Know your rights! Expansion of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution


Part III of our Indian Constitution deals with our fundamental rights. As such, article 21 forms a very important part of this. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution says that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. There have been several cases through which the Supreme Court has expanded what rights come under Article 21. 

  1. Maneka Gandhi vs the Union of India


  1. Maneka Gandhi’s passport was impounded by the Passport Authority of India in the name of ‘public interest’. 
  2. She was not given an opportunity to be heard and present her case.
  3. As such, she brought a suit for the wrongful impounding of her passport.

The Most important issue of the case 

  1. The main point of contention between the petitioner and the respondents can be said to be the way Article 21 was framed. Article 21 contains the words “except according to a procedure established by law”. As such, the respondent contended that  impounding her passport, even if it was an infringement of her life or personal liberty, was done as per the Passport Act which was a procedure established by law. 
  • Maneka Gandhi vs the Union of India was a landmark judgment. For the first time, it expanded the scope of Article 21. The court held that principles of natural justice were valid for every case and as such, Mrs Gandhi should have been given an opportunity to present her case and to have her side be heard. 
  • Further, with regards to the question of “procedure established by law”, the court had observed that while historically, it was true that the Constituent Assembly had several people who put forth their arguments regarding the difference between the using of the words “procedure established by law” and “due process of law” (used in the US) and as such, the choice of words reflected what their main motivation behind this article was, yet even if there is a procedure established by law, it cannot violate other Fundamental rights namely 14 and 19- right to equality and right to freedom. 

After this case, which took place circa 1970’s , the courts have included many other rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. 

  1. Kharak Singh vs the State of UP and the Right to Privacy.

The case: The petitioner was a person whom the police suspected of dacoity. However, finding no evidence, he had to be let go. He was therefore put under surveillance under s236 of the UP police act. However, the police would keep an eye on him, watch him where we went and sometimes would knock at his house in the night to ensure he was there. Kharak Singh filed a writ petition and asked the Supreme Court for help since his fundamental rights were violated. 

The court held that the way he was  surveilled amounts to a breach of his right to privacy. This right should be included under “Right to life and personal liberty” as per article 21 of the Constitution of India. Thus the Right to Privacy also emerged as a fundamental right. 

  1.    The Ramlila Maidan case and the Right to Sleep. 

Facts of the case: 

  1. The Bharat Swabhiman Trust had booked the Ramlila Maidan in 2011 for some time to conduct a yoga camp. 
  2. However, Baba Ramdev, whose trust it is, instead staged a hunger strike there on 4th June, 2011. 
  3. Over 50,000 people had attended this strike. 
  4. The Joint Police Commissioner around 11.30pm informed Baba Ramdev that the permission was granted for the Yoga camp not for a protest and therefore it was withdrawn. 
  5. At 12 am, the police started lathi charging to break up the protest. 
  6. It is important to note that many protesters were sleeping at that time. 
  • Suo Moto Cognizance was taken by the Supreme Court. Which, in short, means that nobody had to file a case before it. 
  • Here the court held that when the police lathi charged , they disturbed the sleep of many people. 
  • Sleep was one of the basic necessities of life and to paraphrase the judgement of the court, “depriviation of sleep would amount to torture”. 
  • As such, the police had infringed upon the people’s fundamental right to sleep which was guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Thus the Right to Sleep emerged as a fundamental right. 

       4.  Satish Chandra Verma IPS vs the Union of India – Right to travel abroad 

The case:  Satish Chandra Verma , an IPS officer, had certain departmental inquiries against him. He had challenged these inquiries and as such the cases were pending. At the same time, he had to go abroad to visit his relatives, however, he was denied this permission. It is important to note  no criminal cases had  been registered against him; what was pending was a departmental inquiry.  When he approached the Central Administrative Tribunal, he was denied permission to travel abroad, and the High Court, when approached, upheld this. 

The decision was overturned by the Apex Court. Citing Menaka Gandhi vs the Union of India, among other cases, the Supreme Court held that the right to travel abroad was a basic human right as “ it nourishes the independent and self-determining creative character of the individual”. Thus the court granted him permission and held that by not allowing him to travel, his right to travel abroad guaranteed by Article 21 was infringed. 


Thus, these are only some of the cases where the scope of Article 21 was expanded. Article 21 includes many other rights. 

 It is important for us, as the people of this country to be aware of our rights. As the popular Latin saying goes “vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt “ ( the law always assists those who are vigilant and not those who sleep)

Lastly , over the years, the Supreme Court has shown itself to be the ultimate protector and guardian of the Constitution. Certain landmark cases passed by the Honorable Court evoke a sense of pride in the Indian judiciary. 


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Aishwarya Says:

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.


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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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