According to Article 21 no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
This fundamental right is available to every person, citizens and foreigners alike.
Article 21 provides two rights: Right to life and Right to personal liberty.
The fundamental right provided by Article 21 is one of the most important rights that the Constitution guarantees. The Supreme Court of India has described this right as the ‘heart of fundamental rights’. The right specifically mentions that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty except as per the procedure established by law. This implies that this right has been provided against the State only. State here includes not just the government, but also, government departments, local bodies, the Legislatures, etc. Further, it is not suspended even during the time of emergency.
The remedy for the victim, in this case, would be under Article 226 or under general law. The right to life is not just about the right to survive. It also entails being able to live a complete life of dignity and meaning. The chief goal of Article 21 is that when the right to life or liberty of a person is taken away by the State, it should only be according to the prescribed procedure of law.
Judicial intervention has ensured that the scope of Article 21 is not narrow and restricted. It has been widening by several landmark judgements.
AK Gopalan Case (1950): Until the 1950s, Article 21 had a bit of a narrow scope. In this case, the SC held that the expression ‘procedure established by law’, the Constitution has embodied the British concept of personal liberty rather than the American ‘due process’.
Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India Case (1978): This case overturned the Gopalan case judgement. Here, the SC said that Articles 19 and 21 are not watertight compartments. The idea of personal liberty in Article 21 has a wide scope including many rights, some of which are embodied under Article 19, thus giving them ‘additional protection’. The court also held that a law that comes under Article 21 must satisfy the requirements under Article 19 as well. That means any procedure under law for the deprivation of life or liberty of a person must not be unfair, unreasonable or arbitrary.
Francis Coralie Mullin vs. Union Territory of Delhi (1981): In this case, the court held that any procedure for the deprivation of life or liberty of a person must be reasonable, fair and just and not arbitrary, whimsical or fanciful.
Q1. Choose the correct answer:
I. There is no remedy for violation of article 21 under article 226.
II. The article 21 is not suspended during emergency.
a. Only I
b. Only II
c. Both a and b
d. None of the above
Q.2. Which of the following can be attributed to the above paragraph?
- Article 19 and 21 cannot operate independently.
- The right to life is absolute in nature.
- The right to life is not available against the local governmental bodies.
- Both a and b
Q.3. A Bangladeshi citizen was captured by police while crossing the border and was shot down immediately. Choose the correct answer?
- The right to life is not available for a foreigner.
- It is the duty of police to stop the illegal immigration.
- The act of shooting Bangladeshi amounts to violation of Article 21.
- It might be the violation of any Bangladeshi law.
Q.4. X, a serial rapist, who had brutally raped and killed dozens of minor girls, was caught by police. On the request of the government, police killed him in an encounter?
- X being a serial rapist cannot get protection under article 21.
- The request of government amounts to procedure established by law and hence there is no violation of right to life.
- The right to life is available against the government but not against the police.
- There is violation of article 21.