According to article 21 of the constitution of India, “No person shall be
deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure
established by law”. Although unlike USA constitution ‘Due process of
law’has not been mentioned in our constitution even though, after the
decision of Maneka Gandhi vs UOI we follow the principle of natural justice.
This article is very important article because it is a magna karta for human
rights. This article cannot be suspended even during emergency.
According to Bhagwati, J., Article 21 “embodies a constitutional value of
supreme importance in a democratic society.” Iyer, J., has characterized Article
21 as “the procedural magna carta protective of life and liberty.
This right has been held to be the heart of the Constitution, the most organic
and progressive provision in our living constitution, the foundation of our
Right to life is fundamental to our very existence without which we cannot live
as human being and includes all those aspects of life, which go to make a man’s
life meaningful, complete, and worth living. It is the only article in the
Constitution that has received the widest possible interpretation. Under the
canopy of Article 21 so many rights have found shelter, growth and nourishment.
Thus, the bare necessities, minimum and basic requirements that is essential and
unavoidable for a person is the core concept of right to life.
1. Meaning Of Right To Life:
Right to life is not easy to be defined. But with the help of some important
cases, I am trying to define it-
Munn Vs. Illinois.Justice Field“By the term life as here used something
more is meant than mere animal existence .The inhibition against its deprivation
extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision
equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by the amputation of an arm or
Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI-Right to life is not confined to physical existence
but it includes right to life with human dignity.
Francis Coraliee Vs. Delhi,-Justice Bhagwati,“ We think that right to life
includes right live with human dignity and all that goes along with it , namely
, the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition , clothing and shelter
over the head and facilities for reading , writing and expressing oneself in
diverse forms , freely moving about and mixing and com-mingling with fellow
Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municiple Corporation,The Supreme Court said that life
is not restricted to the mere animal existence of a person. It means something
Shantisar Builders vs. Narayanan Khimalal Totame,Life for the animal is the
bare protection of the body, for a human being , it has to be suitable
accommodation which allows him to grow in all aspects- physical , mental and
2. Meaning Of Personal Liberty:
DiceysaysPersonal libertymeans a personal right not to be subjected to
imprisonment, arrest or other physical coercion in any manner that does not
admit of legal justification.
A.K. Gopalan vs.
State of MadrasPersonal Liberty’ in Article 21 means nothing more than
the liberty of physical body that is freedom from arrest and detention without
authority of law.
Kharak Singh Vs. State of Uttar PradeshPersonal liberty is used as
compendious term to include itself all verities of rights which go to make up
Maneka Gandhi vs. UOIPersonal liberty makes for the worth of the
human being and travels makes liberty worthwhile. Right to go abroad cannot be
curtailed except according to procedure established by law.
A.K. Gopalan vs. State of MadrasCJI H.J.Kania“Law in Article 21 must
mean the law of the State or enacted law, and not rules of natural justice.”
Patanjali Sastri J. “Law inArt. 21 means positive or State-made law.” Minority
Opinion- Fazl Ali J. “Law must include certain principles of natural justice.”
Pandit M. S. M. Sharma vs. Shri Sri Krishna Sinha And OthersArticle
194(3)confers on the Legislative Assembly those powers, privileges and
immunities andArt. 208 confers power on it to frame rules. Such ‘Rules’ are
also law under Article 21.
Prem Chand Garg vs.Excise Commissioner, U. PRule making powers of
S.C u/Article 145 is law and such powers are subject to FRs. (It was not related
to Article 21. It was related to Arts 19, 32,142 and 145.)
Ratilal Mithani vs. Assistant Collector of Customs, BombayInherent
power of High Court-Article 225.The procedure for invoking the inherent powers
is regulated by rules framed by the High Court. The power to make such rules is
conferred on the High Court by the Constitution. Such rulesare law for the
purpose of Article 21.
Govind vs. State of Madhya Pradesh. Regulations made under Police
Act fall under Article 21.
Maneka Gandhi vs UOILaw is reasonable law, and not any enacted
piece. It must be just, fair and reasonable i.e. which embodies the principle of
natural justice. Approach of Natural School was accepted.
A.K.Roy vs. UOIOrdinance is also law for the purpose of Article
21.The Constitution makes no distinction between a law made by the legislature
and an Ordinance issued by the President. Both are equally products of the
exercise of legislative power and therefore both are equally subjects to
limitations which are the constitution has placed upon their power.
4. WITH THE HELP OF SOME LEADING CASES WITH TOPIC WISE I AM GOING TO ELOBRATE
(1) Right To Travel
Satwant Singh Sawhney Vs. D.R.Ramanathnam
Right to travel is part of
personal liberty and it can be deprived only by procedure established by law.
Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI
Personal liberty makes for the worth of the human
being and travels makes liberty worthwhile. Right to go abroad cannot be
curtailed except according to procedure established by law.
(2) Right To Privacy
Kharak Singh vs. State of U.P
Right to privacy is not a fundamental
rights under Articles 19(1) (d) (e) & 21. Minority opinion- J.Subba Rao, “Right
to to personal liberty takes in not only a right to be free from restrictions
placed on his movements but also free from encroachments on his private life. It
is true our constitution does not expressly declare a right to privacy as a
fundamental right, but the said right is an essential ingredient of personal
liberty ... ”
Govind vs. State of M.P
Supreme Court accepted a limited Fundamental
Rights to Privacy under Articles 19(1) (a) (d) & 21.
State of Maharashtra vs. Madhukar Narayan
Right to privacy is
available to a women of easy virtues also. She is also a person.
R. Rajagopal vs. State of Tamil Nadu
Auto Shankar wrote his
autobiography while confined in jail. The autobiography was handed over by him
to his wife, for its publication. The Court has asserted that in recent times
the right to privacy has acquired constitutional status; implicit in Article 21.
It is a right to be let alone.
Mr. X vs. Hospital ZRight to privacy vs. Right to life
. Right to
privacy is not an absolute right & restrictions can be imposed on it for the
prevention of crime, disorder or protection of health or morals or protection of
rights and freedoms of others.
PUCL vs. UOI
S.C said that phone tapping is an invasion on right to
privacy. Phone tapping should not be done unless it is necessary for security of
State or interest of public.
Surjit Singh vs. Kanwaljit Kaur
Virginity test is an invasion on
right to privacy.( P&H high Court).
Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Ors
case by the Supreme Court of India which holds that the right to privacy is
protected under Article 21 and Part 3 of the Constitution. It also mentioned
that it won't be an Absolute right and will have some reasonable restrictions in
matters of national security and mutual interest of the citizens and the state.
The Declaration by the supreme Court will open debate about the scrapping
ofSection 377 of the Indian Penal Code, that criminalizes same-sex relations.
India is the only country with Right to Privacy as a Fundamental right under its
(4) Right To Livelihood
Olga Tellis vs. BMC
Right to life includes right to livelihood.
Sodan Singh Vs New Delhi Municipal Committee
Right to life does not
include right to carry on trade or business
(5) Right To Shelter
Chameli Singh vs State of UP
Right to Shelter is Fundamental Rights
Under Article 21.
Khatri Vs. State of Bihar
The Court Ordered the State to meet the
expenses of housing these men in a blind home in Delhi.
Rudal Singh vs. State of Bihar
Petitioner was 14 years in Jail
illegally. He was awarded RS.35000 as compensation. It was the first case when
compensation was given for violation of Article 21.
Sebastian M .Hongray vs. UOI
The Government must pay Rs. one lac to
each of the aforesaid women.
Bhim Singh vs. State of J&k
Petitioner was awarded Rs 3000 as
PUCL vs. Commissioner, Delhi Police
A labourer demanded money for
doing work in Police Station. He was beaten consequently he died. It was held
State was liable to pay 75000Rs to the family of deceased.
Saheli vs. Commissioner of Police, Delhi
A boy, aged of 9 years, died
because of beating of police.75000 compensation to victim of mother.
Nilabati Behra vs.State of Orissa
Police custodial death and dead
body was found on railway track. 1, 50,000/-Rs compensation to the petitioner.
Delhi Domestic Working Women's Forum Vs. UOI
Four domestic women
servants were raped by seven army personnel in a running train Muri Express from
Ranchi to Delhi. Compensation was granted and guidelines were directed for
speedy trial of such rape victim.
Bodhisathwa Gautam vs. Subhra Chakraborty
Interim compensation for
rape victim until her case is finally decided.
Chairman, Railway Board Vs. Chandrima Das
Rape of foreigner in a
room at Yatri Niwas of Howrah Railway station. The Court said that relief can be
given to a foreigner for violation of Article 21 under public law. (Compensation
under Torts is private law).
Prem Shankar vs. Delhi Administration
J Krishna Ayer“Handcuffing is
prima facie inhuman and therefore, unreasonable is over harsh and first flush
arbitrary. Absent of fair procedure and objective monitoring, to inflict iron is
to resortzoological strategiesrepugnantto Article 21.”Handcuffing should be
resort when there is clear and present degree of escape breaking out police
control. Mandate was given to Judicial office to ensure that arrested person was
not handcuffed without reason.
Khatri vs. State of Bihar
To be consistent with Articles 14 &19,
handcuffs must be last refuge, not the routine regimen. Binding of the accused
by the police while in the police custody violates Art.21.
Sunil Gupta vs. State of MaharashtraReputed & Social Person. There was no
reason recorded by escort party (police) in writing for this inhuman treatment..
The Court directed to State to take action against erring authority.
Citizen for Democracy Vs. State of Assam
Handcuff of seven detenues
in hospital. Handcuffs or other fetters shall not be forced on a prisoner
convicted or under -trial while lodged in jail anywhere in the country or while
transporting or in transit from one jail to another or from jail to court and
(8) Ecology/ Environment
M.C. Mehta & Another vs. UOI & Ors
,M.C. Mehta v. Union of India
originated in the aftermath of oleum gas leak from Shriram Food and Fertilisers
Ltd. complex at Delhi. This gas leak occurred soon after the infamous Bhopal gas
leak and created a lot of panic in Delhi.Jurisprudence--Law--Should keep pace
with changing Socio-economic norms---Where a law of the past does not fit in
to the present context, Court should evolve new law. Justice Bhagwati denied the
principle of strict liability and evolved new principle i.e. Principle
M.C.Mehta vs. UOI
Justice Kuldip Singh,(14 December 1988– 21
December 1996).Supreme Court issued several guidelines to control pollution
from industries in Mathura to protect Taj Mahal.
M.C.Mehta vs. UOI
Forty three respondents admitted that Tanneries
discharged their trade effluents into the sewage nallah which led to the
municipal sewage plant before they were thrown into the river Ganga. Supreme
Court passed an order for closing of Tanneries and said that in spite of several
statutes government did not take action .It passed directions to prevent
pollution from tanneries.
Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar Article 21-Right to live includes right to
enjoyment of pollution free water and air. If anything endangers or impairs
that quality of life in derogation of laws, a citizen has a right to
invokeArticle 32 for removing pollution of water or air which may be
detrimental to the quality of life.
Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action vs. UOI  The petitioner, the Indian
Council for Enviro-Legal Action brought this action to prohibit and remedy the
pollution caused by several chemical industrial plants in Bichhri village,
Udaipur District, Rajasthan. The principle of ’Polluter Pays’ was applied in
this case inasmuch as "the incident involved deliberate release of untreated
acidic process wastewater and negligent handling of waste sludge knowing fully
well the implication of such acts." "The cost of damage to be disbursed to the
affected villagers is estimated at Rs.342.8 lakhs and remediation of impacted
well waters and soil at Rs.3738.5 lakhs. This cost needs to be borne by the
management of the industry in keeping with the Polluter Pays principle and the
doctrine of Absolute liability, as applied to Sri Ram Food and Fertilizers
Industry in the case of Oleum leak in 1985."
Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs. UOI
 Pollution which was being
caused by enormous discharge of untreated effluent by the tanneries and other
industries in the State of Tamil Nadu . It was stated that the tanneries are
discharging untreated effluent into agricultural fields to, road-Sides, water
ways and open lands. The untreated effluent was finally discharged in river
Palar which was the main source of water supply to the residents of the area.
"The Precautionary Principle" and "The Polluter Pays" principle are essential
features of "Sustainable Development". The"Onus of proof"is on the actor or
the developer/industrial to show that his action is environmentally benign.
M.C. Mehta vs.
Mr. Kamal Nath was Minister of environment and Forests.
Kamal Nath's dream of having a house on the bank of the Beas in the shadow the
bank of the Beas in the of the snow-capped Zanskar ranges ( Kullu-Manali,
Himachal Pradesh). The Court said “We see no reason why the public trust
doctrine should not be expanded to include all eco-systems operating in our
natural resources. The public trust doctrine is a part of the law of the land.
Our legal system - based on English Common Law - includes the public trust
doctrine as part of its jurisprudence. The State is the trustee of all natural
resources which are by nature meant for public use and enjoyment. Public at
large is the beneficiary of the sea- shore, running waters, airs, forests and
ecologically fragile lands. The State as a trustee is under a legal duty to
protect the natural resources. These resources meant for public use cannot be
converted into private ownership.”
Intellectual Forum Tirupathi vs. State of A.P.IN the name of urban
development , environment cannot be destroyed.
Research Foundation for Science vs.UOI Disposal of hazardous and toxic
(9) Right To Die
P.Rathinam vs. UOI  Right to life includes right to die.
Gian Kaur Vs. State of Punjab  Right to life does not include right to die.
Aruna R.Shanbaugh vs.UOI J.Markandey Katju-Passive euthanasia was allowed
and for this guidelines were laid down.
(11) Right To Education
(12) Right To Food
Miss. Mohini Jain vs.State of Karnataka
J. Kuldip Singh,Capitation
Fee Case,-Right to education is a fundamental right U/A.21 which cannot be
denied by imposing higher fee which is known as ‘Capitation Fee’.
Unni Krishnan vs. State of A.P
.Supreme Court examined the correctness
of Mohini Jain case and partly accepted ruling of Mohani Case. The Court
accepted that right ot education is a F R U/A 21 which flows from right to life
but said that right to free education is available only to children until they
complete the age of 14 years.
(12) Right to Food
PUCL vs. UOIS.C. held that people who(aged, infirm, disabled, destitute
women, children & men, pregnant and lactating women) are starving because of
their inability to purchase food grains have right to get good U/A. 21 and
therefore they ought to be provided the same free of cost by the State out of
the surplus stock esp. when grains is unused and rotting.
(13) Ban On Smoking In Public Place
Murli S. Deora vs.UOI
Non-smoker should not be deprived of his life
without due process of law. Non-smokers are affected by various disease. It is
indirectly affect to right to life. There is no reason to compel noon-smokers
to be helpless victims of air pollution. S.C. banned on smoking on public place.
Nilabati Behra vs. State of Orissa
Compensation Rs 1,50,000.
Jogindar kumar vs. State of U.P
..Practicing Advocate ...Supreme Court
propounded guidelines for arrest and interrogation.
D.K. Basu vs. State of W.B.
Supreme Court propounded detailed
guidelines for arrest and detention.
(14) Right To Free Legal Aid
M.H. Hoscot vs. MaharashtraRight to free Legal Aid is Fundamental Rights
(15) Right To Speedy Trial
Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar
Right to Speedy Trial is
Fundamental Rights under Art.21
Triple Talaq Case:
Shayara Bano vs Union of India and others
A multi-faith bench
heard the controversial triple talaq case in 2017.Though two judges upheld
validity of triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat), the three other judges held that it
was unconstitutional, thus barring the practice by 3–2 majority.One judge
argued that triple talaq violated Islamic law.The bench asked the central
government to promulgate legislation within six months to govern marriage and
divorce in the Muslim community.The court said that until the government
formulates a law regarding triple talaq, there would be an injunction against
husbands pronouncing triple talaq on their wives.
Thanks to the drafters of the Constitution for framing it in such a way that it
neither makes any mandatory provisions regarding various rights for the citizens
nor makes any citizen free from certain fundamental duties that must be followed
by every citizen of the country. It has also looked deeply into the
socio-economic scenario of India so that no rights or duties will be omitted.
Apart from certain fundamental rights, the Constitution also provides certain
other rights and duties towards the citizen which are enclosed in Part IV of the
Constitution known as ‘Directive Principles of State policy.’ Such provisions
are framed under the notion that rights of each and every individual change
accordingly and such rights cannot be considered as fundamental but have to be
One of the merits of our Constitution is that it neither restricts a person from
enforcing his fundamental rights, nor it provides full freedom to a person in
such a manner that he exploits or violates such rights himself or against the
society. Perhaps this feature of our Constitution makes it different from any of
the other major Constitutions of the world.
1. M.P.Jain,Indian Constitutional Law (Kamal Law House, Calcutta, 5th edn.,
2. J.N Pandey Constitutional Law Of India (Central Law Agency Allahabad, 38th
3. V.N. Shukla's Constitution of India(Eastern Book Company, Lucknow,11th edn.,
4. H.M Seervai,Constitutional Law of India(Universal Law Publication 4th edn.,
5. Subhash C KashyapIndian Constitution(Vitasta Publishing Pvt.Ltd.New
Delhi 2nd edn., 2011).
Venkateswaran @ Sinivasane.S, B.A LLB,has completed from Dr.Ambedkar
Goverenment Law college Pondicherry. Currently pursuing LL.M International law
and Human Rights.
It was Inserted by fourteenth amendment
Article 359 (After forty-fourth, constitutional amendment)
AIR 1978 SC597
AIR 1981 SC849
AIR1986 SC 150
AIR1990 SC 630
October 4, 2017
AIR1950 SC 27
AIR1963 SC 1295
AIR1950 SC 27
AIR1963 SC 996
AIR1982 SC 710
AIR1991 SC 207
AIR1995 SC 264
AIR1999 SC 495
AIR1963 SC 1295
AIR2003 P&H 353
Available at supremecourtofindia.nic.in/supremecourt2012_Judgement_24-Aug-2017
visited on 12/10/2017
AIR1986 SC 180
AIR1996 SC 1051
AIR1983 SC 1086
AIR1986 SC 494
AIR1993 SC 1960
AIR1995 SC 14
AIR1999 SC 2979
AIR1996 SC 2193
AIR1996 SC 2715
AIR1991 SC 598
AIR1999 SC 812
AIR1997 SC 388
AIR2006 SC 1350
AIR2012 SC 764
AIR2011 SC 454
AIR1992 SC 1858
AIR1997 SC 568
AIR1997 SC 610
AIR1979 SC 1819