Article 21

Article 21

Date : 03 Sep, 2019

Post By Sankul Nagpal

The constitution of our nation is not only the supreme authority of law but also a protector and guardian of all our legal rights. While some rights are given to us through statutes, some of the most basic and fundamental rights are given to us through the constitution itself. These are the Fundamental Rights enshrined in PART III of the Indian Constitution.

While some of the Fundamental Rights are available to an Indian citizen, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty is one such right that is available to citizens as well as non-citizens. Thus, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the right to life and personal liberty is one of the most important fundamental right granted by our constitution.

What is Article 21?

Article 21 of the Indian constitution is the article from which our right to life and personal liberty flows. According to Article 21 of the constitution of India, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law” and unlike in the US Constitution our constitution does not expressly define what procedure established by law or in other words due process of law is, however through judicial pronouncements in cases such as Maneka Gandhi v UOI it is well established that due process of law is a principle of natural justice.

Article 21 is often dubbed as the heart of the Constitution, as it is the most organic and progressive provision in our living constitution. The Right to life is fundamental to our existence and includes all those aspects of life, which go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete, and worth living. Thus, the bare necessities, minimum and basic requirements of life for a person is the core concept of the right to life.

What is the meaning of Right to Life?

The right to life is undoubtedly the most fundamental of all rights. All other rights aim to add quality to the life in question and depend on the pre-existence of life itself for their function. The term right to life in Article 21 is something more than just human existence. It is something which embraces within itself not only the physical existence but also the quality of life. This concept has been time and again inferred by the top courts of India. In the matter of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court quoted and held that by the term “life” as here used something more is meant than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by amputation of an armoured leg or the pulling out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.

What is the meaning of Right to Personal Liberty?

Liberty or freedom of the person is one of the oldest concepts that are protected by the judicial organs across the globe. The right to personal liberty in its basic sense means a person's right not to be subjected to imprisonment, arrest, or other physical coercion in any manner that does not have a legal backing or legal justification.

This Constitution of India also guarantees to every citizen of India full freedom and liberty from any sort of harassment, repression or exploitation from any government or any authority of the government and hence this constitution assures to every citizen of India free, fearless and happy life with dignity of every person. Even the preamble of the constitution has a special significance for liberty which assures every citizen of India the freedom of speech and expression, religious independence and choice of going by one's own belief. The fundamental rights of life and personal liberty have many attributes and some of them are found in Art. 19. In other words, 'personal liberty' means freedom from physical restraint and coercion which is not authorized by law.

The Changing Scope of Article 21

The ambit of Article 21 has time and again been expanded over the years through judicial precedents. The Supreme Court has given a broad and liberal interpretation to the term life as used in Article 21 to include many aspects of life which were though not included in within the meaning of Article 21 initially but are now an integral part of it. Some of the key aspects of life which are now synonymous to Article 21 are The Right to Live with human dignity and free from exploitation, The Right to Die, The Right to Education, Right to Privacy and much more.

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