Aruna Shanbaug Case – Where Truth Lies


The Supreme Court of India has given yet another landmark judgment on the Euthanasia plea of Pinki Virani on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug. Full Text of the Supreme Court judgment is available at .

The judgment document starts by quoting a Ghalib couplet – “Marte hain aarzoo mein marne ki, Maut aati hai par nahin aati” (I die in the wish of dying/ Death comes but doesn’t come.)

While the SC dismissed Pinki Virani’s petetion on the ground that she had no locus standi on this case, it appreciated the noble sentiments behind Pinki’s plea. What makes it a landmark judgment is the fact that the Supreme Court judgment goes beyond Pinki Virani’s euthanasia plea and lays down guidelines for future cases, as mentioned below –

(a) If the doctors treating Aruna Shanbaug and the Dean of the KEM Hospital, together acting in the best interest of the patient, feel that withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments is the appropriate course of action, they should be allowed to do so, and their actions should not be considered unlawful.

(b) In other cases, where a person has been in a vegetative state for a long time, passive euthanasia may be allowed by the High Court on a case to case basis provided a panel of doctors has given its nod for such measure;

(c) We (Supreme Court) are of the opinion that although Section 309 Indian Penal Code (attempt to commit suicide) has been held to be constitutionally valid in Gian Kaur’s case (supra), the time has come when it should be deleted by Parliament as it has become anachronistic. A person attempts suicide in a depression, and hence he needs help, rather than punishment. We therefore recommend to Parliament to consider the feasibility of deleting Section 309 from the Indian Penal Code.

Doctors and Nurses of the KEM Hospital who had been taking care of Aruna for the last 37 years have welcomed the judgment of the Supreme Court as they want Aruna to live her full life.

Aruna’s case has sparked off an emotional debate in the country as most people have very strong opinions for and against euthanasia. But do we really know what is Aruna’s case?  I tried to search the internet to get some details but to my surprise I found that although a lot of defragmented information on Aruna’s Case is available on the internet, there was hardly any single site which contained all the details in one place. I therefore decided to consolidate as much information as possible for the benefits of those who are interested but don’t have the time and patience to check out tens and hundreds of websites.

Aruna’s Shanbhag’s Case

’’I met a big learned pujari (astrologer) who said I had a sau mein ek patrika (a one-in-hundred horoscope), that I’d be a success, will live long & would go abroad. But even if he was talking rubbish it does not matter because I know that I will become known in my field’’.

Aruna Shanbhag had uttered these words to her cousin about her plans to pursue her dreams of studying abroad. Little did she know that what waits for her is something so unimaginable, a future so horrid that even the best of pujari wouldn’t look forward to predicting!

Aruna was born in a small village Haldipur in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. She studied up to Class X at the Rural Education Society School in this village, and after the death of her parents, left for Mumbai to live with elder brother, Balakrishna. She completed a nursing course and joined the KEM Hospital at Parel in Mumbai. The lively, pretty and dedicated Aruna soon became very popular amongst the hospital staff.

Then 25 year old, Aruna was planning to get married to Dr. Sandeep Sardesai, a resident doctor in the same hospital. Aruna had planned a party on November 30 (2 days after the attack) for her colleagues — including the sweeper Sohan Lal, whom she disliked intensely.

She and Sohan Lal both worked in what was called the “dog lab” of the hospital — a laboratory in the basement where unclaimed street dogs were kept for experimental purposes. Sohan Lal was in charge of keeping the area clean and for getting dogs from their cages to the operating theatre.

Aruna used to hate Sohan Lal as she had found him mistreating the animals and stealing ‘dog food’ and medicines. She had warned him several times and had even reported the matter to her superiors.

Sohan Lal was obviously very piqued with Aruna for this. On 27th November, 1973 Aruna told him that she was going to send a written complaint to the Dean about him. Sohan Lal thought this was the limit and he must teach this daring nurse a lesson.

