File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Article 21: The Bedrock of Liberty and Justice

"Life and personal liberty are sacrosanct. They are not mere words. They are the repositories of all our values and liberties." - Supreme Court of India

In the realm of constitutional rights, few provisions hold as much significance as Article 21. Aptly referred to as the cornerstone of individual liberty. Article 21 embodies the essence of personal freedom and the right to live with dignity. With an unwavering focus on protecting lives and upholding justice, Article 21 serves as a beacon of hope and resilience for every citizen. Let's delve into the profound impact of Article 21, explore notable cases and examine its intricate interconnections with other constitutional provisions. The protection of life and personal liberty is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

One of the Constitution's most important clauses, it guarantees that everyone has the fundamental right to life and personal freedom. Through important rulings throughout the years, the court has played a crucial part in interpreting and broadening the application of Article 21. This article examines the core of Article 21 and how it has changed as a result of numerous case laws. The Indian Constitution's Article 21 is the cornerstone of personal freedoms when it comes to basic rights.

"No one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except by the procedure established by law," it declares. This relatively brief provision contains a wide range of rights, laws, rules, and significant court rulings that have influenced how India interprets and defends basic freedoms. Join us as we go through the rules, laws, and legal decisions that make Article 21 an unbreakable barrier protecting the essence of life and individual freedom. One of the Individuals' most significant rights cannot be restricted, not even in an emergency. The ability to live is only one aspect of the right to life. The capacity to live a complete life with dignity and purpose is also included.

Many questions come to mind, such as what Article 21 is, where it came from, and whether it only pertains to Indian nationals.

Firstly, come to its originality.
The US served as an analogy for the Constitution's framers when considering how to include Article 21No one shall be deprived of his or her "life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," as added by the US Constitution's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Krishna Lyre referred to article 21 as "the procedural Magna Carta Protection of life and liberty." No one shall be deprived of life or liberty, nor shall any other criminal penalty be inflicted, unless by the method provided by law, according to Article XXXI of the Constitution of Japan.

In addition, everyone has access to this essential right, both citizens and non-citizens.

Two rights are provided under Article 21:
  • Right to life
  • Right to personal liberty

  1. Right to Life: The right to life under Article 21 has been interpreted expansively by the Indian judiciary to encompass not only the right to mere existence but also the right to live with dignity and the right to a meaningful life. It includes the right to be free from any form of arbitrary deprivation of life. The Supreme Court has held that the right to life extends to the right to food, water, shelter, healthcare, and a clean environment.

  2. Right to Personal Liberty: The right to personal liberty ensures that individuals have the freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law. It protects against unlawful detention, arbitrary arrest, and wrongful confinement. The right to personal liberty also includes the right to privacy, which has been recognized as an integral part of personal liberty by the Supreme Court.
  3. Procedure Established by Law: Article 21 includes the phrase "except according to the procedure established by law." This means that deprivation of life or personal liberty can only occur if it is done through a lawful and just process. The phrase ensures that the state cannot act arbitrarily or whimsically to take away an individual's life or personal liberty. The procedure must be fair, and just, and not violate any other fundamental rights.

Article 21 is not a part of the United States Constitution; it is a provision in the Indian Constitution that guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty. In the United States, similar protections are provided by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In India, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to life and personal liberty to all citizens.

This article is one of the most significant and essential provisions in the Indian Constitution, ensuring the protection of these fundamental rights for every individual within the country's jurisdiction. The term "procedure established by law" is more commonly associated with legal systems in countries like India, whereas the United States primarily relies on the concept of "due process of law" to ensure the protection of individuals' rights.

Let's lay out the distinction between the two concepts:
  1. Due Process of Law (United States):
    In the United States, the concept of due process of law is enshrined in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment applies to the federal government, while the Fourteenth Amendment extends due process protections to actions taken by state governments. No one may be deprived of their life, liberty, or property without following fair and legal processes, according to the guarantee of due process. This means that individuals have the right to notice, a fair hearing, and the opportunity to present their case before any deprivation of their rights or property takes place. Due process ensures that the government must act fairly and impartially when dealing with individuals, providing them with the safeguards they deserve.
  2. Procedure Established by Law (India):
    In contrast, the term "procedure established by law" is part of the Indian legal system and is mentioned in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution does not explicitly use the term "due process of law" as the U.S. Constitution does. Instead, Article 21 provides that no one may be deprived of their life or personal freedom until doing so by the legal process. Instead, Article 21 states that no person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. The Indian legal system emphasizes whether the law itself provides a procedure for taking away life or personal liberty, rather than focusing on the fairness or reasonableness of that procedure.

Key Difference:
The key difference between the two concepts lies in the level of protection provided to individuals. Due process, as employed in the United States, ensures a higher level of protection by requiring fairness, impartiality, and adherence to established legal procedures. On the other hand, the procedure established by law, as used in India, does not explicitly require the same level of scrutiny regarding the fairness of the law itself or the procedures it prescribes.

In conclusion, while the United States relies on due process of law to safeguard individuals' rights, India employs the concept of the procedure established by law to achieve similar objectives, though with different legal nuances.

Positive Obligations: The interpretation of Article 21 has evolved to include positive obligations on the state to ensure the fulfilment of necessities for the well-being and dignity of its citizens. This includes access to healthcare, education, food, and other social and economic rights.

Environmental Protection: The right to a clean and healthy environment is seen as an essential component of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The Supreme Court has held that a polluted and degraded environment can adversely affect an individual's health and, therefore, infringe upon their right to life.

One of the most crucial rights that the Constitution protects is the basic right outlined in Article 21. The Supreme Court of India has referred to this right as the "heart of fundamental rights".

The Essence of Life and Personal Liberty: Article 21 guarantees that life and personal liberty are abstract concepts and underlying tenets supporting and sustaining all other rights and freedoms. It ensures the freedom to make decisions that shape one's existence as well as the right to live in dignity.
  • Right to Privacy:
    While not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the right to privacy has been recognized as an inherent part of personal liberty protected by Article 21. The right to privacy shields individuals from unwarranted intrusion into their private lives.
  • Right to a Fair Trial:
    Article 21 guarantees the right to a fair and just procedure established by law. This ensures that every individual accused of a crime is provided with a fair opportunity to defend themselves and receive a fair trial.
  • Right to Environment
    Every individual has a right to a sanitary and safe environment in which to live. According to the Indian Constitution, every individual in the world is responsible for maintaining a healthy environment. To do this, they must take the necessary precautions to stop any environmental harm from occurring. In addition, they strive to protect the environment the natural world and its resources. The UN Environmental Programme for the Preservation of the Environment has several treaties registered.

    The Stockholm Declaration, which was adopted in 1972 at the first worldwide conference on the environment, highlights the need for a healthy environment. The Stockholm Declaration's guiding principles state that everyone has a fundamental right to freedom, equality, and adequate living conditions in a setting that supports a life of dignity and well-being. The Stockholm Declaration was created as the cornerstone for the protection of human rights and the environment.
  • Right to live with dignity
    The mere assurance that someone has the right to live is insufficient. Honour and respect are essential elements of existence. As a result, everyone is guaranteed the right to live in dignity, which includes having access to the necessities of human existence and having control over their own decisions.

    In the 2014 case Occupational Health and Safety Association v. Union of India, the protection of workers' health and well-being as well as their access to fair and supportive working conditions were seen as the ideal conditions for living with human dignity.

    Furthermore, as is evident, respecting human dignity does not require adopting a rigid mindset. Instead, it comprises those freedoms and rights that allow a person to live his or her life without interference with their self-respect, dignity, or safety. According to Article 21, everyone has the right to live with dignity, regardless of gender or membership in the LGBTQ community. Because Section 377 of the IPC prohibits adult consensual physical acts in private, the court ruled in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, 2018, based on the notion of personal satisfaction, that it violates Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, it was deemed legal for LGBT individuals to engage in sexual activity with their consent.
  • Right to die
    The Right to Life guarantees each individual the freedom to lead a complete life and forbids the State from interfering with this Right other than by legal channels. But what if someone wants to kill themselves? Is he able to exercise his Right to Life?

    A person attempting suicide is prohibited by Section 309 of the IPC and may face up to a year in jail, a fine, or both. Abatement to suicide, which is defined as a person's aid in another person's suicide attempt, is a crime under Section 306.

    But a two-judge panel ruled in P. Rathinam v. Union of India (1994), keeping Article 21 and the ideas of natural justice in mind, that the right to life also included the right not to lead a limited existence. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was declared invalid as a result.

    However, the Court then changed its mind in the subsequent case of Smt. Gian Kaur v. the State of Punjab (1996), holding that Section 309 of the IPC and Section 306, which makes aiding suicide a crime, are both constitutional. The court ruled that because suicide is an unconventional way to end a life, it violates the idea of the right to life.
  • Right to free legal aid
    According to Article 39A of the Constitution, the State must establish a functioning legal system based on equal opportunity by offering individuals free legal help to ensure that no one is denied justice due to his or her inability to pay. It is by Article 14, which guarantees equal protection under the law, and Article 22(1), which states that every individual who has been arrested must have the chance to be represented by a lawyer of his choosing. Thus, this Right works to guarantee that one of justice's most essential components that it is accessible to all is upheld.

Fundamental Cases:
  • Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978):
    This important case expanded the interpretation of Article 21 by arguing that the right to life includes the right to live with dignity in addition to the right to exist. It emphasized the need for just, fair, and reasonable laws before they may take away someone's life or personal freedom.
  • Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985):
    In this instance, the Supreme Court determined that Article 21's right to subsistence is fundamental. It acknowledged that the state owes it to individuals�particularly to the socially and economically disadvantaged�to defend their right to a living.
  • Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997):
    The Supreme Court established rules to prevent and address sexual harassment at the workplace in this case, guaranteeing women's right to a safe and respectable workplace. The court did this while acknowledging the significance of gender equality and protection against sexual harassment.
  • A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras
    According to the court, personal liberty refers to the freedom of the physical body and excludes the rights granted by Article 19(1). Therefore, it was believed that one's "personal" liberty comprised some rights, such as the freedom to eat and sleep, but less significant rights, such as the freedom to move around, were not seen to be part of one's "personal" liberty.

"Jeevan ka Avsar, Vyaktigat Azaadi ka Uddeshya"

The Indian Constitution's Articles 14 (Right to Equality)19 (Right to Freedom) and 21 (Right to Life and Liberty) are collectively referred to as the "golden triangle" They are of utmost significance and give the idea of the rule of law life.

These rights are viewed as the fundamental guidelines for a citizen's daily functioning. Individuals are fully shielded by the golden triangle from any violations of their rights.

In the case of Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that legislation restricting someone's "personal liberty must also pass the tests of Articles 14 and 19.

According to recent rulings by the High Courts of Allahabad and Delhi, the ability to alter one's name or last name is a component of the right to life under Article 21.

The Delhi High Court highlighted that the right to identification is an "intrinsic part" of the right to life under Article 21 in the case "Sadanand & Anr. vs CBSE & Ors."

According to Articles 19(1)(a), 21, and 14 of the Constitution, every person has the basic right to retain or alter their name which also clarifies that this is not an absolute right and is subject to various Reasonable Restrictions, this was stated by the Allahabad High Court in Md. Sameer Rao vs. State of U.P.

In conclusion, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to life and personal liberty and encompasses a broad range of protections aimed at ensuring human dignity and the full development of an individual. The Supreme Court's interpretations have expanded the scope of this right to include various facets of a dignified life, making it a cornerstone of India's constitutional framework. The judiciary has been essential in broadening the application and interpretation of Article 21 throughout time, recognizing additional rights and offering protections against arbitrary governmental action.

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly