Why the scope of Right to Liberty has been so expanded?
Author: Raj Aryan, Lloyd Law College.
As the topics itself begin with a question, the questions which need to be addressed are “what does Liberty mean and what’s the importance of liberty in the life of an individual”; if these questions are answered, the topic will itself be covered. Liberty can be understood as the state of being free or the power to act as one pleases within the society and not bound by any restrictions intruded by an authority on one’s way of living, behavior, or political views. The freedom and liberty enjoyed by people don’t authorize them to infringe upon the rights and liberty of others.
In India, the meaning and scope of ‘liberty’ have been broad and expansive in its interpretation by the Indian Judiciary. ‘Personal Liberty’ was considered essential to realize the meaning of life, as a life without liberty will have no meaning; that’s the reason for putting them together in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court has rejected the narrow understanding of liberty, being limited to physical safety from detention i.e. freedom from bodily restraint.
The meaning of term personal liberty was released in the case of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1963), in which it was held that the term liberty is a compendious term which includes in itself all varieties of rights which give the individual the right to act in their way but within the foundation of law. So, basically ‘personal liberty’ meant more than freedom from physical obstruction only. Moreover, in the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D Ramanathan, the court held that the right to travel abroad is an ingredient of personal liberty. As, in the Maneka Gandhi case, the term Personal Liberty has been given an expansive meaning, and was held that articles 14, 19, and 21 are not mutually exclusive of each other.
There are many more judgments and orders of the Supreme Court which has expanded the meaning of Liberty. But here we need to discuss it, as our topic is why the meaning has been expanded not how it has expanded. Coming over to the question asked, liberty is a term that was inserted in our Constitution which was enacted in 1950. The basic purpose of including it in our Constitution was to grant rights to individuals to live their lives in their way, and without any restrictions, other than which the law itself restricts. At the time of enactment, India just became independent, so was given limited rights, as it wasn’t possible to foresee every situation, circumstances, and questions that will arise in future on any of the law (here personal liberty).
That’s the reason that the laws made was not considered rigid and static, rather that it was considered flexible which could be changed with the change in the necessities and requirement of the people of the country. The same goes with the term ‘Liberty’; as with the change in time, new questions came up questioning the scope and meaning of liberty. So, till that time, it was considered that life without liberty has no meaning and liberty just doesn’t mean physical obstruction. So, by seeing the requirements and needs of the modern and the upcoming generation, the scope of life and liberty was expanded, considering them as an essential element for the survival of human beings. Along with liberty, the meaning of life was also expanded as both are connected and change in one affects the other, so put together in the Constitution also. It is also for sure that, the way it has been realized and interpreted today, will not remain the same in the future. As, at that time too, the needs, requirements, and necessities of human being will change.