On the same day, at around 4.50 pm, Aruna came down to the basement to change out of her hospital uniform. There are two conflicting versions on why Aruna was changing clothes in the basement. One version says that she had ignored the advice of the hospital matron to use the designated change room for changing clothes. However, another version published in the Indian Express says that there was no place allotted for the staff nurses for changing clothes. Three months before the incident, the then security officer I C Sisodiya had written to the assistant dean and matron on making it mandatory for non-resident nurses to change only in nurses’ quarters, he said. “Non resident nurses would change in any empty corner of the hospital. Shanbaug and colleague Mary Joseph regularly used the basement unit, which would be empty in the evening and unsafe for nurses. Had the nurses been using the quarters, this would have never happened,” Sisodiya said after the attack on Aruna.

When Aruna was changing in the basement, Sohan Lal was lurking in the shadows waiting for the right opportunity to take his revenge. He attacked Aruna in the basement. She fought like a tigress, biting him, scratching him, kicking him, but he managed to throw her on the ground.

He first 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 asphyxiation (strangulation) cut off oxygen supply to her brain resulting in brain stem contusion injury and cervical cord injury apart from leaving her cortically blind.

The next day on 28th November, 1973 at 7.45 a.m., Pramila Kushe, a cleaner in the KEM Hospital, found her lying on the floor with blood all over in an unconscious condition. Recounting the horrible experience Pramila says, “I was the first one to find Aruna in the empty operation theatre in this hospital’s basement after she had been raped and brutally assaulted by that animal Sohan Lal. She was sitting, leaning against a stool with a dog-chain around her neck. There was blood around her. I ran out and brought the matron. As soon as she saw matron Bellimal, her eyes welled up and tears streamed down her face. She tried to say something but could not… only her lips moved. And then, slowly she lost consciousness..”

Sohan Lal was subsequently arrested from Pune and a police case was registered against him for robbery and attempted murder but not for rape or sexual molestation or “unnatural sexual offence” as hospital officials had deleted parts of her medical report that proved Aruna been sodomized. This was done to ensure that she did not face any ostracism after her recovery.  Sohan Lal was convicted for 7 years in jail in 1974. It is believed that had he been charged for rape, he might have got a longer jail term (up to 10 years).

Sohan Lal’s brutality did not end with the horrible assault on Aruna on 28 November 1973. After his release from prison, Sohanlal tried to attack Aruna a second time in the hospital bed by pulling down the bed railings in the hope that she would fall down and die. The hospital authorities then shifted Aruna to a secure room which is locked most of the time with access only to the doctors who treat her and the nurses who go in to feed and bathe her.

Sohan Lal’s whereabouts have been kept a closely guarded secret since then. Howsoever ironical it may sound; it is believed that he went on to work in a private hospital in Delhi for many years. According to another rumour Sohanlal’s is believed to have died recently due to AIDS.

Aruna’s fiancée,  Sundeep Sardesai, waited patiently for Aruna to revive for four years — visiting her every day and talking to her for hours and crying by her bedside. He eventually moved on, got married and settled down in the US. On Sunday night — hours before the Supreme Court verdict — Sundeep had called KEM matron M.P. Khaladkar. “He called again on Monday after the verdict. He spoke very little, asked how she was. He seemed very relieved with the judgment,” said Khaladkar, unwilling to give out more details.

37 years have expired since the incident and now Aruna is about 60 years of age. Though she survived the horrible attack, she never fully recovered from the trauma and brain damage resulting from the assault and strangulation. She has been in a vegetative state for all these years. However, contrary to the common confusion, she is neither in Coma nor is she Brain Dead. Her family and relatives used to visit her initially for some time but later abandoned and left her entirely to the KEM Hospital staff.

She is featherweight, and her brittle bones could break if her hand or leg is awkwardly caught, even accidentally, under her lighter body. She has stopped menstruating and her skin is now like papier mache’ stretched over a skeleton. She is prone to bed sores. Her wrists are twisted inwards. Her teeth had decayed causing her immense pain. She can only be given mashed food, on which she survives.

