Home   »   Indian Polity   »   Article 21 of Indian Constitutio

Article 21 of Indian Constitution- Right Life and Personal Liberty

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution safeguards a fundamental right, known to all. It ensures the protection of personal liberty and the right to life. Its core purpose is shielding citizens’ rights from State intervention, contrasting with actions from private entities. In essence, if an individual infringes upon these rights, enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution, the affected party must seek legal remedies. Given its status as a fundamental right, Article 21 remains beyond legislative limitations.

Article 21 Right to Life

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.

  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to life and liberty protection.
  • The Indian Supreme Court has termed Article 21 as the “heart of fundamental rights.”
  • According to Article 21, no one can be deprived of their life without due legal process, implying that every individual has the right to life, which cannot be infringed upon without following the required legal procedures.
  • This protection is specifically granted against the State, encompassing not only the government but also its agencies, legislative bodies, municipal governments, etc.
  • The right to life includes provisions for a healthy environment, means of sustenance, and the ability to live with dignity.
  • Article 21 also safeguards personal freedoms, asserting that no one’s liberty can be curtailed except through legal means.
  • Examples of personal liberty under Article 21 include the freedom to travel without constraints, the right to choose one’s place of residence, and the freedom to engage in any lawful profession.

Important cases of 21 Article

The phrases “life” and “personal liberty” refer to a broad range of individual rights that have arisen from the courts’ evolving interpretation of Article 21 throughout time. We will look at this Fundamental Right’s different facets in this section. Nonetheless, before delving into that, it is important to examine the legal development of this notion and the import of the most well-known rulings of it.

A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950)

In this instance, the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 was used to hold the Petitioner, a communist leader. He argued that the imprisonment was unlawful because it violated his liberty as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and his freedom of movement, which are both recognized in Article 19(1)(d) of the Indian Constitution.

Judgment- The court held that the rights granted by Article 19(1) did not fall under the definition of personal liberty, which was defined as liberty of the physical body. Therefore, it was believed that one’s “personal” liberty encompassed certain rights, such as the freedom to eat and sleep, but not the ability to move around freely, which was regarded as a relatively minor right.

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)

According to the Passport Act of 1967, the Central Government decided to confiscate the petitioner’s newly-made passport “in the public interest,” thus the Regional Passport Office in Delhi gave her the order to relinquish it within seven days. The Government responded that they could not provide a copy of the same “in the interest of the general public” when asked to provide a summary of the reasons for such impounding. The petitioner filed a writ contesting the government’s decision, its failure to justify, and its denial of the petitioner’s right to self-defence.

Judgment- The Supreme Court ruled that the right to personal liberty must include the freedom to travel and leave the nation. It declared that the term “personal liberty,” as defined in Article 21, had the broadest definition and encompassed a range of rights about an individual’s liberty. As a result, the definition of personal liberty was substantially expanded, and it was decided to cover all rights guaranteed by Article 21 in addition to all other rights of an individual’s personal liberty. Only a legally defined process that was “fair, just, reasonable, oppressive, or arbitrary” could limit such a right.

Due Process of Law vs. Procedure Established by Law

  • The Constitutional Assembly adopted the term “procedure established by law” following a discussion between Sir B.N. Rau, the advisor to the Constitutional Assembly, and Frankfurter J. of the US Supreme Court, who claimed that the due process clause is undemocratic and onerous for the judiciary because it gives judges the authority to invalidate laws that have been enacted.
  • The “process defined by law” that was preferred in the constituent discussion gave legislative dominance over the judicial branch while providing adequate constitutional and legal protections for “personal liberty” against judicial supremacy. The Constituent Assembly preserved the legislature’s supremacy.
  • It means that a law will be enforceable if it was enacted by the Parliament via the correct process. Putting this idea into practice suggests that a person may be deprived of his life or personal freedom under the legal process.

