Article 21

INTRODUCTION

Article 21:— “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure 

established by law.”

· Bhagwati J. — Art. 21 ’embodies the constitutional value of supreme importance in a democratic society,’

· Iyer J. — Art. 21 as ‘the procedural Magna Carta protective of life and liberty.’

Article 21 can only be claimed when a person is deprived of his “life” or “personal liberty” by the “state.” 

[Violation by private individual is not within the purview of article 21]


Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien.

  • RIGHT TO GET POLLUTION FREE WATER AND AIR
  1.  SUBHAS KUMAR V. STATE OF BIHAR

(1991 AIR 420, 1991 SCR (1) 5)

– It has held that a PIL is maintainable for ensuring enjoyment of pollution free water and 

air which is included in ‘right to live’ under article 21 of the constitution.

– The Court observed: “right to live is a fundamental right under article 21 of the 

constitution and it includes are right of enjoyment of pollution free water and air for full 

enjoyment of life. If anything in dangerous for in pairs that quality of life in derogation 

of laws, a citizen has right to have records to article 32 of the constitution for removing 

the pollution of water or Air which may be detrimental to the quality of life.”

  • RIGHT TO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT

– the right to life under article 21 means a life of dignity to live in a proper environment 

free from the dangers of diseases and infection. Maintenance of health, preservation of 

the sanitation and environment have has been held to fall all within the purview of 

article 21 as it adversely affects the life of the citizens and it amounts to slow poisoning 

and reducing the life of the citizen because of the hazardous created if not checked.

  1. M.C. MEHTA V. UNION OF INDIA (1998)

(AIR 1998 SC 1037 : (1987) 3 SCC 463)

– The supreme court ordered the closure of tanneries that were polluting the water.

  1. M.C. MEHTA V. UNION OF INDIA (1997)

(AIR 1997 SC 734 : (1997) 2 SCC 353)

– The supreme court issued guidelines and directions for the protection of the Taj Mahal 

and an ancient monument, from environmental degradation.

  1. VELLORE CITIZENS WELFARE FORUM V. UNION OF INDIA

 (AIR 1996 SC 2721 : (1996) 5 SCC 647)

– the code to cognizant of the environmental problems being caused by tannery that 

were polluting the water resources, rivers, canals, underground water and agricultural 

land. The court issued several directions to deal with the problem. 

– In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs. Union of India (1996) 5 SCC 647, the Court observed that “the Precautionary Principle” and “the Polluter Pays Principle” are essential features of “Sustainable Development.”

  • RIGHT TO HEALTH
  1. VINCENT V. UNION OF INDIA

 (1987 AIR 990 : (1987) SCR (2) 468)

– supreme Court emphasized that are healthy body is the very foundation of all human 

activities. Article 47 a DPSP in this regard lays stress note on the improvement of public 

health and provision of drugs injurious to health as one of the primary duties of the 

State.

  •  RIGHT TO EDUCATION
  1. UNNI KRISHNAS CASE

– It was held that by observing article 21 the right to life includes the right to education. The right to education flows from the right to life.

  • RIGHT TO LIFE AND PERSONAL LIBERTY

Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right. It, however, does not entitle a foreigner the right to reside and settle in India, as mentioned in Art. 19(1)(e).

  1. SUNIL BATRA V. DELHI ADMINISTRATION
    (AIR 1978 SC 167)
    – right to life. healthy life. Live in peace, to sleep in peace.
  2. MANEKA GANDHI V. UNION OF INDIA
    (1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621)
    – includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity.
  3. FRANCIS CORALIE V. UNION TERRITORY OF DELHI
    (1981 AIR 746, 1981 SCR (2) 516)
    – bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter.

Article 19(1)(a)

Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian constitution confers fundamental rights on every citizen to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.  This is subject to reasonable restrictions.

A citizen cannot carry on business activity, if it is a health hazard to the society or general public. Thus safeguards for environment protection are inherent in this.


The Supreme Court, while deciding the matter relating to carrying on trade of liquor in Cooverjee B. Bharucha  Vs Excise commissioner, Ajmer (1954, SC 220) observed that,

if there is a clash between environmental protection and right to freedom of trade and occupation, the courts have to balance environmental interests with the fundamental rights to carry on any occupations.

PROCEDURE ESTABLISHED BY LAW


‘The procedure established by law’ has been the subject matter of the interpretation. The Supreme Court took the view that ‘procedure established by law’ in article 21 procedure prescribed by the law as enacted by the state and rejected to equate it with the American ‘due process of law’.

MANEKA GANDHI V. UNION OF INDIA

Supreme court observed that the procedure prescribed by the law for depriving a person of his life and personal liberty must be “right, just and fair”

And not “arbitrary, fanciful and oppressive,”

Otherwise, it would be no procedure at all and the requirement of article 21 would not be satisfied.

CONCLUSION

Article 21 assures the right to live with human dignity, free from exploitation. The state is under a constitutional obligation to see that there is no violation of the fundamental right of any person, particularly when he belongs to the weaker section of the community and is unable to wage a legal battle against a strong and powerful opponent who is exploiting him.
Both the Central and the State Government are therefore bound to ensure observance of the various social welfare and labour laws enacted by Parliament for the purpose of securing to the workmen a life of basic human dignity in compliance with the directive principles of the state policy (DPSPs).

The meaning of the word life includes:
The right to live in fair and reasonable conditions, right to rehabilitation after release, right to livelihood by legal means and decent environment.

The expanded scope of Article 21 has been explained by the Apex Court in the case of Unni Krishnan v. State of A.P. and the Apex Court itself provided the list of some of the rights covered under Article 21 on the basis of earlier pronouncements and some of them are listed below:

(1) The right to go abroad.

(2) The right to privacy.

(3) The right against solitary confinement.

(4) The right against handcuffing.

(5) The right against delayed execution.

(6) The right to shelter.

(7) The right against custodial death.

(8) The right against public hanging.

(9) Doctors assistance

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