Although Aruna is not very much aware of herself and her surrounding, she somehow recognizes the presence of people around her and expresses her like or dislike by making certain types of vocal sounds and by waving her hands in certain manners. She appears to be happy and smiles when she receives her favorite food items like fish and chicken soup. She accepts feed which she likes but may spit out food which she doesn’t like. She was able to take oral feeds till 16th September 2010, when she developed a febrile illness, probably malaria. After that, her oral intake reduced and a feeding tube (Ryle’s tube) was passed into her stomach via her nose. Since then she receives her major feeds by the Ryle’s tube, and is only occasionally able to accept the oral liquids. Malaria has taken a toll in her physical condition but she is gradually recuperating from it.

Occasionally, when there are many people in the room she makes vocal sounds indicating distress. She calms down when people move out of her room. She also seems to enjoy the devotional songs and music which is played in her room and it has calming effect on her.

In an annual ritual, each and every batch of nursing students is introduced to Aruna, and is told that “She was one of us”; “She was a very nice and efficient staff nurse but due to the mishap she is in this bed-ridden state”.

The entire nursing staff member and other staff members have a very compassionate attitude towards Aruna and they all very happily and willingly take care of her. They all are very proud of their achievement of taking such a good care of their bed-ridden colleague and feel very strongly that they want to continue to take care of her in the same manner till she succumbs naturally. They do not feel that Aruna is living a painful and miserable life.

In his submission to the Supreme Court, Dr. Sanjay Oak, Dean KEM Hospital, has said –

“It would be incorrect to say that Smt. Aruna Shanbaug is an appropriate case for Coma. It appears that for a crucial, critical period her brain was deprived of Oxygen supply and this has resulted in her present state similar to that of Cerebral Palsy in the newborn child. It is a condition where brain looses it’s coordinatory, sensory as well as motor functions and this includes loss of speech and perception. This has resulted into a state which in a layman’s words “Aruna lives in her own world for last 37 years”. She is lying in a bed in a single room for 33 years. She has not been able to stand or walk, nor have we attempted to do that of late because we fear that she is fragile and would break her bones if she falls. Her extremities and fingers have developed contractures and subsequent to non-use; there is wasting of her body muscles. Her eyes are open and she blinks frequently; however, these movements are not pertaining to a specific purpose or as a response to a question. At times she is quiet and at times she shouts or shrieks. However, I must say that her shouts and shrieks are completely oblivious to anybody’s presence in her room. It is not true that she shouts after seeing a man. I do not think Aruna can distinguish between a man and a woman, nor can she even distinguish between ordinate and inordinate object. We play devotional songs rendered by Sadguru Wamanrao Pai continuously in her room and she lies down on her bed listening to them. She expresses her displeasure by grimaces and shouts if the tape recorder is switched off. All these years she was never fed by tube and whenever a nurse used to take food to her lips, she used to swallow it. It is only since September 2010 she developed Malaria and her oral intake dropped. In order to take care of her calorie make need, nurses cadre resorted to naso-gastric tube feed and now she is used to NG feeding. However, if small morsels are held near her lips, Aruna accepts them gladly. It appears that she relishes fish and occasionally smiles when she is given non-vegetarian food. However, I am honest in admitting that her smiles are not purposeful and it would be improper to interpret them as a signal of gratification. I must put on record that in the world history of medicine there would not be another single case where such a person is cared and nurtured in bed for 33 long years and has not developed a single bed sore. This speaks of volumes of excellence of nursing care that KEM Nursing staff has given to her.”

The Supreme Court in its judgment has expressed its deep appreciation towards the KEM Hospital staff who has provided her an excellent nursing care for the last 37 years which included feeding her by mouth, bathing her and taking care of her toilet needs. The care was of such an exceptional nature that she has not developed a single bed-sore or fracture in spite of her bedridden state since 1973.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Gargee Mande  On March 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I have gone thru all the details I could find related to Ms. Aruna Shanbaug. My best wishes for her and pray that god gives her less pain. I would also congratulate the staff of KEM hospital who have taken untiring efforts for Aruna. God bless and all the best.

  • mansi rauthan  On April 1, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    May God Bless Her!!

  • Ayush Mehta  On April 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    i have gone through all the details of the case & i believe that justice is not given 2 aruna.i want 2 thank the nurses 2 put a strike & a concurrent 7 year term is not enough for ruining a life,not only her life but also her familys life.justice must be given.speak up. people need 2 be united.our school teachers are putting light on this case & making us aware about this case . i want 2 thank them.

  • Priyanka yadav  On April 22, 2011 at 4:40 am

    Aruna is strong enough from inside to fight for her life till her last breathe…….i m sure she will recover soon,,,,one day a miracle will happen,and we all will see her walking on her own….Till than we all pray for her and will not loose our hopes ever…

  • raja  On July 5, 2011 at 10:24 am

    if i have the right to giv ani right togiv anidisison to this matter i will go for uthenasia

  • Susmita Nanda  On September 9, 2011 at 8:07 am

    whether to fulfill our dreams or to hold our dreams.its not this has happened to her.we the women do a utter a word on seeing bad is incorrect..if it is correct then is this the punishment??? the law given 7 years of imprisoment to sohanlal but the law can’t back the past and can’t give her dreams which she has dreamt…where is the problem lies in our society….if everything is correct in the society then why the problem??hands off to you Dear Aruna to make us(the women )selfconscious.

  • dr.afsheen  On September 9, 2011 at 9:23 am

    m so sorry to read it…m so sad…tears and tears..saw a dramatize tv show yesterday on her..m soo much hurt…may God bless this innocent lady..

  • anjna  On September 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    wo jrur ek din theak ho jayengi.. hum sb unke liye prayer karte hain…
    hume unke bare mein sun ke hi itna bura lag raha hai par unhone to 37 saal se ek ek pal itna saha hai.. wo jrur theak ho jayengi…

  • vikas rastogi  On September 9, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I want to do something or anything for her…….heratful thaks for KEM hospital staff and nurses.

  • Krishna Kamble  On September 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

    The court failed to give proper justice to Aruna at that time since it did not know that she would be in this condition eternally. Still the court can see to her condition now and give her the justice at least now by punishing Sohanlal and making a historical decision.
    My best regards are with innocent lady. I hope that although she is not in co-ordination with the real world, she atleast dreams positive, thereby she does not remember the mishap.

  • Sanjana  On September 10, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Can I have a address of yours aruna as i would like to meet to u personally please its an request or a contact no where i can call u,,,,

  • pallavi chatterjee  On September 17, 2011 at 7:22 am

    i will pray to god for her early recovery….

  • JINNA  On December 6, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I dont know why i wanted to know abt Aruna Shanbaug from today morning. i dont know whether i can help her in any way but i want to visit her once. I believe miracles do happen. I want her to live a normal life for the rest of her life. i want her to be normal again and she should be remembering every thing that passed in her life, then cry a lot, then relieve her from the pain she took.. and then lead a peaceful life. Oh God! r u listening. please perform this miracle on her…. Praise the Lord.Halleluia.

  • Uday Pandey  On January 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    This is a slap on Indian Law.

  • N Bhattacharya  On January 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Person like Sohanlal should be left to hungry dogs and dogs should eat his flesh. I feel very bad for Aruna. Why god is so cruel to her. Oh god pls give her peaceful death as early as possible. If in life I get lot of money I will surely donate a large part of money to KEM Hospital

  • suhana  On January 14, 2012 at 11:23 am

    i pray for her early recovery….god bless the innocent lady …n sure miracle is gonna happen…

  • padmaja  On January 14, 2012 at 11:41 am

    i came to know abt Aruna from the serial Crime Patrol in Sony TV….its really painful …thanx to the nurse who r taking care 4 so many yrs..i m sure c will recovr one day n lead a normal life…miracle do happen….i will alwaz pray God 4 u Aruna..GET WELL SOON…

  • asma  On March 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    . i dont know whether i can help her in any way but i want to visit her once. I believe miracles do happen. I want her to live a normal life for the rest of her life.

