Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
Life and Personal Liberty- Article 21, even though couched in negative language, confers on every person the fundamental rights to life and personal liberty and has become an inexhaustible source of many rights. These rights are as much available to non-citizens as to citizens and to those whose citizenship is unknown and our courts assign them paramount position among the rights.
Life- The right to life which is the most fundamental of all is also the most difficult to define. Certainly it cannot be confined to a guarantee against the taking away of life; it must have a wider application. With reference to a corresponding provision in the 5th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution, which says that no person shall be deprived of his “life, liberty or property without due process of law’ in Munn v Illinois Field J spoke of the right to life in the following words:
By the term ‘life’ as used here, 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 the amputation of an arm or leg, or the putting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.
This statement, which has been repeatedly quoted with approval by our Honorable Supreme Court, has been further expanded in Francis Coralie Mullin v UT of Delhi (Francis Coralie) by the statement “that any act which damages or injuries or interferes with the use of any limb or faculty of a person, either permanently or even temporarily, would be within the inhibition of Article 21. In the same case Bhagwati J held-
We think that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and commingling with fellow human beings.
The Judge conceded that “the magnitude and content of the components of this right would depend upon the extent of the economic development of the country” but emphasized that “it must, in any view of the matter, include the right to the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry on such functions and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of the human-self”. The court upheld the right of the detenu in this case to have interviews with members of her family, friends and her lawyer.
Again, relying on the Francis Coralie Case in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v Union of India where the question of bondage and rehabilitation of some laborers was involved, Bhagwati J held:
It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country, to live with human dignity, free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42 and at least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of the workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity, and no State… has the right to take action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials.
This statement has been endorsed by the court in a petition seeking ban on injurious drugs and in a petition seeking human conditions in a care home for females. Similarly, the court has favorably entertained a petition under Article 21 for appropriate relief against the leakage of oleum gas from a chemical plant resulting in loss of lives and injury to health. The right to appropriate relief against the ill-effects of X-ray radiation on the employees of a State corporation- Bharat Electronics Limited- has also been recognized under Article 21.
Article 21 of our Constitution provides that “No person shall be deprived of his life.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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