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Right To Livelihood And Article 21 Of Constitution Of India

One of the main articles in Part III of the Indian Constitution that addresses fundamental rights is Article 21. Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines the enforceable rights against the State of those fundamental rights mentioned in Part III. State refers to all local or other authority located within Indian territory or under the jurisdiction of the Indian government, as well as the Government and Parliament of India, the Government and Legislature of each State, and all other authorities. Laws that violate basic rights or are contradictory with them to the extent that they do so are deemed void, as stipulated by Article 13.

Additionally, the State is prohibited from enacting any legislation that diminishes or takes away the rights granted by Part III of the Indian Constitution. Laws that violate Article 13 will be null and void to the degree of their violation. Regarding Article 21, it states that no one may be deprived of their life or personal freedom unless it is done so in accordance with a legally established process. What is the proper meaning of the word "life" as it is used in the aforementioned Article is a moot question. Will it refer to the mere right to exist physically, or will it also encompass the right to work and a means of subsistence?

"The most valuable human right, protected by Article 21, is the fundamental right to life, which 'forms the arc of all other rights.'" Furthermore, the Indian people have gotten all they had requested from this article. We have no doubt that it can provide more in the future if they so choose. It's possible that the founding fathers were unaware of the enormous potential inherent in a brief clause they were drafting for the Constitution. Seldom has a provision achieved as much progress as this one.

The enormous content that lesser mortals poured into Article 21, which was numbered in the draft constitution to "compensate" for the insertion of Article 15A, must be making Dr. Ambedkar and a large portion of the Constituent Assembly, who "felt dissatisfied" with the reach of Article 15, happy in heaven. The voyage in all its grandeur is still ongoing. Law cannot be still; it is never still. It has also to be skillfully shaped to withstand the test of time, since the practice of law is based more on experience than on reasoning.

Salient Features Of Article 21

It is true that the founding fathers stressed the terms "life" and "personal liberty," with particular reference to incarceration carried out in accordance with established procedure under any legitimate and legal law, when this Article was first approved by the Constituent Assembly for inclusion in the Constitution. However, the current interpretation of Article 21's word "deprivation of life" does not imply the complete abolition of bodily existence alone.

The meaning of "life" as stated in Article 21 has been interpreted more broadly as a result of multiple Supreme Court decisions. Anyone who does not have access to enough financial assistance or economic sustenance runs the risk of dying or becoming worthless. Life is not worth living for someone who is famished and without food. He might be "breathing," but it wouldn't mean he was "living life." These individuals are prone to committing any type of crime in order to subsist on a limited diet. The founding fathers can be said to have enacted Article 21, which forbids the State from depriving any individual of their "life" unless it does so through a legally recognised mechanism, in order to prevent such hunger among those who reside in India.

Thus, the definition of "life" in Article 21 must inevitably include the right to a sufficient standard of living and employment in order to prevent the individual in question from being reduced to a living, breathing skeleton. Of course, it is true that Article 21 uses negative language in contrast to Article 19(1)(g), which uses positive language. That would, however, not diminish the effectiveness or the bounds of Article 21, which grants every Indian citizen the fundamental right to a dignified and effective existence in order to have a happy and healthy life.

This would therefore inevitably entail the assurance of having a sufficient means of subsistence and employment. The directive principles contained in the aforementioned Articles, which also deal with the same area of legislative exercise by the State, must inevitably be read in conjunction with the mandate of Article 21 and not in opposition to it, since Article 21 itself includes a mandate to the State not to tinker with the fundamental rights of persons entitled to lead a healthy life except by enacting valid laws. After reading this, it is clear that the State has a responsibility to guarantee that everyone living in India has access to a sufficient standard of living as well as the ability to work.

It is undoubtedly true that the right to work and the guarantee of a sufficient living standard guaranteed by Article 21 cannot allow any citizen to insist on doing any work that is illegal or offensive in and of itself because that would violate both Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which protects non-citizens as well as Article 19(1)(g) read with Article 19 subclause 6.

