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This article is written by Neha Gururani, a student of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi. In this article, she has discussed the right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and its various facets with landmark judgments.

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

– Article 21 of the Indian Constitution


The Constitution of India provides six fundamental rights to the citizens of India. The Right to Life and Personal Liberty is one of the fundamental rights which enables a person to live his life freely without any interference. Although, this right was not interpreted to the fullest but with judicial developments the ambit of this right has amplified and still on the path of intensification. Right to life and personal liberty is not only a fundamental right but a right by virtue of being human which enable human beings to get through a life which is different from mere animal existence. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides protection to the right to life and personal liberty.

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Life and Personal Liberty- Meaning and scope

The meaning and scope of ‘life and personal liberty’ can be analyzed in detail in two facets on the basis of the interpretation of the courts.

Prior to Maneka Gandhi’s Case

The words ‘personal liberty’ was first came up for contemplation in the case of A. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras[1].

Facts: The petitioner. A. K. Gopalan, a communist leader was detained under the Preventive Detention Act, 1950. He challenged the validity of this Act on the ground that it was violative of his right to freedom of movement guaranteed in Article 19(1)(d) which is the essence of personal liberty given under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. He argued that ‘personal liberty’ includes freedom of movement also and hence, the Preventive Detention Act should also satisfy Article 19. He also contended that the word ‘law’ under Article 21 does not include the ‘state made laws’ but only meant jus naturale or the principle of natural justice.

Interpretation of the Court: The Supreme Court illuminated the meaning and scope of ‘personal liberty’ with a very literal and narrow view. The term ‘liberty’ has a very wide meaning but when it is qualified by the word ‘personal’, the spectrum of the concept of liberty diminishes therefore, it does not include all that which is implied in the term ‘liberty’.

The Supreme Court held that personal liberty includes nothing more than physical freedom of body i.e. freedom from arrest and detention from false imprisonment or wrongful confinement.

The SC also interpreted the word ‘law’ as ‘state made law’ and rejected the contention of the petitioner. Fazal Ali J., however, held a demurring view and gave a broad and comprehensive meaning to the words ‘personal liberty’ as consisting of freedom of movement.

Since Article 19 is a substantive right whereas and Article 21 is a procedural right therefore, they must be read together. Any law which deprives the life or personal liberty of any person must satisfy the requirements of both Article 19 and Article 21 as well.

However, this restrictive interpretation of ‘personal liberty’ in Gopanaln’s case has not been followed by the Supreme Court in its later judgments.

Case: Kharak Singh v. State of U. P.[2]

Facts: The petitioner had been charged in a dacoity case but no evidence was found against him therefore, he was released. Under the U.P. Police Regulations, the police opened a history-sheet for him and he was kept under police surveillance which included domiciliary visits at nights and verification of his activities and movement. He challenged this as being violative of his fundamental right under Article 21.

Judgment: The Supreme Court interpreted the word ‘life’ in this case. The word ‘life’ means something more than mere animal existence. ‘Personal liberty’ is not restricted to bodily restraint or confinement to prisons only, but was used in a concise sense including all varieties of rights which constitutes the personal liberty of a human being other than those mentioned under Article 19(1). Any type of unauthorised obstruction into a person’s home and disturbance caused to him is a violation of the personal liberty of the individual. The domiciliary visits of the policemen in the house of petitioner were an interruption on the petitioner’s personal liberty as there was no law which can justify this act. Therefore, the U.P. Police Regulation was violative of Article 21 and struck down as unconstitutional.

It is true that the word ‘liberty’ is qualified by the word ‘personal’ but such qualification is made in order to avoid any kind of overlapping between those incidents of liberty mentioned in Article 19 and Article 21. It can be deduced that Article 19(1) deals with a particular aspect of freedom while Article 21 comprises the residue.

A New Dimension – After Maneka Gandhi’s case

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[3], the words ‘personal liberty’ was again considered by the Supreme Court. The SC has not only overruled the interpretation given in the Gopalan’s case but also widened the scope of Article 21.

Facts: The petitioner received a letter from a Regional Passport Officer, Delhi asking the petitioner to surrender her passport within 7 days of the receive of the letter. She immediately address letter to the officer and requested to issue the reason of such letter in writing. She received another letter from the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, stating that the reason cannot be furnished to her because of the interest of the general public. Her passport was impounded under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act, 1967, in the public interest.