Correlation between Articles 14, 19, and 21 of Indian Constitution

  • Articles 19 and 21 are complementary, and the legal process imposed to limit these rights ought to withstand examination in light of other Constitutional requirements, such as Article 14.
  • Therefore, a law that infringes upon an individual’s personal liberty must not only pass the constitutional requirements of Article 21 but also Articles 14 and 19.
  • Because of their interdependence, these three rights offer protection from the government’s capricious actions.
  • They are intended to be read concurrently and understood in light of one another.
  • Due to their enormous collective significance, all three of them are known as the “Golden Triangle” in jurisprudence. They all provide citizens with fundamental human rights and liberties.

Scope of Article 21

After discussing the enlargement of Article 21’s scope, it’s critical to comprehend the vast range of rights and benefits that this one right entails under its modern interpretation. This part discusses various aspects of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty.

  1. Right to live with human dignity
  2. Right to livelihood
  3. Right to shelter
  4. Right to nutritional food
  5. Right to go abroad
  6. Right against illegal detention
  7. Right to privacy
  8. Right to health
  9. Right to sleep
  10. Right to die
  11. Right to a healthy environment

Right to Life and Suicide

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalizes attempted suicide, punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

  • Debates have arisen regarding the continuation of this provision, with mental health experts advocating for counselling rather than punishment for those attempting suicide.
  • The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, passed by Parliament and enforced in 2018, aims to provide mental healthcare and services for individuals with mental illness and safeguard their rights.
  • This act effectively decriminalizes suicide in India.
  • According to the law, individuals attempting suicide shall be presumed to have severe stress, and unless proven otherwise, they shall not be prosecuted under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

Emergency and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

An emergency is a circumstance in which the State’s authorities must move quickly to address potentially dangerous circumstances such as financial insolvency, external assault, or internal insurrection. An emergency in India can be any of the following three categories:

  1. National Emergency
  2.  President’s rule
  3. Financial Emergency
  • One of the only two rights that the government cannot restrict, even in an emergency, is Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. It states that no one may be deprived of their life or personal freedom until a legal process has been followed, and even then, the process cannot be arbitrary or unfair (as acknowledged in the Maneka Gandhi case).
  • Article 21’s inability to be suspended guarantees people their fundamental and prized human rights and prevents them from being misused in stressful or dangerous situations.
  • The 44th Amendment to the Constitution (1978) removed Articles 20 and 21 from Article 359’s purview, resulting in the provision that Article 21 cannot be suspended.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides:

Despite its negative tone, Article 21 grants everyone, even foreigners, the fundamental right to life and personal liberty, and courts have deemed these two rights to be of utmost importance. Because these rights are fundamentally superior to all other aspects of the political and social order, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches are more attentive to these rights than to other aspects of day-to-day life. Furthermore, even though the term “person” refers to an individual, Article 21 of the treaty also establishes the enforcement of the people’s collective rights through “Public Interest Litigation” under Articles 32 and 226.

The “literal interpretation” placed restrictions on the early application of Article 21. However, as time has gone on, “liberal interpretation” of the article’s provisions under pertinent international understanding has broadened the article’s scope of application. Therefore, protection against the arbitrary deprivation of “life” would encompass all these aspects of life that contribute to a man’s meaningful and worthwhile existence, and would go beyond simple protection against bodily harm or death to include an invasion of the right to “live” with human dignity.

Check More Indian Polity Notes

Sharing is caring!


Which article of the Indian Constitution addresses the right to life provision?

The right to life is mentioned in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Give some basic information regarding the Right to Life being provided?

"Protection of Life and Personal Liberty: No one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty unless in accordance with the procedures established by law," as stated in Article 21. This fundamental right is available to all people, citizens and non-citizens alike.

Provide some background information on the Maneka Gandhi Right to Life Case?

Art. 21 was given a new meaning by the Supreme Court. According to the Court, having the right to life encompasses more than just the ability to live one's life in a humane manner.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *