Secretary decided on 23 February, 2012
# Dr. Chudler, ‘What is Sleep... and why do we do it?’ available at http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/sleep.html
# Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya (శ్రీ తాళ్ళపాక అన్నమాచార్య) (1408-1503). The mystic saint composer of the 15th century is the earliest known musician of South India to compose songs called “sankeertanas” in praise of Lord Venkateswara, the deity of Seven Hills in Tirumala, India. He is widely regarded as the Telugu pada kavita pitaamaha (Grand old man of simple poetry). In this great song, Annamacharya preaches that all people are equal in this world irrespective of their wealth, status, caste, etc. He exclaimed, Nindara Raju nidrinchu nidrayu nokate, andane bantu nidra adiyu nokate….’ i.e., a king’s sleep is akin a slave’s sleep…! See also C. Sri Vidya Rajagopalan, Consciousness and Jeevatma are one and the same. Consciousness (Jeevatma), Super Consciousnes(Paramatma) are also one and the same, that is Krishna Consciousness. "Prajnanam Brahma" - 'Consciousness is Brahman' (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda) Reference: Song Name:'tandanana ahi' (Telugu ) Ragam (Karnataga Sangeet) : Bowli Composer: Available at, http://in.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071219234939AApZoRw
# Read ‘40 Facts About Sleep You Probably Didn't Know...,’ (Or Were Too Tired To Think About From The Australian National Sleep Research Project) Available At Http://Www.Biotele.Com/Facts.Html
# Dhananjay Mahapatra ‘Right to sleep a fundamental right, says Supreme Court’ TNN Feb 25, 2012, 12.48AM IST
# See also ‘Sleep Disorder -- A Growing Concern in the United States,’ available at http://www.superseventies.com/infobank/sleep_disorders.html
# Depriving sleep is violation of fundamental rights: SC, New Delhi, Feb 23, 2012, (PTI) available at
# Justice B S Chauhan, and Swatantar Kumar JJ., Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt . v. Home Secretary decided on 23 February, 2012 available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/17021567/
# Distt. Registrar & Collector, ... v Canara Bank Etc, Supreme Court of India decided on 1 November, 2004
# Visit The ‘Audio Visual Library of International Law’ , available at http://untreaty.un.org/cod/avl/ha/iccpr/iccpr.html
# Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as amended by Protocols No. 11 and No. 14, available at http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/en/treaties/html/005.htm
# The Nakheeran case - R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu (1994) 6 SCC 632
# Honble Mr Justice Devi Prasad Singh Judge, Allahabad High Court, ‘Speeches At The 7th International Conference of Chief Justices of The World’ available at http://www.cmseducation.org/article51/11thepeeches/devi_prasad.htm
# See Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi AIR 1981 SC 746
# AIR 1963 SC 1295;
# AIR 1975 SC 1378
# AIR 1997 SC 568
# See also Daily Rated Casual Labour ... v. Union Of India & Others decided by Supreme Court of India on 27 October, 1987 ,http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/176622/, AIR 1987 SC 2342, 1988 SCR (1) 598
# Supreme Court of India, Church of God (Full Gospel) In ... v. K.K.R.Majestic Colony Welfare ... on 30 August, 2000 http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/88766/
# And Calcutta High Court in Om Birangana Religious Society v. The State and others [CWN 1995-96 (Vol.100) 617]
# O.Chinnapa Reddy, J., Supreme Court of India in Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors vs State Of Kerala & Ors decided on 11 August, 1986 http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1508089/
# Equivalent citations: 1987 AIR 748, 1986 SCR (3) 518
# See: Wolf v. Colorado, (1948) 338 US 25
# Distt. Registrar & Collector, ... v Canara Bank Etc, Supreme Court of India decided on 1 November, 2004, available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1068532/
# K J Shetty, A Ahmadi , JJ., Supreme Court of India in State of Maharashtra v. Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, decided on 23 October, 1990, AIR 1991 SC 207, 1991 (61) FLR 688, JT 1990 (4) SC 169
# (2011) 8 SCC 1
# AIR 2006 SC 348
# S.55 of Code of Civil Procedure; S.46(4) Cr.P.C.; and Sections 25 and 42 of the U.P. Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973
# AIR 1971 SC 530,
# AIR 1979 SC 621,
# See also: D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1997 SC 610
# (2012) 1 SCC 10
# Quoted by Justice V.R.Krishna Iyyer in Prem Shankar Shukla v. .Delhi AIR 1980 SC 1535
# Judgment delivered on 23 February, 2012 available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/17021567/
# ‘Ramlila crackdown: Top five excerpts from Supreme Court verdict on Government, Ramdev’ http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/ramlila-crackdown-top-five-excerpts-from-supreme-court-verdict-on-government-ramdev-179212
# Re. Ramlila Maidan case Available at http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?280021
# Justice Chauhan,’ Crackdown on Baba Ramdev followers ‘tyrannical’, says SC, New Delhi, Feb 23, 2012, DHNS available at http://www.deccanherald.com/content/229492/ramlila-incident-shows-trust-deficit.html
# See G.V. K. Industries Ltd. v. Income Tax Officer (2011) 4 SCC 36; and Nandini Sundar v. State of Chhatisgarh, AIR 2011 SC 2839
# Quoted by S.S. Shinde, J., Bombay High Court in Santosh Govind Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra decided on 17 July, 2012, available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/151990500/
# http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/NAT-TOP-cji-ridicules-right-to-sleep-says-judges-should-not-govern-nation-3695442-NOR.html CJI ridicules 'Right to Sleep', says judges should not govern nation
# PTI | Aug 25, 2012, 18:46PM IST
# See Olga Tellis & Ors v. Bombay Municipal Corporation , Judgment delivered on 10 July, 1985 by Chandrachud, Y.V., CJ, 1986 AIR 180, 1985 SCR Supl. (2) 51
# Mr. M. Karunanidhi, a Veteran Leader of Tamil Nadu was arrested in a midnight operation by the Police. T.S. Subramanian, Tamil Nadu's Shame, The Jayalalitha government in Tamil Nadu finds itself in the midst of a political storm set off by the manner in which the State police arrested former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and two Union Ministers in a post-midnight crackdown. Available at http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl1814/18140040.htm
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