Articles 14, 19(1)(g), and 21 taken together would provide a strong foundation for the right to work and pursue any legally permitted profession or hobby in order to have a sufficient income for living a healthy and fulfilling life. It goes without saying that a legal procedure that violates someone's right to a sufficient means of subsistence or employment possibilities provided by the State cannot be one that violates Article 14 of the Charter.

Therefore, a legislation must explicitly remove all limitations imposed by Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) on the authority of the relevant Legislature to adopt such laws before it can deprive a person of their life and personal liberty, as provided by Article 21. Article 13 would take effect and render the procedural legislation void if it came into direct conflict with any of the aforementioned fundamental rights.

One further noteworthy aspect of Article 21 is that, unlike the positive right provided by Article 19(1)(g), which is exclusive to Indian citizens, Article 21 is available to everyone living in India, regardless of citizenship. Put differently, the positive mandate of Article 19(1)(g) serves a smaller segment of India's population, whereas the negative injunction found in Article 21 has a larger scope and includes non-citizens as well. Unlike Article 19, Article 21 has no restrictions and is not susceptible to any exceptions. Unlike Article 19, it accepts any vehicle or resident of India, regardless of whether they are Indian citizens. It began with a resounding nay. When the terms "shall" and "except" are used, the Indian people's will becomes final and definitive.

Judicial Review of Article 21: "We shall now proceed with the examination of the width, scope, and content of the expression "personal liberty" in Art. 21," remarked a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh. In light of the language of Article 19(l)(d), we must assume that the right to move about, or rather the right to movement, is not included in that expression. In its most restrictive sense, the right to move about without restriction would only include freedom from physical restraint or freedom from confinement inside a prison; in other words, it would only include freedom from arrest and detention as well as freedom from false imprisonment or wrongful confinement.

We cannot, however, maintain that the term was meant to have only this limited meaning. On the other hand, we believe that "personal liberty" is used in the Article as a general term that encompasses all the different types of rights that constitute a person's "personal liberties," aside from those covered in the various clauses of Art. 19 (1). Put differently, Art. 19(l) addresses specific types or characteristics of that freedom, whereas Art. 21's definition of "personal liberty" includes the remainder.

We have previously taken a section of Field, J.'s decision in Munn v. Illinois, where the learned judge noted that "life" in the context of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, which correspond to Article 2, means not only the right to an individual's continued animal existence, but also the right to possess all of an individual's organs, including his arms and legs.

We have no doubt that the term "life" in Article 21 has the same meaning as it does here, and the Supreme Court has thus designated a very broad area for the application of Article 21 to the concept of life and liberty as it is established therein. In the case of Olga Tellis and others v. Bombay Municipal Corporation and others, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its ruling regarding the question of whether the term "life" as found in Article 21 would include the right to work or the right to be assured of an adequate means of livelihood.

The petitioners' main argument is that, as we have stated while summarising their case, the right to livelihood is guaranteed by Art. 21 and, since they will be deprived of their livelihood if they are evicted from their slum and pavement dwellings, their eviction is unconstitutional and amounts to deprivation of their life. We shall take the premise that the petitioners will lose their source of income if they are forced from their homes is true for the sake of argument. Based on that supposition, we must ask ourselves whether the right to livelihood is part of the right to life. We can only conclude that it does in response to that query. \

The scope and depth of the right to life granted by Article 21 are immense. It means more than only that life cannot be ended or taken away-for instance, by the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty-unless done so in accordance with a process set down by law. That is only a single facet of the right to exist. Since no one can survive without the means of subsistence, or means of life, the right to livelihood is a crucial component of that right. The simplest method of denying someone their right to life would be to completely deprive them of their means of subsistence if the right to livelihood is not recognised as a component of the constitutional right to life. Such a deprivation would render existence unlivable in addition to robbing it of all purpose and meaningful content. \

However, if the right to a livelihood is not considered a component of the right to life, then such deprivation would not need to follow the legal process. A vital part of the right to life must be considered that which, by itself, makes life conceivable, putting aside what makes life bearable. If you take away someone's ability to support themselves, you are taking away their life. That does, in fact, explain why so many people from rural areas are moving to the cities. \

