DMPQ- . Explain the importance of article 21 of Indian constitution. How Supreme court of India has expanded it’s scope in recent years?

Article 21 declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.

In the famous Gopalan case (1950), the Supreme Court has taken a narrow interpretation of the Article 21. It held that the protection under Article 21 is available only against arbitrary executive action and not from arbitrary legislative action. This means that the State can deprive the right to life and personal liberty of a person based on a law. This is because of the expression ‘procedure established by law’ in Article 21, which is different from the expression ‘due process of law’ contained in the American Constitution.

The Supreme Court has reaffirmed its judgement in the Menaka case in the subsequent cases. It has declared the following rights as part of Article 21:

  • Right to live with human dignity.
  • Right to decent environment including pollution free water and air and protection against hazardous industries.
  • Right to livelihood.
  • Right to privacy.
  • Right to shelter.
  • Right to health.
  • Right to free education up to 14 years of age.
  • Right to free legal aid
  • Right against solitary confinement.
  • Right to speedy trial.
  • Right against handcuffing.
  • Right against inhuman treatment.
  • Right against delayed execution.


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