The petitioner approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, claiming infringement of her fundamental right to personal liberty.

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that the Government was not justified in withholding the reasons for impounding the passport from the petitioner and perceived the following-

  1. Right to go abroad is implicitly covered under Article 21.
  2. The Passports Act, 1967, doesn’t prescribe the procedure for confiscation of passport.
  3. Principle of Natural Justice was violated because the petitioner was never given a chance to be heard.

Hence, the Supreme Court overruled Gopalan’s case decision and widened the scope of the term ‘personal liberty’. Bhagwati J. observed that Article 21 covers a wide variety of rights which constitute personal liberty. The courts must seek to expatiate the ambit and purview of the provisions related to fundamental rights rather than impairing their meaning and scope. Any procedure which attenuate the rights of individual must satisfy the requirement of natural justice i.e. it must be just, fair and reasonable.

Interrelation of Article 14, 19 and Article 21

Old view: If we consider the old view given in the Gopalan’s case, we found that the Supreme Court held that Article 19 has no connection and applicability to Article 21. Article 19 lays down the six fundamental freedoms of the individual and the restrictions which can be imposed on them. On the other hand, Article 21 enables the State to deprive an individual of his right to life and personal liberty in accordance with the procedure established by the law. In Gopalan’s case, the majority was of the view that as long as any law of preventive detention satisfies the requirements of Article 22, there is no need to meet the requirements of Article 19.

Present view: In Maneka Gandhi’s case, the court overruled the view of majority given in Gopalan’s case and clearly stated that Article 21 is totally connected to Article 19 as it takes its content from Article 19 also. Article 21 does not exclude Article 19 and if any law deprives the right of life and personal liberty of an individual, such a law must stand the test of Article 21 along with the test of Article 19 and 14 as well.

Procedure established by law: The life and personal liberty of a person can be deprived only in accordance with the procedure established by law. Procedure established by law refers to the law which is duly enacted by the Legislation. The Executive has no authority to deprive a person from this right.

The drafters of Indian Constitution used the words ‘procedure established by law’ instead of ‘due process of law’ which is used in American Constitution.

In A. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras[4], the petitioner argued that the expression ‘procedure established by law’ was synonymous with the expression ‘due process by law’ of the American Constitution. It was contended that the same protection is given by the Indian Constitution as is given by the American Constitution with a difference that ‘due process’ clause covers both substantive and procedural law whereas the ‘procedure established by law’ provides protection of procedural law.

But the Supreme Court did not accepted this argument and held that both expressions did not mean the same. The ‘procedure established by law’ which is more specific, did not convey the same meaning in India as the clause ‘due process by law’ apprehended in America which is quite vague.

Natural Justice: In Gopalan’s case, it was contended by the petitioner that the word ‘law’ under Article 21 does not only include the enacted piece of law but also encompasses the principle of natural justice and any law which deprives a person of his life and personal liberty without obeying the principle of natural justice could not be held as valid under Article 21. The court rejected this contention and held that under Article 21, the word ‘law’ must include the law enacted by the Legislature and not any general law embodying the principle of natural justice as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mere prescription of any kind of procedure is not sufficient to meet the mandate of Article 21. The procedure prescribed by the law has to be fair, just and reasonable and not fanciful, arbitrary or oppressive. The principle of natural justice must be incorporated in every procedure established by law.

Various Facets of Article 21

There are two rights which are explicitly included under Article 21.

  1. Right to life
  2. Right to personal liberty

Besides these two rights, there are several other rights which come within the scope and meaning of Article 21. These rights are not expressly mentioned in Article 21 but impliedly embedded under it. Article 21 includes the following rights:

  1. Right to live with human dignity
  2. Right to livelihood
  3. Right to shelter
  4. Right to privacy
  5. Right to health and medical assistance
  6. Right to sleep
  7. Right to die
  8. Right to Education
  9. Right to free legal aid
  10. Right to speedy trials
  11. Homosexuality, etc.

Some rights are discussed below with relevant case laws.

Right to live with human dignity

A new dimension was given to Article 21 after the Maneka Gandhi’s case. It has been held that the right to ‘live’ is not merely confined to physical existence but it includes within it ambit the ‘right to live with human dignity’.

