August 1, 2021

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution


According to Indian Constitution, Parliament and state legislative can make laws within their own jurisdictions. Also if the laws violates any provision of Constitution then Supreme Court can declare it as invalid. Article 21 plays a very important role as it examines the reasons for judicial creativity and justifies the role of Supreme Court in protection of fundamental rights of a citizen . To some extent , judiciary derives from failure on other parts of state to perform their duties. Right to life and personal liberty is most valuable fundamental rights among all the others . The study of right to life is indeed a study of Supreme Court as a guardian of fundamental human rights. Under Chapter3 of Constitution of India , all the fundamental rights are described and are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. India borrowed the concept of fundamental rights from United States.


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

As the phraseology of this article starts with a negative word “No” but this word is used in relation to the word deprived . The objective of this right is to prevent dignity upon personal liberty and deprivation of life according to procedure established by law. The statement clearly shows that this fundamental right has been made was nothing more than freedom from arrest and detention from false imprisonment of the physical body. This right has been held to be the heart of the Constitution ,the most organic and progressive provision in our living constitution. The right is available to every person, either citizen or alien. Thus , even a foreigner can claim this right.

Right to life is fundamental to our day to day lifestyle without which we cannot live as a human being and includes all those aspect of life which helps in daily lifestyle. It is the only article in the Constitution that has received the widest possible interpretation .

INTERPRETATION OF ARTICLE 21- Post Maneka Gandhi’s Case

Maneka Gandhi’s Caseb was the starting point for a spectacular evolution of the law relating to judicial intervention in human right cases . It was the decision of seven judges Constitutional bench from where this principle laid down laid down by Supreme Court in this case that procedure established by law for depriving a person of his right to life must be right ,just , fair and reasonable.This new interpretation from this case has enlighted a new era of expansion of right to life and personal liberty. The various dimensions given to this right covers various aspects . Under this case , the Supreme Court gave its observation:

“It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country…to live with human dignity free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in article 21derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 with relating to Articles 41 and 42 and therefore it must includes protection of health and strength of workers ,men and women and of the tender age of children against abuse ,opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in condition of freedom and dignity ,educational facilities ,just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with a human dignity and no State neither the Central Government nor any State Government has the right to take any action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials”.

Extended View Of Article 21-

After the post Maneka Gandhi era ,Supreme Court gave some extended dimensions to Article 21 which are mentioned below-

1-Includes Right To Education:

Right to education is considered as very important right in a human’s life. Earlier it was a part of directive principles of state policy but in the case of Mohini Jain vs State Of Karnataka , Supreme Court stated that the right to education will be a fundamental right as it directly related with right to life. After the constitutional Amendment of 2002,Article 21(A) inserted in constitution as a fundamental right.

2-Includes Right To Privacy:

The issue of privacy was first time raised in case Kharak Singh vs State of Tamil Nadu. After this case the fact was stated that privacy flows from the expression personal liberty. The Supreme Court observed that the right to privacy is nothing but “right to be let alone and it is implicit in right to life and personal liberty” that is guaranteed under this article.

3-Includes Right To Livelihood:

Since no person can live without the means of livelihood so if the right to livelihood is not include under this article then it would be easier to deprive a person from his means of livelihood. The fact of “right to live with dignity” was came to the power in the case of Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation.

4- Includes Right To Speedy Trial:

Speedy trial is also held as fundamental right guarantee of life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21of the Constitution , so if any accused will deny this right is entitled to appeal against it . In the case of Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar this right to speedy trial came to power as a fundamental right under this article of the Constitution.

5- Imposing Capital Punishment is not violation of Article 21:

This situation for Capital punishment and unjust has been raised many times against the court . In the case of Jagmohan Singh Vs State Of Uttar Pradesh, Supreme Court held that freedom to live could not be denied by law unless it is reasonable or in public interest. Therefore it was concluded that the death penalty is an alternative punishment of murder under section 302 of I.P.C. So it should be only imposed in “rarest of the rare case”.

6- Delay In Death Sentence:

In the case of Vatheeswaran vs State Of Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court stated that any principle that prolonged delay that is for 2 years would be unjust and so violates Article 21 of the Constitution. It was also ruled that no fixed period of delay is necessary to make the death sentence non-executable and the accused has the right to get the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

7- Includes Right To Free Legal Aid:

In the case of M. H. Hoskot vs State of Maharastra , Supreme Court under Article 21 has invoked that the state should provide free legal aid to a prisoner who is indigent or otherwise disabled from securing legal help .

8-Includes Right To Health and Medical Care:

Since Article 21 suggests State to preserve the life of a person. In the case of Parmanand Katara vs Union of India ,Supreme Court held that in medico legal cases preservation of life is the most important thing . So it is the primary duty of a doctor to give the medical facilities immediately to the victim either he/she is a criminal or the other one and shall not wait for the completion for legal formalities.

9-Does not Include Right To Die:

In case of Gian Kaur Vs State Of Punjab, keeping in mind that the “human life is precious one”, the Court has overruled the earlier view and suggested that “right to life “does not include “right to die” and “extention of life” is not included in “protection of life” so provision penalizing commitment if attempt to suicide will not be violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

10-Freedom From Police Atrocites:

Treatment of prisoners in India is a great concern under the eyes of law. In the case of Prem Shankar Vs Delhi Administrative , the Supreme Court held that handcuffing is inhuman in nature therefore it must be the last refuge . Also the Supreme Court held that any form of torture or inhuman treatment during the investigation is violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution.

11-Right To Claim Compensation:

Starting from the case of Nilabati Behara Vs State Of Orissa ,the Supreme Court of India has shown its dynamic and activist role in the matter of compensation and stated right to compensation as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution .Earlier only victim was authorized to claim compensation but after the case of Rudal Shah Vs State of Bihar , Supreme Court started compensating the culprits also despite of their acquittal order.

Author Details: Sarvesh Kasaudhan (Lloyd Law College)

The views of the author are personal only. (if any)


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