The Indian constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950. Today, it is known
to be one of the most detailed and noteworthy documents in the history of India.
It lays down several rights, duties, and framework for good governance of people
and for promotion of Social justice. It uses a progressive approach, which
ensures a system free from excessive influence of people at certain positions by
imposing proper checks and balance.
One such way of ensuring this was "the Golden Triangle of Indian Constitution"
which refers to the three pillars namely Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian
Constitution. These are basically the roots of democracy made to protect the
rights of the citizen, but this concept has been in debate for a long time now,
subjected to various criticisms. Therefore, I have made a study based on the
significance and need of this concept.
The study has aimed to achieve the following objectives, for better
understanding of the positive and negative aspects of this concept. It has aimed
to gather various instances which led to this idea and opinions of several
renowned judges in this matter.
The objectives therefore are:
- To give an overview of the whole concept, answering what it really means
- To critically examine the evolution of this concept over years.
- To explore the articles dealing with it, which would be including
relevant case laws.
- To see the significance of this concept with reference to the Indian
democracy and Governance.
- To evaluate all the criticisms dealing with this concept
- Identifying the main issues and challenges for better implementation of
- Provide recommendations to improve for a more effective Impact on
Historical Context And Evolution Of The Indian Constitution
The constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950 after undergoing a long process
of drafting, committee formations and consultations. It was the result of the
India's freedom struggle and the Indian National congress was the first one to
demand a constitutional framework for the Independent India guaranteeing the
basic democratic rights and welfare of the citizens.
A constitution assembly was then formed, which consisted of various elected
representatives from all across the country, with a task assigned to them of
drafting a document that would reflect the equal rights and opportunities given
to the citizens, the diversity of the land and various aspirations that they aim
to achieve. The first meeting of this assembly was held on December 9, 1946 and
thereafter an arduous and long process of debating and finalising for over two
years the provisions of the constitution were finalised.
Golden Triangle Of Indian Constitution
The essential rights established in Articles 14, 19, and 21 collectively are
referred to as the "Golden Triangle" of the Indian Constitution. Since they
safeguard citizens' fundamental rights and serve as the cornerstone of India's
democracy, these three articles are regarded as the most significant ones in the
All people have the right to equal protection under the law and equality before
the law, according to Article 14. It forbids discrimination based on racial,
ethnic, caste, sexual, or geographic origin. This implies that regardless of
their social or economic background, all citizens are equal before the law and
are entitled to the same rights and protections.
All citizens are guaranteed the following six freedoms under Article 19: freedom
of speech and association, of assembly, of movement, of association, of
domicile, and of profession. These liberties enable people to engage in public
life and express their thoughts without fear of retaliation, which is crucial
for a democratic society to function.
Article 21 guarantees everyone the right to life and personal freedom. This
means that no one's life or freedom can be taken away from them unless a legal
process is followed. The courts have given this clause a broad interpretation,
encompassing the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, and the
prohibition against torture and other cruel treatment.
The Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution is made up of Articles 14, 19,
and 21 together. They defend citizens' fundamental rights, advance social
justice, and make sure the state upholds the rule of law. The Indian courts have
broadened and interpreted the Golden Triangle, resulting in important rulings
that have increased the rights offered to citizens. The Golden Triangle is still
a tenet of India's democracy and a representation of the country's dedication to
upholding the rights and liberties of its people.
Reading Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution separately may lead
to a fragmented understanding of the fundamental rights and protections
enshrined in the Constitution. Each article deals with a specific aspect of
citizen's rights, but when read together, they provide a comprehensive framework
for understanding the basic rights and protections available to Indian citizens.
For example, if one reads Article 14 in isolation, they may understand the right
to equality before the law and equal protection of the law but may not fully
appreciate how this right is linked to the broader context of fundamental rights
enshrined in the Constitution. Similarly, if one reads Article 19 in isolation,
they may appreciate the freedom of speech and expression but may not fully
understand how it relates to other fundamental rights such as the right to
equality or the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.
Furthermore, reading these articles separately may not provide a complete
picture of the interplay between different fundamental rights and their impact
on the functioning of India's democracy. The Golden Triangle represents a
balance of rights that work in conjunction with each other to promote social
justice and ensure that citizens are treated fairly and equally before the law.
Therefore, it is essential to read Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian
Constitution together to gain a comprehensive understanding of the basic rights
and protections guaranteed to Indian citizens and their significance in
promoting a just and democratic society.
All people have the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the
law under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which forbids discrimination on
the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The article serves
as the cornerstone of the Indian Constitution's commitment to guaranteeing that
all individuals, regardless of their background, be treated fairly and equitably
before the law.
The Supreme Court's landmark decision in the case of State of West Bengal v.
Anwar Ali Sarkar (1952)
, where the court emphasised the significance of
equality before the law, is one of the most important instances pertaining to
Article 14. In this instance, the appellant contested the legality of a portion
of the West Bengal Special Courts Act that authorised the creation of
specialised courts to hear specific crimes.