The court expounded the same view in the case of Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi[5].

Facts: The validity of the provisions of the COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1994) were challenged which provided that a detenu can have an interview with the lawyer only after obtaining permission of the District Magistrate and that too, in the presence of Custom Officer and permitted to meet the family members once in a month. The challenge was made on the ground that these provisions are unreasonable, arbitrary and violative of Article 21.

Judgment: The Court said that right to live is not restricted to mere animal existence. It means something more than just physical survival. The right to live is not confined to the protection of limb or faculty through which life is enjoyed but it also include ‘right to live with human dignity’, and all that goes along with it, the basic necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and facilities for reading, writing and expressing ourselves in different forms, free movement and to commingle with the other human beings.

The Supreme Court further added that the detenu’s right to have an interview with his lawyer and family members is a part of his personal liberty subject to any valid reasonable prison regulations. The right of detenu to consult a legal advisor of his choice for any purpose is included in the ‘right to live with human dignity’ which is an integral part of personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Case: People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India[6],

In this case it was held that the non-payment of minimum wages to the workers employed in various Asiad Projects in Delhi was a denial to them of their right to live with human dignity and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Right to livelihood

In Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[7], commonly known as the ‘pavement dwellers case’, the court ruled that the word ‘life’ in Article 21 includes the ‘right to livelihood’ also.

Facts: The petitioners challenged the validity of Sections 313, 313-A, 314 and 497 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, which empowered the Municipal Authorities to remove the huts from pavements and public places which is violative of Article 21.

Held: The court agreed that ‘right to livelihood’ is included in Article 21. It was held that the above sections of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act were constitutional as they impose reasonable restrictions on the right to livelihood of pavement and slum dwellers in the interest of the general public. Public places are not meant for carrying trade or business. However, the court took humanistic view and directed the Municipal Authority to remove them only after the end of the monsoon season and also directed to frame schemes for hawking and non-hawking zones and issue licences for selling good in hawking zone.

Right to sleep

According to the interpretation of the courts, ‘right to sleep’ is a fundamental right included in ‘right to life’ because to live a person must have access to good sleep.

Case: Ramlila Maidan v. Home Secretary, Union of India[8]

Facts: On the night of 4th June, 2011, the men and women of different age groups who gathered at Ramlila Maidan to participate in the Yoga Training Camp led by Baba Ram Dev were sleeping and prior permission to hold the camp had been taken from the competent authority. The permission to hold the camp was suddenly withdrawn with any information and Section 144 of Cr.P.C. was imposed. The police attempted to disperse the peacefully sleeping gathering by using tear gas and lathi charge at about 1:00 A.M. a number of people were injured resulting into the death of a woman.

Judgment: It was held that sleep is a biological necessity which contributes in optimal health, happiness and improves the quality of life. The deprivation of sleep reasults in mental and physical torture. Right to sleep has always been treated as a fundamental right like the right to breathe, eat, drink etc.

Any suspicious or conspiratory thing on the part of the assembly could have been investigated by the competent authority but sudden imposition of Section 144 Cr.P. C appears to have been done in unlawful and slanderous manner. Therefore, the basic human right of the crowd to have a sound sleep which is a constitutional freedom acknowledged under Article 21 of the Constitution was violated by this act of police.
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Right to speedy trial

In the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar[9], right to speedy trial was discussed by the court in detail.

Facts: A petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed by number of undertrial prisoners who were in the jail of Bihar for years awaiting their trial.

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that unlike the American Constitution,‘right to speedy trial’ is not specifically listed as a fundamental right under Indian Constitution but, it is implicit in the broad ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as interpreted in Maneka Gandhi’s case. Speedy trial is the essence of criminal justice. No procedure which does not ensure a reasonably quick trial can be considered as ‘reasonable,fair or just’. For this reason the court ordered the Bihar Government to take necessary steps and start the trials of the prisoners as soon as possible. Right to speedy trial is available to accused at all stages including investigation, inquiry, trial, appeal etc. In order to deliver justice, it is important that trials must be speedy and after all justice delayed is justice denied.

Prisoner’s Right and Article 21

The protection of Article 21 is also available to convicts in jail. The convicts are not deprived of their fundamental rights which they possess otherwise merely because of their conviction. By conviction, a prisoner may be deprived of the fundamental freedoms like the right to move freely throughout the territory of India or right to practise any practise any profession but he is entitled to the precious right guaranteed under article 21 and cannot be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. The prisoners are not completely denuded of all their fundamental rights but the enforceability of all Fundamental Rights is restricted upon the fact of imprisonment.

Case: D.B.M. Patnaik v. State of A.P. [10]

Facts: The petitioners were the naxalites under-trial prisoners who were undergoing the sentence in the Central Jail, Visakhapatnam. They contended that the armed police guards posted around the jail and the live-wire electrical mechanism fixed on the top of the jail was an infringement of their right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Judgment: The court held that in 146 naxalites were lodged in jail as a result of which usual watch and ward arrangements proved inadequate. Some prisoners had escaped from the prison. It was decided thereafter to take necessary steps to prevent the escape of the prisoners from the jail. The court further added that no convict has a right to dictate where guards are to be posted and where not to prevent the escape of prisoners. The installation of live-wire mechanism does not violate the rights of the prisoners. It is a preventive measure intended to act as a deterrent and cause death only if a prisoner scales the wall while attempting to escape from lawful custody. The installation of live-wire does not by itself cause the death of the prisoners. Therefore, the court held that in the present case the convicts were not deprived of their fundamental rights by posting of police guards and installation of live-wire outside the jail.

Right to Privacy

The right to privacy in India has been developed through a series of decisions. Earlier, this right was not considered as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution. The first time this topic was ever raised in the case of Kharak Singh v. State of U.P.[11]. It was held by minority judges that right to privacy is a part of right to life and personal liberty.

Further, in the case of Govind v. State of M.P.[12], the Supreme Court confirmed that right to privacy is a fundamental right but not an absolute right.

Case: R. Rajagopal v. state of Tamil Nadu [13]

Facts: This case is famously known as ‘Auto Shankar case’. In this case, Auto Shankar wrote his autobiography in jail depicting how prisoners and IAS, IPS are in relation with each other and partners in crime. He gave his autobiography to his wife to get it published. Government officials interfered in its publication with a fear to get exposed if it gets published. So, the editors of the magazine filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court saying that it violated Article 21.

Judgment: The court held that right to privacy or right to be let alone is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Everyone has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, etc. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent, whether truthful or fictitious. If any person does so, he would be violating the right of the person concerned and would be liable for the damages.

This rule is subject to an exception that if any publication of such matters are based on public record including court record, it will be unobjectionable. If a matter becomes a matter of public record the right to privacy no longer exists and it becomes a legitimate subject for comment of press and media.

The second exception is that the right to privacy or the remedy of action for damage is unavailable to public officials as long as the criticism regarding the discharge of their public duties is concerned, not even when the publication is based on false facts. Therefore, the court held that the State and its officials has no authority in law to impose prior restraint on publication of defamatory matter. Officials can take action only after publication if it is found to be untrue.

There are many aspects of Right to Privacy as well.

  • Privacy and Virginity test

Case: Surjit Singh Thind v. Kanwaljit Kaur[14]

Facts: In this case the wife filed a petition for a decree of nullity of marriage on the ground that the marriage had never been consummated because the husband was impotent. The husband took the defence that the marriage was consummated and he was not impotent. So to prove that the wife was not a virgin, he filed an application for the virginity test of his wife.

Judgment: The court held that allowing the medical examination of a woman’s virginity violates her right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.

  • Privacy and Patient’s Information

Case: Mr. ‘X’ v. Hospital ‘Z’ [15]

Facts: In this case, during a treatment of some disease, the patient needed blood. The appellant was asked by the doctors to donate blood for the patient. When his blood samples were taken the doctors found that the appellant’s blood group was HIV(+). Meanwhile, the appellant settled his marriage with a girl which was to be held in a few days. But the marriage was called off on the ground that the blood test of the appellant conducted by the respondent hospital was found to be HIV(+). As a result of this, he contended that his prestige among his family members was damaged. The appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court of Bombay for the damages against the respondent on the ground that the information which was required to be kept confidential under Medical Ethics was disclosed illegally and the respondent is liable to pay damages for it. He contended that his right to privacy had been infringed by the respondents by disclosing that the appellant was HIV(+).

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that disclosing that the appellant was suffering from AIDS by the doctors in not violative of right to privacy of the appellant guaranteed under Article 21. Although, right to privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21, but it is not an absolute right and certain restrictions can be imposed on it. Right to marry is an essential element of the right to privacy but not in absolute sense. Marriage is recognized as a sacred union, legally permissible, of two healthy bodies of opposite sexes. Every system of matrimonial law provides that if a person is suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form, it will be open to the other partner in the marriage to seek divorce. Also, if a person is suffering from such kind of disease even prior to the marriage, he has no right to marry unless the disease is completely cured.

Therefore, when the patient was found to be HIV(+), the disclosure of this fact by the doctors was not violative of patient’s right to privacy as the lady to whom the patient was likely to be married was saved by such disclosure or else she too would have been infected with the dreadful disease if marriage had taken place.

  • Privacy and Telephone Tapping

Case: People’s Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India [16]

Facts: A petition was filed by a public interest litigation under Article 32 of the Constitution by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, a voluntary organisation, highlighting the incidents of telephone tapping in the recent years. The petitioners challenged the constitutional validity of Section 5 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 which authorises the Centre or the State Government to resort to phone tapping in the circumstances mentioned therein.

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that telephone tapping is a serious breach of an individual’s right to privacy which is an integral part of right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21. State is not allowed to intervene in the individual’s right unless there is a matter of public emergency or interest of public safety.

  • Right to Privacy and Aadhar card

Case: Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India[17]

Facts: This case was brought before the Hon’ble Supreme Court by a retired judge Justice K.S. Puttaswamy challenging the Aadhar scheme of the Government to be violative of Article 21.

The Government introduced the Aadhar scheme which includes the biometric of an individual and proposed to make it mandatory in order to access the government policies and benefits. The petitioner challenged this scheme on the ground that it violates the right to privacy of individual which is an intrinsic right within the ambit of Article 21. Also, India does not have strict data protection laws. So, the misuse of personal data of the individuals may happen which is an infringement of their right to life and personal liberty.

The Attorney General of India, on the behalf of the government, argued that right to privacy is not expressly specified as a fundamental right under the Constitution. Referring the case of M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra[18] and Kharak Singh v. State of U.P.[19], the respondent contended that the Constitution does not specifically provide protection to right to privacy. Although right to privacy may be incorporated under the right to life and personal liberty but with certain limits. It is not an absolute fundamental right.

Judgment: The Court gave a landmark judgment in this case by recognizing the right to privacy as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty. It was observed that right to privacy is not an absolute right as it is has certain limits as provided by the law. The law must provide strict data protection and regulate national security. Therefore, it was held that the scheme of Aadhar card is no more mandatory.


The LGBT community is recognized as an important part of the society today. Ignoring the rights and demands of this community will not let the country progress rapidly. The development of the country is the development of its people. Each and every community has the right to live their life to the fullest. Any provision which interrupts their personal liberty is ultra vires Article 14,15, and 21. Section 377, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, in this regard was a very controversial provision which has gone through a lot of debate and finally got decriminalised in 2018 in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India[20].

Prior to this case, there were many other cases that came before the court for decriminalization of Section 377, IPC.

Case: Naz Foundation v. Govt. of N.C.T. of Delhi[21]

Facts: This case challenged the constitutionality of Section 377, IPC, on the ground that it is violative of Article 21, 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution.

Judgement: The Delhi High Court held that as far as criminalization of consensual sexual acts in private between adults who have attained the age of 18 years, Section 377, IPC, is violative of Article 14, 15 and 21. However, the provision of Section-377, IPC will continue to govern the non-consensual sexual activities involving the minors as the provision describes. It was further added by the Court that Section 377 denies a person’s dignity and criminalises the core identity of individuals solely on the account of his sexuality and is therefore, violative of Article 21.

But this decision of the Delhi High Court was reversed by the Supreme Court in the following case.

Case: Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation[22]

Facts: The constitutionality of Section 377 was questioned through a Special Leave Petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Judgment: The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Delhi High Court in the Naz Foundation Case and held that Section 377 does not suffer from unconstitutionality. The people who indulge in sexual intercourse in the ordinary course and the people who indulge in sexual intercourse against the order of nature constitutes different classes and the people falling in the different category cannot claim that Section 377 suffers from vice of arbitrariness and irrational classification.

Ultimately, after going through a lot of controversial debates and decisions of the different courts, Section 377 was decriminalised.

Case: Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India[23]

Facts: In this case, the Court was asked to determine the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which among other things, criminalises homosexual acts as an ‘unnatural offence’.

Judgment: The Supreme Court of India unanimously delivered the verdict stating the part of Section 377 dealing with consensual sexual acts between adults is unconstitutional. The court observed that criminalizing the consensual sexual acts between the adults is violative of right to equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution. The LGBT community in India is entitled to all the constitutional rights and liberties which protected by the Indian Constitution. The court pronounced that criminalising carnal intercourse is arbitrary, irrational and unconstitutional.

Right to Education [Article 21A]

It is a well known fact that for the development of a democratic system of government, education plays avery crucial role. Education provides dignity to a person with the help of which he can contribute in the progress of the country. The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002, added a new Article 21A which ensures free and compulsory education for all the children of the age of 6 to 14 years.

Therefore, the framers of the Constitution, releasing the significance of education in a democratic country, imposed a duty on the State under Article 45 as one of the directive policies of state to provide free and compulsory education to all children until they complete the age of 14 years. The purpose of this provision was to abolish illiteracy from the country.

Case: Unni Krishnan v. State of U.P. [24]

In this case, the court specifically declares that the right to education for the children of the age of 6 to 14 years is a fundamental right. Article 21A makes it mandatory for the Government to enact a Central Legislation to give effect to the constitutional amendment. The Parliament to give effect to 86th Amendment, passes the Right of Children to Compulsory Education Act, 2009. This act provides responsibilities on the Centre and the State Government, teachers, parents and community members to ensure that all children of 6 to 14 years receive free and compulsory elementary education.

Emergency and Article 21

Before the 44th Amendment, the Constitution allowed the suspension of the rights under Article 21. Article 359 empowered the President to suspend the right to move to the court for the violation of rights conferred by Article 21 through an order.

During the emergency arising out of the Chinese attack in 1962, Article 21 was suspended for the first time. After that in 1971, it was suspended for the second time when Pakistan attacked India. In 1976, during the tenure of Prime Minister Indira gandhi, this right was again suspended when emergency was declared on the ground of internal disturbances.

In the case of ADM Jabalpur v. S.S. Shukla[25], popularly known as the ‘habeas corpus case’, it was held that-

“Article 21 is the only depot of the right to life and personal liberty in the Indian Constitution and if the right to move to any court for the enforcement of this right was suspended by the orders of the President under Article 359, the detenu had no locus standi to file a writ petition against wrongful detention.”

The 44th Amendment has amended Article 359 which now provides that the President by order cannot suspend the enforcement of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. This amendment was done to prevent the situations in future which arose in the habeas corpus case.


It can be concluded that right to life and personal liberty is an inalienable right which is not only guaranteed by the Indian Constitution but also exists by virtue of being human. It makes a distinction between the life of a human being with that of an animal. The ambit of article 21 is still not defined absolutely. The courts are trying to expand the scope and application of Article 21 by scrutinizing its each and every aspect so that no right of the citizens could be encroached.


  1. 1. AIR 1950 SC 27
  2. AIR 1963 SC 1295
  3.  AIR 1978 SC 597
  4.  AIR 1950 SC 27
  5.  AIR 1981 SC 746
  6.  AIR 1982 SC 1473
  7.  AIR 1986 SC 180
  8.  2012 CrLJ 3516 (SC)
  9.  AIR 1979 SC 1369
  10.  AIR 1974 SC 2092
  11.  AIR 1963 SC 1295
  12.  1975 SCR (3) 946
  13.  1994 (6) SCC 632
  14.  AIR 2003 P&H 353
  15.  AIR 1995 SC 495
  16.  AIR 1997 SC 568
  17.  AIR 2015 SC 3081
  18.  AIR 1954 SC 300
  19.  AIR 1963 SC 1295
  20.  W. P. (Crl.) No. 76 /2016
  21.  2010 CrLJ 94 Delhi (DB)
  22.  AIR 2014 SC 563
  23.  W. P. (Crl.) No. 76 /2016
  24.  1993 (1) SCC 645
  25. AIR 1976 SC 1207



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