They leave the communities because they can't make a living there. The struggle for survival, or the struggle for life, is the driving factor behind their abandonment of their homes and hearths in the hamlet. The proof of the connection between life and means of subsistence is so unquestionable. Few people can afford the luxury of living only for food; they must eat in order to survive. Because their ability to eat depends on their ability to support themselves. \

This is the setting in which Douglas J. stated in Baksey that a person's right to work is their most valuable freedom. Given that life is a precious freedom and that the right to life is what keeps a man alive, it is the most valuable liberty. According to Field, J. in Munn v. Illinois, "life" refers to more than just animal existence, and the prohibition against taking away someone's ability to enjoy life encompasses all boundaries and capacities. In Kharak Singh v. State of U.P., this Court approvedly cited this observation.

The Constitution's Directive Principle of State Policy, Article 39(a), states that the State shall, among other things, focus its policies on guaranteeing that all people, men and women equally. Another Directive Principle, Art. 41, states, among other things, that the State shall, to the extent of its economic growth and capability, establish appropriate provisions for guaranteeing the right to work in situations of unemployment and unjustifiable want. According to Article 37, the Directive Principles are essential to the nation's government even though they are not upholdable in court.

When determining the meaning and content of fundamental rights, the Principles included in Arts. 39(a) and 41 must be viewed as equally important. If the State is obligated to guarantee its inhabitants both the right to labour and a sufficient means of subsistence, then excluding the right to livelihood from the scope of the right to life would be a mere formality. By using affirmative action, the State may not be forced to give its inhabitants a sufficient standard of living or employment. However, anyone who is denied their ability to support themselves unless a proper and equitable legal process has been followed can contest the denial as violating their right to life as guaranteed by Article 21.

In Delhi Transport Corporation D.T.C. v. Mazdoor Congress and Others, the Supreme Court adopted a similar stance, holding that "the right to livelihood includes the right to life, and the right to livelihood therefore cannot hang on to the whims of individuals in authority." They are neither offering a bounty for the job, nor can they guarantee its survival. Many fundamental rights are based on income, and the right to work becomes even more important when it is the only source of income.

It is untenable for fundamental rights to be left in the dark with vague assumptions and ambiguous interpretations. That will make them look foolish. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interest to have service conditions that are as clear and unambiguous as possible, including the employees themselves. Arbitrary regulations, like the one under discussion-which is often referred to as the Henry VIII regulations-have no place in any kind of service arrangement.

In the same case, K. Ramaswamy J. established in para. 267 that:
"The procedure prescribed for such deprivation must, therefore, be just, fair, and reasonable tinder. Giving a high ranking officer authority does not guarantee that it will be used in an impartial, reasonable, diligent, fair, and just manner without providing inherent safety for staff members, especially in the current morally degenerate climate. There are a lot of pulls and demands placed on even cops who perform their duties honestly and diligently. Therefore, in order to meet societal needs that are consistent with the constitutional framework, the conflicting claims of the "public interest" against the "individual interest" of the employees must be harmoniously combined.

In relation to Article 21, it is necessary to refer to the ruling given by the Supreme Court in the case of The Board of Trustees of the Port of Bombay v. Dilipkumar R. Nadkaarni & ors. Article 21 stipulates that an individual cannot be deprived of their life or freedom unless the legally mandated procedure is followed. The meaning of the term "life" is far more expansive. Some of the finer aspects of human civilization that make life worthwhile would be at peril when the results of a departmental investigation are therefore likely to negatively impact someone's reputation or means of subsistence, and this kind of situation can only be created by legislation that mandates fair procedures.

The law envisioned by Article 21 must withstand the test of Article 14, and the procedure established by Article 21 must pass the reasonableness test in order to be in compliance with Article 14, as established by Bhagawati, J. in the case of Smt. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India & Anr.