  • radhika tiwari  On March 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I cant see her in such a miserable condition.Oh god!y did u punish her like anything.I have never seen anyone in such a pathetic condition.I know Dr Sundeep would have also suffered a lot coz of his wife’s non curable condition.

  • kavita  On March 2, 2012 at 5:16 am

    I had heard this case long back but i read the story online today completely, I feel deep pain and regret that aruna had to go through this ordeal.I know one thing as a jehovahs witness that the word of God promises to people that there will be no sufferring in future for humans.

    Aruna was a victim of cruel intentions and a wicked being.I wish aruna mam a wonderful future in the coming New world by God.God is going to eradicate all this wickedness from the planet Earth very soon.I deeply appreciate what KEM hospital has done for her.It has shown deep love and patience towards their own collegue.Great job.simply human.

    Gods Word says this at (Revelation 21:3-4) With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

  • maitri tembe  On March 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    i wish she could get her dignified life back and if not hen passive suthanasia is best for her…
    i wish the best blessing for her life with dignity.

  • Sweta Rani Garg  On March 25, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Question……..which can be never solved………????????????

  • eastdeep kaur  On April 18, 2012 at 5:38 am

    i ve gone through al details of this case………this article brought whole incident in front of my eyes ………my eyes are really wet ……i pray to god dat he may end all her sufferings nd may she get her dignity back………..

  • vaiishali  On May 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm


  • rhea  On May 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    hatsss of tooo the one how is still alive…….

  • Motikala Subba Dewan  On July 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    God bless to all doctors and nurses of KEM Hospital !

  • Jazz  On July 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    No one can know how much pain you must have undergone…But I will pray that all your pain and sufferings are taken care.Would like to thank all nurses who are with her ,taking care of her.Aruna, you will be always an example for your dedicated work and you will always remain in our hearts….A salute to you…..

  • prerana  On July 22, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I express my gratitude towards the hospital for taking care of Aruna. they have been with her even when her family abandoned her. I don’t know whether the court is right in its decision about euthanasia. But for all the sufferings Aruna has faced is 7 years of imprisonment enough for Sohan lal?? can those 7 years be equalized to her 37 years of suffering? where did justice go that time?

  • vandana  On July 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    i had only.. see this story in crime patrol… an that tym i real feel hurt… for her… now i get a homework on crime patrol an i read this story….realy i cry… now for her… i salute kem hospital nurses… god bless u aruna… my all best wish with…
    -vandana rajput

  • amy  On August 13, 2012 at 11:29 am

    to the man who committed this crime on Aruna ,may you never ever rest in peace ,I hate what you done

  • smi  On August 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Expressing deep gratitude for the KEM hospital staff for taking care of Aruna.Deeply touched and happy to know that such good hearted souls still exist in this world.

  • aroosh  On August 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    you know the only way the gov. could have provided justice is if it would have happened with a ministers or some officials daughter, such brutality cannot be let free in our society, i have my deep condolences with aruna, respect to kem hospital staff(the nurses who could empathize her), but the decision given was not fare at all, we the youth lack in moral stature and structure, how could we can we just let it pass, its just destiny i would say, i hope she lives a better life in the next.., time passes by and i realise that how sohan lal was taking revenge for his own mistakes caught by aruna, i feel the worst parts are mainly the roots of sohan lal, especially how hypocritical our society is and how we look upon the government and follow their ways, its curruption on one end and on the other a vague way of living your life, stealing and illtreating animals just because they cant speak, and on top of that he gets to take revenge, is it because he was frustrated in his life, where he would spend that money earned from selling medicines in black and buying alcohol, ofcourse its the level of understanding that he was lacking, and how he was leading a life of a criminal and committed a crime anyway so basically its education where we land where he was lacking, but when he wasnt its clear thats why he was working as a clerk, but i thinkits also the hospitals fault at that time to provide nurses a specific area to change, thats why i dont think a lot can be blamed its everyone who is at fault, but as they say,-“when destined the clouds may emberse, but it still wouldnt rain”, i hope it changes some lives around us, such incidents should be of national news instead of how are gdp is going down and how we will become a national power, because even if we havto with such people living around us, its a disgrace how they are let gone without proper conviction, god bless aruna and all the souls who helped her get going through her journey, and i hope next time a conviction given would be more satisfying in order to lead with an example!!

  • Talasha  On September 13, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Aruna…you are an angel who has endured the pain all through. You have a courage to face a lifeless days. Sure you are a child of God! Take care.

  • Chandra Mahajan  On September 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    God bless the staff n KEM Hospital for looking after this poor victim of a man’s animality. Such a glorious n bright future washed down by a single man’s brutality. May God take care of this innocent soul n bring her peace. May she be taken in His shelter without more pain.

  • Neela Pai Dhungat  On December 31, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Yeah God Bless the staff in KEM Hospital for taking such great care of Aruna Shanbhag. But justice was never done in her case!! Not after she was sodamised nor when her friend appealed for euthanasia. Most of us think euthanasia is Mercy killing. Why cannot we rethink? Euthanasia as a ‘Living will’? Know about the ‘Society for the Right to die with Dignity’. Motto is if one has the right to LIVE with dignity then one has the right ti DIE with dignity!!!

  • Amit  On April 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Where is Sohanlal now…Can I get his Details like address etc…..I would like to meet that bastard ….I have got newas that he is in Delhi aoeking in a hospital with his name changed

  • Amit  On April 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Can anyone send me any photograph of that Bastard Sohanlal ???

  • Rolin N.John  On September 12, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I am really deeply troubled about this entire incident and keep on thinking about it 24×7..I first came to know/learn about this atrocious and most barbaric act after reading it in the Sunday magazine section published in the Times Of India 15-20 years back and it was well registered in my memory. I even asked my mother about it since I was not even born in 1973,she did confirm about this horrendous incident.However,of late I have watched this on crime patrol on Sony Tv twice in 4.5 months and it makes me go crazy,sad and mad to think about it..followed by reading the writings about it on the internet . I would like to thank all the staff of KEM Hospital especially the nurses who have the guts and the fortitude to not only endure but actually walk through Aruna’s ordeal simultaneously..the way she herself is going through it ..I would like to meet Aruna ma’am at least once in my life time before her final abode and thus see & feel the pain she is going through and in all possibility partake in her agony so she may be relieved albeit a bit, if not all of it.
    May the Lord Allmighty bless her soul abundantly and I am sure does justice for her on the Judgement day. Amen

  • Reshma Talawadekar  On September 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    after going thru all d details,not a word to say for her endless suffering..but hats of to KEM staff to their never ending efforts to revive Ms Aruna Shanbaug…jst keeping mum n praying for that noble soul….

  • KHAN SADAF  On January 17, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Aruna Shanbhag its been 37 years of long battle for you between life and death and don’t know how many more years you have to fight this battle………. though in this 37 yearS you actually didn’t got chance to have a right to live with dignity nor did you got the right to die with dignity, but hope and pray that god soon and very soon relief you from this unimaginable pain and unheard scream through which you go through every day…, every hour……, n every single seconds……!!!!! God bless the staff in KEM Hospital for taking such great care of yours…..!!!!!!!!!

  • parvez  On March 24, 2014 at 7:38 am

    This is the only incidence in the world where unfortunate raped lady is in coma for years who actually is virgin. She was raped anally. The person who raped her is expired. Again only case where victim got more punishment than curlpit.
    Death sentence for rapist is the only way to stop such crimes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: