Six fundamental rights are guaranteed to Indian citizens by the constitution. One of the essential rights that allows a person to live his or her life without restriction is the right to life and personal liberty. The scope of this right has expanded and is still on the path of intensification, even though it was not initially understood to its utmost extent due to judicial developments. In addition to being a fundamental right, having the right to life and personal freedom allows people to have lives that are distinct from those of mere animals. The right to life and personal freedom are protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The core of the Constitution is Article 21. It is the most natural and forward-thinking clause in our evolving Constitution. Only when a person is denied his “life or “personal liberty” by the “State,” as defined in Article 12 can Article 21 be invoked. Therefore, a breach of a right by a private individual is not covered by Article 21’s preamble.
Article 21 secures two rights:
1) Right to life, and
2) Right to personal liberty.
Given that it includes all natural beings and not just citizens, it is essential to democracy. Everyone has the right, whether they are a citizen or an alien. As a result, anyone can assert this privilege. However, as stated in Article 19 (1), it does not grant a foreigner the right to remain in and settle in India (e).
Meaning, Concept And Interpretation Of ‘Right To Life’ Under Article 21
Unquestionably, the most fundamental of all rights is the right to life. The existence of life itself is necessary for the operation of all other rights, which enhance the quality of the life in issue. One may anticipate that the right to life itself would be in some ways primary because without it, none of the other rights would have any meaning or utility as human rights can only relate to living things. If Article 21 had been interpreted in its original context, there wouldn’t have been any Fundamental Rights worth noting. This Section will look at how the Indian Supreme Court has interpreted and applied the right to life.
The Supreme Court agreed with the aforementioned views in the case Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration. The “right to life” was interpreted to include the ability to live a healthy life and utilise all of the faculties of the human body in their optimal state. It would even cover the right to defend one’s tradition, culture, heritage, and everything else that gives one’s life significance. It also includes the right to rest and good health, as well as the right to live and sleep in peace.
Right To Live with Human Dignity
The Supreme Court expanded on Art. 21 in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India. The Court concluded that the right to life extends beyond simple physical survival and encompasses the desire to live in dignity. It has been decided that the right to life also includes the right to live with human dignity and decency in Chandra Raja Kumar v. Police Commissioner Hyderabad. Therefore, holding a beauty pageant is abhorrent to the dignity or decency of women and only violates Article 21 of the Constitution if it is highly immoral, malicious, offensive, or meant to be used as a form of blackmail. As a result, Section 3 of the Andhra Pradesh Undesirable Performances Prohibition Act, 1956 gives the government the authority to forbid the contest as an objectionable performance.
Right Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace
The Supreme Court has ruled that sexual harassment of women is a violation of one of the most valued fundamental rights, the Right to Life as stated in Art. 21.
The Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment at work violates people’s rights to equality, life, and liberty in Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan[x]. Therefore, there has been a violation of the Constitution’s Articles 14, 15, and 21.
The Supreme Court established the following rules in this case because there was no applicable statute against sexual harassment to achieve gender balance in the workplace:
This meant that, whether in the public or private sector, all employers or those in charge of the workplace should take the necessary precautions to prevent sexual harassment.
- Sexual harassment in the workplace should be expressly prohibited and should be reported, published, and distributed improperly.
- Sexual harassment should be prohibited in all rules and regulations governing conduct and discipline of government and public sector organisations, and suitable sanctions should be included against offenders.
- For private employers, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act of 1946 should be amended to contain the aforementioned prohibitions.
- To ensure that there is no hostile environment toward women at workplaces, appropriate working conditions should be given for work, leisure, health, and cleanliness. There shouldn’t be any reason for a female employee to think she is being treated unfairly because of her job.
- The employer must take appropriate measures by filing a complaint with the relevant authority when such conduct constitutes specific offences under the IPC or under any other legislation.
- Sexual harassment victims should have the choice of requesting the transfer of the offender or requesting their own transfer.
Right to Reputation and Article 21
In the case of State of Maharashtra v. Public Concern of Governance Trust[xv], the same American ruling was also cited. The Supreme Court ruled that the right to enjoy life, liberty, and property rights, as well as the right to a good reputation, are all guaranteed by the Constitution.
According to established precedent, a person’s reputation both before and after his death is protected by this privilege. As a result, Article 21 unquestionably applies to any improper state or agency activity that damages a good person’s reputation.
The Court added that any authority that crosses into a person’s personal reputation in the course of carrying out the legal obligations placed on it must provide the person a chance to voice his opinion. Finally, the Court noted that the natural justice principle required the authority to give the person permission before any statement was made or opinion was voiced that was likely to have a negative impact on that person.
Right To Livelihood
The Supreme Court initially held the position that the right to livelihood would not be included in the right to life guaranteed by Art. 21. The Supreme Court concluded in Re Sant Ram[xviii], a case that came up before the Maneka Gandhi case, that the right to subsistence does not fall under the definition of “life” in Article 21.
It is crucial to understand the Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[xx], often known as the “Pavement Dwellers Case.” The right to livelihood is derived from the right to life, according to the court’s five-judge bench in this case. It was stated in order to emphasise that no one could survive without the means of subsistence.
Deprivations of life, personal liberty, and the right to a livelihood are not completely prohibited by Article 21. According to Article 21, such a lack must follow a legally established method that is fair, just, and reasonable. So, anyone who has their right to a livelihood taken away without following a legal, just, and fair process may dispute this violation of Article 21 and have it declared void.
Right to Privacy
In India, the right to privacy has grown as a result of numerous rulings. Previously, the Indian Constitution did not regard this right as a basic one. This subject was brought up for the first time ever in the case of Kharak Singh v. State of U.P.. Minority judges ruled that the right to privacy is a component of the rights to life and personal freedom.
Additionally, the Supreme Court affirmed that the right to privacy is a fundamental but non-absolute right in the case of Govind v. State of M.P.
Case: R. Rajagopal v. state of Tamil Nadu
Facts: The “Auto Shankar case” is a well-known name for this case. In this instance, Auto Shankar authored his memoirs while incarcerated, illustrating the relationships between convicts and IAS and IPS as well as their roles as co-conspirators. To get his memoirs published, he gave it to his wife. Because they were afraid of being exposed if it was published, government officials intervened with its publishing. Thus, claiming that it had violated Article 21, the magazine’s editors filed a writ suit with the Supreme Court.
The court determined that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to privacy or the right to be left alone. Everyone has a right to protect the privacy of their own lives, those of their families, their marriages, their procreation, their motherhood, etc. Without his permission, no one may publish any information about the aforementioned topics, whether it is accurate or made up. If someone does this, they are breaking their rights and are responsible for any resulting damages.
This regulation is subject to the exemption that it will not be disagreeable if any publication of such matters is based on public record, including court record. A matter loses its right to private when it is made a matter of public record and becomes a legitimate topic for press and media commentary.
The second exemption is that public officials do not have the right to privacy or the ability to sue for damages when criticism of how they have carried out their obligations as public officials is involved, not even when the publication is based on inaccurate information. The court concluded that the State and its representatives lack the legal right to impose a prior restraint on the publication of defamatory material. If it turns out to be false, officials cannot act until it has been published. The right to privacy has a lot of facets as well.
Right Against Custodial Violence
It happens frequently that police treat people imprisoned on suspicion of committing crimes brutally. Occasionally, there has been a significant public outcry against deaths that occur in custody.
The use of third-degree methods to compel confessions, brutality, intimidation, and harassment have been condemned by the Supreme Court in a very good way. These have been labelled as violating human dignity by the court. The protections provided by Article 21 provide a life with human dignity and include protections against torture.
Right Against Delayed Execution
In T.V. Vatheeswaram v. State of Tamil Nadu[xcv], the Supreme Court decided that a death sentence that had been delayed for more than two years might be converted to life in prison in accordance with Article 21. It doesn’t matter how the delay came about. The accuser may be to blame for the holdup.
The Supreme Court stated in Sher Singh v. State of Punjab[xcvi] that a prolonged delay before a death sentence is carried out is an unjust, unfair, and arbitrary method, and that the only means to reverse that is through Article 21.
The Court, however, ruled that each case should be judged based on its unique facts and that this could not be interpreted as the law and applied to every situation.
Procedure Established By Law And Article 21
There have been numerous instances when the phrase “process established by law” has been interpreted differently. A review of these cases demonstrates that courts have broadened the meaning of the expression through judicial interpretation.
The Supreme Court adopted the position that “procedure established by law” in Article 21 refers to state-enacted legal procedure and rejected attempts to compare it to the American “due process of law.”
However, the Supreme Court stated in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India that the legal process for robbing a person of his or her life and personal freedom must be “just, just, and fair” and not “arbitrary, whimsical, or oppressive.”
Furthermore, it was decided that without it, there would be no procedure and the requirements of Article 21 would not be met. In India, the phrase “procedure established by law” now has the same connotation as the American phrase “due process of law.”
Article 21 And The Emergency
The Supreme Court ruled in ADM Jabalpur v. S. Shukla[xcviii], often known as the habeas corpus case, that Article 21 was the only place where the right to life and personal liberty were protected.
The detainee would not have locus standi to file a writ petition to challenge the legitimacy of his incarceration if the presidential decree suspended the ability to petition any court to enforce that right under Article 359.
As a result, Article 359’s broad interpretation deprived the inhabitants’ beloved right to personal liberty. Experience has shown that when 1975 came into being, the fundamental freedom of the people had become meaningless.
The constitution act of 1978 revised article 359 to ensure that it would not happen again by stipulating that the remedy for upholding the essential right protected by article 21 would not be stopped by a presidential order while the proclamation of emergency was in existence.
The observations in the aforementioned judgements are reduced to essentially academic significance in light of the 44th Amendment of 1978.
Conclusion: The right to life and personal liberty is an unalienable right that is recognised by both the Indian Constitution and the fact that humans have these rights in the first place. It distinguishes between a human being’s life and that of an animal. The scope of Article 21 is still not clearly established. By carefully examining every facet of Article 21 to ensure that no citizen’s right is violated, the courts are attempting to broaden its application and scope.
The Constitution of India
Constitutional Law Of India- Dr. J.N. Pandey
Introduction to the Constitution Of India- Durga Das Basu
Constitution Of India- V.N. Shukla
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