The applicant claimed that the clause went against the constitutional guarantee
of equality before the law found in Article 14 of the Constitution. The Supreme
Court affirmed the appellant's claim, holding that all people must be treated
equally by the law and that any classifications that are imposed by the law must
have a justification.
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)
is another significant case
involving Article 14. The petitioner in this case contested the legality of the
government's seizure of her passport. The court determined that Article 21's
right to personal liberty included the freedom to travel internationally and
that the government's impounding of the petitioner's passport violated Article
14 since it was arbitrary and not in conformity with the law.
Article 14 is also pertinent to the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of
The Supreme Court ruled in this case that the Constitution's
fundamental principles could not be changed and that Article 14 and other
fundamental rights were an essential component of those principles. The court
emphasised that Article 14 provided that the state could not classify people
arbitrarily and that any categorization must have a valid reason.
One famous quote related to Article 14 is by former Chief Justice of India, P.N.
Bhagwati, who stated:
"The Constitution of India is a beacon of light, a symbol of hope and a source
of inspiration for those who are fighting against the forces of repression,
tyranny and dictatorship." Bhagwati emphasized that Article 14 was the "very
heart" of the Constitution and that it ensured that every individual was treated
with dignity and equality before the law, regardless of their background or
Overall, these cases demonstrate the critical role of Article 14 in ensuring
equality before the law and protecting citizens from arbitrary discrimination.
The judges in these cases, including Chief Justice H.J. Kania, Justice S.R. Das,
Justice K.N. Wanchoo, and Justice H.R. Khanna, among others, emphasized the
importance of the right to equality and the need to uphold this fundamental
right in a democratic society.
Six fundamental freedoms are guaranteed to Indian citizens by Article 19 of the
Indian Constitution, subject to reasonable limitations that the state may impose
in the interest of public order, morality, or national security. These liberties
Freedom of speech and expression encompasses the ability to communicate
thoughts, feelings, and knowledge using any channel. Romesh Thapar v. State
, a landmark decision from 1950, emphasised the importance of
freedom of speech and expression for a democratic society and the only
circumstances under which it may be restricted.
Freedom to assemble peacefully and without weapons includes the ability to plan
and take part in protests and other forms of nonviolent dissent. The Supreme
Court ruled in S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989)
that the right to
peaceful assembly is a crucial component of the right to freedom of expression.
The ability to start and join any type of political, social, or cultural group
or organisation falls under the category of the freedom to establish
organisations or unions. Cricket Association of Bengal v. Secretary, Ministry
of Information and Broadcasting (1995)
, the Supreme Court ruled that the
right to create associations is a basic right that cannot be restricted unless
it is necessary to maintain public order.
Freedom to live and work anywhere in India: This includes the freedom to select
where one wants to live and to travel about without restriction. In State of
Maharashtra v. Madhukar Narayan Mardikar (1991)
, the Supreme Court ruled
that the right to live and settle is a crucial component of the right to life
and to personal freedom.
The freedom to choose and engage in any legal profession or business activity
includes the freedom to practise any profession or carry on any occupation,
trade, or business. The Supreme Court ruled in Indian Express Newspapers v.
Union of India (1985) that the ability to conduct a trade or business is a basic
right that can only be limited in certain circumstances.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that:
"No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to
procedure established by law."
This article provides every person with the right to life and personal liberty,
which is considered to be one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by the
Constitution. In this article, we will explain Article 21 of the Indian
Constitution and some of the notable case laws that have helped to interpret and
clarify its meaning.
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978):
This landmark case expanded the scope of Article 21 to include the right to
travel abroad. The court held that the right to travel abroad is a part of
personal liberty, and any law that seeks to curtail this right must satisfy the
test of reasonableness and procedural fairness.
Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985):
This case dealt with the right to livelihood, which the court held is an
integral part of the right to life under Article 21. The court observed that the
right to life does not merely mean the right to breathe and eat but also
includes the right to livelihood, which is essential for a dignified life.
Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi (1981):
This case emphasized the importance of the right to privacy, which is considered
a facet of personal liberty under Article 21. The court held that the right to
privacy is a fundamental right, and any interference with it must be justified
by law and must be necessary for the protection of public interest.
People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982):
This case dealt with the right to legal aid, which the court held is a part of
the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The court observed that
the right to legal aid is essential to ensure that every person has access to
justice and is not denied justice due to economic or other disabilities.
Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra (1983):
This case dealt with the rights of prisoners and held that the right to live
with human dignity is an essential part of the right to life under Article 21.
The court observed that prisoners are also entitled to human rights and must be
treated with dignity and respect.
There are some arguments in for and against the Golden triangle concept. However
through the increasing case laws and rulings of the court I've tried to note
down a few of them which are as follows:
Balancing Of Power: The judiciary serves as a check on the executive and legislative branches,
ensuring that they do not violate the fundamental rights of citizens.
Moreover, the judiciary is a neutral and independent arbiter that can
provide a remedy to citizens who feel that their rights have been violated.
Dissenting Opinion: Many Critics speaking against the concept claim that
Indian constitution by following this idea has given maximum power to
Judiciary, that can ultimately lead to power imbalance between the three
branches of the government. This can result in Judicial activism where
Judiciary would be interfering more in the matter of executive and
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978):
This case expanded the scope of the right to personal liberty under Article
21 to include the right to travel abroad. The court held that any law that
seeks to curtail this right must satisfy the test of reasonableness and
procedural fairness. However, some critics argue that this case represents
an example of judicial activism and overreach, where the judiciary expands
the scope of fundamental rights beyond what was originally intended by the
framers of the Constitution.
Clarity: The Supreme Court has developed a robust jurisprudence that provides clarity
and specificity to the interpretation of fundamental rights. Moreover, the
Constitution provides for a system of judicial review, where citizens can
challenge laws that they feel violate their fundamental rights. This system
ensures that the Constitution remains a living document that evolves with
the changing needs of society.
While following this concept, the language of constitution might seem to be
vague and open to wide interpretation. It can lead to a certain level of
inconsistency, there would be no specificity and this might lead to misuse
of these rights by the individuals and the government.
A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950):
This case involved a challenge to the Preventive Detention Act of 1950,
which allowed the government to detain individuals without trial. The
Supreme Court upheld the law, ruling that the right to personal liberty
under Article 21 was limited to procedural safeguards, and did not include
substantive rights such as the right to be free from arbitrary detention.
This case highlights the lack of clarity and specificity in the language of
the Constitution, which can lead to inconsistent interpretations of
Conflict With Other Rights: The Constitution provides for a system of balancing other fundamental rights
in a way that ensures that they are not absolute.
For example: the right to free speech may be limited in certain
circumstances to protect the rights of others, such as in cases of hate
speech or incitement to violence. The Constitution provides for a system of
reasonable restrictions that balance the competing interests of different
Dissenting Opinion: Some argue that the Golden Triangle of the Indian
Constitution can conflict with other fundamental rights, such as the right
to property or the right to free speech. For example: the right to property
is not explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution and can be overridden by
the state in the interest of public welfare. This can lead to conflicts with
the right to life and personal liberty, which are also part of the Golden
Enforcement: This concept highlights the need for stronger accountability mechanisms and
better enforcement mechanisms to ensure that these rights are protected.
Moreover, the existence of fundamental rights provides a framework for
citizens to challenge government actions that violate their rights and hold
the government accountable.
Some critics also believe that this concept is not enforced or protected by
the government and can lead to lack of accountability for those who violate
the rights and this can ultimately undermine the effectiveness of the
ADM Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla (1976):
In this infamous case, the Supreme Court upheld the government's power to
detain individuals without trial during a state of emergency, effectively
suspending the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The
court held that the Constitution did not provide for judicial review of such
detentions, effectively giving the government unchecked power to violate
fundamental rights. This case highlights the potential for abuse and misuse
of fundamental rights by the government, as well as the importance of
accountability and enforcement.
In conclusion, the Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution is a critical
component of India's democratic system and serves as a safeguard against
government tyranny and violation of citizens' rights. While there are valid
criticisms of this framework, including the potential for conflict between the
judiciary and other branches of government and the lack of clarity in the
language of the Constitution, the benefits of the Golden Triangle far outweigh
To strengthen the Golden Triangle and ensure that fundamental rights are
protected, there are several recommendations that could be implemented:
- Strengthen accountability mechanisms:
The government should establish robust accountability mechanisms to ensure
that officials who violate fundamental rights are held accountable for their
- Increase public awareness:
There is a need to increase public awareness of fundamental rights and the
role that they play in protecting citizens' freedoms. Education and outreach
programs should be established to inform citizens of their rights and how to
- Strengthen judicial capacity:
The judiciary should be strengthened to ensure that it has the capacity to
adjudicate cases effectively and efficiently. This includes increasing the
number of judges and improving the infrastructure of the courts.
- Increase enforcement mechanisms:
The government should establish stronger enforcement mechanisms to ensure
that fundamental rights are protected. This includes ensuring that
government agencies are held accountable for enforcing these rights and that
citizens have access to effective remedies when their rights are violated.
By implementing these recommendations, the Indian government can strengthen the
Golden Triangle and ensure that fundamental rights are protected for all
citizens. This will help to promote a more just and equitable society and
strengthen India's democratic system for years to come.
- Constitution of India. (1950). Ministry of Law and Justice, Government
- The Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution: Article 14, 19 and 21 by
Suresh Kumar Sharma
- Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution" by P. V. Rao.
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and the Right to Freedom
of Speech and Expression: A Critical Review by Vinod D. Shah
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Priyanka Mishra
Authentication No: MY350208186006-16-0523
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