Article 21

Article 21 of the Constitution of India

ARTICLE 21: “RIGHT TO LIFE AND PERSONAL  LIBERTY” – EXPANDED HORIZONS

Author: Ms. Vaishali Malhotra”, Kurukshetra University.

Introduction

It is evidentiary from the past experiences in the judicial system that how the judicial system had evolved the scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. If we observe many of the precedents over time we noticed the creativity of the judicial system with Article 21 of the Constitution. In the further text, we will understand different phases of the expansion of the scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Also Read,

Interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India by Supreme Court

Article 21 reads as:

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

■The opinion of Honourable Justices

●According to Justice Bhagwati

Article 21 “embodies a constitutional value of supreme importance in a democratic society.”

●According to Justice Iyer

 He has characterized Article 21 as “the procedural Magna Carta protective of life and liberty.

■The objective of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

Article 21 said to be the heart of the Indian Constitution as it plays a prominent role in the prevention of encroachment of individual rights and liberties along with the deprivation of life with the exception of certain circumstances established by law.

■Article 21 secures two rights as follows :

1)  Right to life, and

2) Right to personal liberty

  • Right to Life

The expression “Right to life” is very much broad and significant as it provides everybody with the right to life, liberty as well as the security to the person. It is one of the most prominent fundamental rights until now. All other rights whether it is a right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation or any right gives the addition of quality as well as standards to the existing life but this right itself is a Right to life consisting of basic necessities and the operation of human rights as well. Therefore, we can say that this article has much wider meaning then it appears to be.

Kharak Singh v.State[1] of Uttar Pradesh

In this landmark case, the Supreme Court explained the term “life” as something more than only animal existence.

Sunil Batra vs Delhi administration

Here also, in this case, the Supreme Court has reobserved and held that the Right to life included the right to lead a healthy life which a human body desires in prime conditions.

Also Read,

Right to die and Article 21: Comparison

  • Right to personal liberty

One of the main concerns of the judicial system is to provide personal liberty to each and every individual of India. If we look upon historical sources like the English Magna Carta of 1215 provided that “no free when shall be taken or imprisoned but by the law of land” personal liberty is something more than only animal existence.

■Phases of the evolution of Article 21

  1. A.K Gopalan era ( 1950)
  2. Maneka Gandhi case (1978)
  3. Post Maneka Gandhi period: Recent expansion of horizons
  • AK Gopalan era, 1950

In this case, it was shown that the scope of Article 21 was a bit narrow till the 50s. The Supreme court held in this case Article 21 are not identical and have a very narrow scope.

  • Maneka Gandhi case,1978

This was a landmark case in which the evolution of Article 21 takes place. Interpretation of fundamental rights as well as resulted in the more liberal interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution in this case. In this case, the Passport Act was qualitative in the nature of Article 14, Article 19 along with Article 21. The judgment of this case expands the scope of Article 21 that was narrowed in the A.K Gopalan case.

  • Post Maneka Gandhi period: Recent expansion of horizons

We can be called this as a new era of judicial revolution as many of the colors have been added to Article 21 of the Constitution in various cases. Some of the cases have been discussed below:

  • Unni Krishnans case 
  • In this case, Supreme Court extended the scope of Article 21 as Supreme Court itself provided the list of various rights that are covered under the ambit of Article 21 on the basis of various pronouncements and various judgments.

Some of them are listed below:

  • Right against Solitary confinement
  • Right to go abroad
  • Right to privacy
  • Right against handcuffing
  • Right against public hanging
  • Right against custodial death
  • Right against delayed execution
  • Right to shelter etc.

Also Read,

Why the scope of Right to Liberty has been so expanded?

■Expanded Horizon under the ambit of Right to life

  • Right to live with dignity

In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the Apex Court gave the new direction to Article 21 and held that the right to live is not only a physical right but also includes the right to life and human dignity in the Article 21 itself.

  • Right against Sexual harassment at the workplace

In the case of Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court held that Sexual harassment at the workplace in violation of Article 14 as well as Article 15 along with Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme court also observed that there is a lack of a separate enactment for Sexual harassment at the workplace thus broadens the horizon by including violation of Article 21 of the Constitution by providing 12 guidelines.

  • Right against rape

The judicial system includes Right to rape into the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution as according to the Supreme court rape is not just a crime against a single person say women but also the crime against society as it influenced the knowns, parents and the relatives of the victim as well.

  • Right to reputation

As per the view of the Supreme Court, a good reputation is also an element of personnel security thus under the dimension of Article 21.

  • Right to livelihood

In the case Board of Trustees of the Port of Bombay v. Dilipkumar Raghavendranath Nandkarni, it was observed that the Right to life guaranteed by article 21 also includes the right to livelihood.

  • Right to shelter

As per the guidelines of the Supreme Court right to shelter comes under the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution which provides basic entities to a human being.

  • Right to social security and protection of family

In the case, Regional Director, ESI Corporation v. Francis De Costa, Supreme Court held that the excuse of sickness and disablement comes under the ambit of Article 21 depicting the Right to social security and protection of the family as a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21.

  • Right against honor killing

Allahabad High Court takes a step to stop harassment, ill-treatment in the case of a person (major)who is interested in inter-caste marriage. In this case, Right against honor killing comes under the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution.

  • Right to health and Right to medical care

In the case of State of Punjab v.M.S. Chawla, it was seen that the Right to life includes the right to health and Right to medical care under Article 21 of the Constitution.

  • Right to get pollution-free water and air

In the case, Subhash Kumar vs State of Bihar it was held that every individual have a Right to have pure water and air which is to be included in Article 21 of the Constitution

  • Right to clean environment

In the case, MC Mehta vs Union of India it was held by the Supreme Court of India that tanneries create water pollution thus need to be shut down under Article 21 of the Constitution.

  • Right against noise pollution

Rights against noise pollution are also guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution as per the judicial system.

  • Right  to be informed

In the case, R.P. Ltd. v. Proprietors Indian Express Newspapers, Bombay Pvt. Ltd, the scope of Article 21 broadened by including the Right to be informed.

■Expanded horizons under the ambit of personal liberty

  • Right to choose a life partner

In the case of Shakti Vahini vs Union of India, Supreme Court provided preventive steps to tackle honor killings with respect to the inter-caste marriages and declaring Right to choose a life partner as a fundamental right under Article 21 of Indian Constitution

Also Read,

Violation of Fundamental Right of Citizens: An Analysis

  • Right to education

The right to education under the horizon of personal liberty is also considered to be as fundamental right Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right against Custodial violence

Incidents of the brutal behavior of police officers with detained persons are not new. To prevent these incidents and to stop custodial deaths Right against Custodial violence has been introduced in the ambit of Article 21 of Indian Constitution

  • Right against delayed execution

Under the new trend of the judicial system, Right against delayed execution also comes under the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right to write a book

In the case State of Maharashtra vs Prabhakar Pandurang, the petitioner kept in jail wrote a book based upon science and seeks permission from the government to send that manuscript to his wife for the publication. For that purpose, the government refused that request. Court held that the station of personal liberty declaring the right to write a book as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right against Illegal detention

In the case Joginder Kumar vs State of Uttar Pradesh, the petitioner was illegally detained by the police officer without having a reasonable ground. Supreme Court laid down various guidelines governing the procedures of arrest and detention and declaring right against illegal detention under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

In the case DK Basu vs State of West Bengal which was laid down by the court that Right against illegal detention is to be provided to each and every individual under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right to privacy

The recent and the most controversial case of Justice K.S. Puttuswamy (Retd.) vs. Union of India and Others held that the Right to privacy is to be considered as a fundamental right under the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right to go abroad

In the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. Assistant passport officer, New Delhi, Supreme Court held that the expression “personal liberty” includes the Right to go abroad under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right to free legal Aid and Right to a speedy trial

In the case, Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar the concept of the free legal ad has emerged under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides the right to free Legal Aid at the cost of state to an accused who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Along with this, in this case, lays down that the Right to a speedy trial is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Also Read,

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Article

Conclusion

According to my view, Article 21 is a very flexible and dynamic fundamental right which is based upon the reasonability, principles of natural justice, just and equal treatment and nonarbitrariness which make it distinctive from other articles. This is the main reason why it is to be called the “Heart of Indian Constitution”. The flexibility of Article 21 revolts by t various case laws of the Supreme Court that are discussed above in detail. As per my view expansion of horizons Article, 21 is very much required to meet the new challenges in the society and fulfill the needs of the society which is of dynamic nature


[1]https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/article-21-of-the-constitution-of-india-right-to-life-and-personal-liberty/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/legaldesire.com/right-die-expanding-horizons-article-21/amp/

http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1831/Expanding-Horizons-of-Right-to-Information.html

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