In this blog post, Sreeraj K.V., a student of Government Law College, Ernakulam, Kerala writes an article about Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The article includes the Constitution and its various principles catering to needs of the public at large and also gives a brief idea as to why Article 14, 19 and 21 are considered the Golden Triangle of the Constitution.
We all know the underlying fact that our Constitution is the longest written Constitution of any sovereign country in the world. A nation is governed by its Constitution. It is the Supreme Law of our Country. Constitution declares India a sovereign, socialistic, secular, democratic, republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity among them. While looking at the fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution, it will be well clear that the framers of the Constitution had done it in such a way that it acts a pillar to the national security and integrity of the country. The fundamental rights, embodied in part III of the Constitution provide civil rights to all the citizens of India and prevent them from the encroachment of society and also ensure their protection. There are seven rights which are enumerated as fundamental rights which include:
- Right to equality
- Right to freedom
- Right against exploitation
- Right to freedom of religion, education and cultural rights
- Right to property
- Right to constitutional remedies
Later on, Right to property was removed from the part III by the 44th Amendment in 1978. Such fundamental rights are to be enforced for each and every citizen living in India irrespective of race, caste, religion, gender or place of birth. They are enforceable by courts, subject to specific restrictions. Now looking into the topic in detail, Article 14, 19 and 21 are popularly known as the ‘golden triangle’ of the Indian Constitution.
The Golden Triangle
- Article 14 – Equality before the law, the state shall not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of law within the territorial limits of India or prohibition on the grounds of race, caste, religion, sex or place of birth.
- Article 19 – Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech and expression. All citizen shall have the right
- To freedom of speech and expression
- To assemble peacefully and without arms
- To form associations or unions
- To move freely throughout the territory of India
- To reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, and
- To practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
- Article 21 – Protection of life and personal liberty, no person shall be deprived of his personal liberty except according to the procedures established by law.
Now it is clear why these provisions under the Constitution regarded as the ‘golden triangle’. These rights are regarded as the basic principles for the smooth running of life for the citizens of our country. The golden triangle provides full protection to individuals from any encroachment upon their rights from the society and others as well. Article 14, it provides for equality before law and equal protection of the law. It means that no person is deprived of his equality among other citizens of our country. The provision also gains importance because the enactment of such a provision leads to the abolishing of certain inhuman customary practices of our country. The provisions of this article also envisage certain legal rights like protection of law which purely means that the law should be the same for every person with some necessary exceptions.
Article 19 provides certain absolute rights such as freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement, freedom of forming associations and unions, etc. This Article brings about important changes in the society as it provides various rights to the people so that there is harmony among the people of our country. Even though this Article covers a vast area of operation, it does not provide a person the freedom to do anything and everything as per his whims and fancies. Various other provisions of the Article provide restrictions to various issues affecting public tranquillity and security. Such restrictions include:
- Security of the State
- Friendly relation with foreign states
- Public order
- Decency and morality
- Contempt of court
- Incitement of offenses
- Sovereignty and integrity of India.
On the other hand Article, 21 provides for protection of life and personal liberty. This provision of the Constitution is one of the most implemented as well as widely interpreted areas in the field of law enforcement. The Article covers the most sensitive area, i.e. protection and securing the life and liberty of a person. Perhaps this may be the most violated provision of our Constitution as well. Various courts in our country have interpreted the constitutional validity of Article 21 in a common man’s life. Important among them is the case of Maneka Gandhi v. The Union of India wherein the court looked into matters not only affecting Article 21 but also Articles 14 and 19 as well. The court stated that the act on the part of the respondents was violating Article 14 in the sense that the act leads to arbitrariness on the part of the respondent which violated the right to equality of the petitioner. Article 21 was being violated in the sense that petitioner was restrained from going abroad. The judgment was one of the landmarks among the cases relating to the violation of certain fundamental rights mainly, Articles 14, 19 and 21.
Article 21 is applicable even during the time of election wherein people have the sole right of electing the best person as their representative. No person has a right to compel anyone to elect the person other than his/her wish. Even though voting is not a fundamental right but a ‘statutory right’, the court, in the judgment of the case PUCL v. Union of India, distinguishes “right to vote” and the “freedom of voting as the species of the freedom of expression” under Article 19 of the Constitution. There are various other major judgments in cases regarding enforcement of fundamental rights. For example, the case of Kesavananda Bharathi v. Union of India, which is considered as a landmark among cases regarding the enforceability of constitutional rights in favour of the citizens. The judgment in the said case makes it clear that even the Central or State Government has certain limitations in encroaching into a person’s rights, mainly fundamental rights.
Thanks to the drafters of the Constitution for framing it in such a way that it neither makes any mandatory provisions regarding various rights for the citizens nor makes any citizen free from certain fundamental duties that must be followed by every citizen of the country. It has also looked deeply into the socio-economic scenario of India so that no rights or duties will be omitted. Apart from certain fundamental rights, the Constitution also provides certain other rights and duties towards the citizen which are enclosed in Part IV of the Constitution known as ‘Directive Principles of State policy.’ Such provisions are framed under the notion that rights of each and every individual change accordingly and such rights cannot be considered as fundamental but have to be enforced. One of the merits of the of our Constitution is that it neither restricts a person from enforcing his fundamental rights, nor it provides full freedom to a person in such a manner that he exploits or violates such rights himself or against the society. Perhaps this feature of our Constitution makes it different from any of the other major Constitutions of the world.
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 Retrieved on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_India
 Retrieved on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_Rights,_Directive_Principles_and_Fundamental_Duties_of_India
 Retrieved on https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1218090/
 Retrieved on: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1199182/
 Retrieved on: http://www.gktoday.in/article-19-of-constitution-of-india-and-freedom-of-speech/
 Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 AIR 597: Retrieved on http://lawfarm.in/a-case-analysis-of-the-maneka-gandhi-case/
Pucl v. Union of India WP (C) 490 of 2002. Retrieved on: https://indconlawphil.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/pucl-v-union-of-india-the-supreme-court-and-negative-voting/
His Holiness Kesavananda Bharathi Sripadagalvaru and or v.State of Kerala and Anr ((1973) 4 SCC 225)
Retrieved on: http://lawnn.com/case-study-kesavananda-bharati-vs-state-of-kerala/