It wouldn't be a procedure at all and wouldn't satisfy Article 21's requirements if it wasn't right, just, fair, and wasn't arbitrary, fantastical, or oppressive. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the same principle in the case of LIC of India and others v. Consumer Education & Research Centre and others, noting in paragraph 14 that Article 19 guarantees freedoms with the right to residence and settlement in any part of the nation and that Article 21-which interprets the right to life broadly-extends to the right to livelihood. The court concluded in the case of M.J. Sivani & Ors. v. State of Karnataka & Ors. that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 does, in fact, protect livelihood, but it added a caveat that its deprivation cannot be projected or stretched to an extent that is harmful to the public interest or has a pernicious effect on public morality or public order.

Therefore, it was decided that neither the regulation of video games nor the banning of some video games that involve pure chance or a combination of skill and chance violate Article 21 or that the process is illogical, unfair, or unjust. In the Chameli Singh & Ors. v. State of U.P. and Anr. case, a bench of three learned Supreme Court judges had to consider whether the term "life" as defined in Article 21 would encompass all elements of the right to life. In paragraph 8 of the ruling, the following significant remarks were made in response to the positive question:

"In any organised society, satisfying man's animal wants alone does not guarantee his right to exist as a human being. It is only obtained if he is guaranteed every opportunity to grow and is released from constraints that impede his development. The goal of all human rights is to accomplish this. Any civilised society that guarantees the right to life also guarantees the right to food, water, a healthy environment, education, health care, and shelter.

The Supreme Court expressed the same opinion when it rendered its decision in Dr. Haniraj J. Chulani v. Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa, holding that the right to livelihood is a part of the right to life as stated in Article 21. On the other hand, based on the facts of that case, a person who is now practicing medicine and is not allowed to practise law simultaneously is not denied the aforementioned right. This topic might be concluded by referencing an Apex Court ruling that took a similar stance in Narendra v. State of Haryana.

It follows that Article 21 guarantees everyone living in India the right to a dignified life, which includes the right to an adequate standard of living and the ability to work. No procedural law can therefore deny someone this right unless it is enacted by a competent legislature and does not violate any other fundamental rights, particularly Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution.

Therefore, Article 21 must be interpreted in conjunction with Articles 14 and 19 to form a trinity of rights that project a golden triangle and guarantee a life that is both healthy and productive for all Indian nationals as well as other residents. These three Articles guarantee an egalitarian period within the framework of fundamental rights, projecting an assurance that the Preamble's promise would be fulfilled.

It's time to assess the circumstances in order to pull down the curtain. As demonstrated above by a plethora of Supreme Court rulings spanning decades, it is now established that the term "life" as used in Article 21 encompasses all higher values of life, such as the right to work and the right to subsistence, in addition to the idea of one's physical existence. This right is an essential freedom that is granted to all residents of India, with the exception of citizens, who are exclusively protected by Article 19(1)(g).

This right cannot be interfered with by the State unless and until it is done so through a legal process that results from a valid law that has been passed by an appropriate legislature and does not conflict with any other fundamental rights, particularly those protected under Article 14 and 19(1)(g) to the extent that the concerned party is invoking such a right. While Article 19(1)(g) only serves the interests of citizens, Article 14 is accessible to everyone, not just those who are citizens. Consequently, Articles 21 and 14 work together to serve the same class of people who live in India, including citizens and non-citizens. It is true that Article 21 is written in a negative manner and cannot be strictly enforced by a substantive provision, unlike the basic right guaranteed to Indian people in Article 19(1)(g).

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the State cannot alter the right to work or the standard of living that Article 21 guarantees to all Indian citizens and non-citizens alike, unless it passes a procedural law that satisfies Part III of the Indian Constitution. Additionally, the State has a duty to follow the provisions of Articles 39(a) and 41 in order to strengthen the right to life as envisioned by Article 21.

The State, which is governed and guided by the provisions of Article 21 in Part III and the Directive Principles in Part IV, must ensure that the right to life, including the right to a livelihood and the right to work, as guaranteed by Article 21, is not reduced to a mere paper platitude but is kept alive, vibrant, and pulsating so that the nation can effectively march towards the avowed goal of establishment of an egalitarian society as envisaged by the founding fathers while enacting the Constitution of India along with its Preamble. It is also important to keep in mind that Article 21 cannot be repealed or amended.

Written By: Akanksha

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