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Protector Of Right To Life And Personal Liberty: Article 21 Of Indian Constitution

Right to life and personal liberty are the most essential and important right of human being. Every constitution in the world assures the right to life. It is the foundation of rights, also we can say that right to life is the daddy of rights which are mentioned in the part 3rd of Indian constitution. If a nation wants to progress then this right is mandatory for the citizens.

Article 21 of this part states that "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law", and this is known as the Right to Life and Personal Liberty. this Article prohibits the invasion upon a person's right to life and personal liberty against the state. The state here refers to all entities having statutory authority, like the Government and Parliament at the Central and State level, local authorities, etc. Thus, violation of the right by private entities is not within its purview.

Simplifying the Article 21 of Indian constitution

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty for all. It prevents the state from taking your life or detaining you unlawfully, ensuring legal procedures are followed. The right to life has been interpreted to include aspects of a dignified existence, and the courts play a vital role in its evolving interpretation.

To understand the Article 21 we must know the landmark judgements related to the fundamental rights.

Here are few cases related to the Article 21 of Indian Constitution.

A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950)
In this case, the Petitioner, a communist leader, was detained under the Preventive Detention Act, 1950. He claimed that such detention was illegal as it infringed upon his freedom of movement granted in Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution of India and thus also violated his Personal Liberty as granted by Article 21 since freedom of movement should be considered a part of a person's personal liberty.

The court stated that personal liberty meant liberty of the physical body and thus did not include the rights given under Article 19(1). Hence, Personal liberty was considered to include some rights like the right to sleep and eat, etc. while the right to move freely was relatively minor and was not included in one's "personal" liberty.

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)
The petitioner Maneka Gandhi's passport was issued on 1st June 1976 as per the Passport Act of 1967. On 2nd July 1977, the Regional Passport Office (New Delhi) ordered her to surrender her passport. The petitioner was also not given any reason for this arbitrary and unilateral decision of the External Affairs Ministry, citing public interest.

The petitioner approached the Supreme Court by invoking its writ jurisdiction and contending that the State's act of impounding her passport was a direct assault on her Right of Personal Liberty as guaranteed by Article 21. It is pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court in Satwant Singh Sawhney v. Ramarathnam held that right to travel abroad is well within the ambit of Article 21, although the extent to which the Passport Act diluted this particular right was unclear.

The judgment's most important feature was the interlinking it laid down between the provisions of Articles 19, 14 and 21. Through this link, the supreme court made these provisions inseparable and into a single entity. Now, any procedure has to meet all the requirements mentioned under these three articles to be held valid. As a result, this judgement enlarged the scope of personal liberty significantly and preserved the fundamental & constitutional right to life.

This judgement, apart from protecting citizens from the unchallenged actions of the Executive, also preserved the sanctity of parliamentary law, when it refused to strike down the 1967 Act's Sections 10(3)(c) and 10(5).

The judgement paved the way for the Apex Court to bring into the ambit of Article 21 other important rights like Right to Clean Water, Right to clean Air, Right to freedom from Noise Pollution, Standard Education, Speedy Trial, Fair Trial, Right to Livelihood, Legal Aid, Right to Food, Right to Clean Environment, Right to Medical Care, etc.

Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018)
In this case, the petitioner NGO filed a Writ Petition challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as it criminalised sexual acts between LGBT persons, claiming that it was against the Fundamental Rights.

The court, applying the principle of human dignity, said that Section 377 was violative of Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Constitution to the extent that it criminalised consensual sexual acts of adults (i.e. persons above the age of 18 years who are competent to consent) in private. Hence, sexual acts between LGBT adults conducted with the free consent of the parties involved were declared legal.

As can be observed, human dignity is not a straightjacket idea. Rather, it involves all those rights and freedoms which enable a person to live life without encroachment upon his or her self-respect, pride and safety.

In India, euthanasia is a crime. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the attempt to commit suicide and Section 306 of the IPC deals with abetment of suicide � both actions are punishable. Only those who are brain dead can be taken off life support with the help of family members. Likewise, the Honorable Supreme Court is also of the view that that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution does not include the right to die.

The court held that Article 21 is a provision guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty and by no stretch of imagination can extinction of life be read into it. However, various pro-euthanasia organizations, the most prominent among them being the Death with Dignity Foundation, keep on fighting for legalization of an individual's right to choose his own death.

A major development took place in this field on 7 March 2011. The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, allowed passive euthanasia. Refusing mercy killing of Aruna Shaunbag, lying in a vegetative state in a Mumbai Hospital for 37 years, a two-judge bench laid down a set of tough guidelines under which passive euthanasia can be legalized through a high-court monitored mechanism.

The court further stated that parents, spouses, or close relatives of the patient can make such a plea to the high court. The chief justices of the high courts, on receipt of such a plea, would constitute a bench to decide it. The bench in turn would appoint a committee of at least three renowned doctors to advise them on the matter.

Article 21 is the powerful weapon against the arbitrary state action. This article is describes as a heart and soul. It is not just a right, it is a ultimate source of dignity and freedom. At last we can say that Article 21 is the very basic need of the humans.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Aditya Verma
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Authentication No: MY413345209175-12-0524

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