constitution of IndiaRight To Life & Right To Personal Liberty Via Article 21

April 22, 20160

It must be noted that the Constitution of India provides various rights . The most prominent amongst them is  right to life & right to personal liberty .

the Honourable Suprme Court has laid down prominent ratio In Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre Versus State of Maharashtra and Other CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2271 2010. (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.7615 of 2009), on such rights .

The most prominent paras are being reproduced herien below :

60. The framers of the Indian Constitution followed the American model in adopting and incorporating the Fundamental Rights for the people of India. American Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The due process clause not only protects the property but also life and liberty, similarly Article 21 of the Indian Constitution asserts the importance of Article 21. The said Article reads as under:-

no person shall be deprived for his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law&the right secured by Article 21 is available to every citizen or non-citizen, according to this article, two rights are secured.

1. Right to life

2 Right to personal liberty.

61. Life and personal liberty are the most prized possessions of an individual. The inner urge for freedom is a natural phenomenon of every human being. Respect for life, liberty and property is not merely a norm or a policy of the State but an essential requirement of any civilized society.

62. This court defined the term personal liberty immediately after the Constitution came in force in India in the case of A. K. Gopalan v. The State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 27. The expression `personal liberty’ has wider as well narrow meaning. In the wider sense it includes not only immunity from arrest and detention but also freedom of speech, association etc. In the narrow sense, it means immunity from arrest and detention. The juristic conception of `personal liberty’, when used the latter sense, is that it consists freedom of movement and locomotion.

63. Mukherjea, J. in the said judgment observed that `Personal Liberty’ means liberty relating to or concerning the person or body of the individual and it is, in this sense, antithesis of physical restraint or coercion. `Personal Liberty’ means a personal right not to be subjected to imprisonment, arrest or other physical coercion in any manner that does not admit of legal justification. This negative right constitutes the essence of personal liberty. Patanjali Shastri, J. however, said that whatever may be the generally accepted connotation of the expression `personal liberty’, it was used in Article 21 in a sense which excludes the freedom dealt with in Article 19. Thus, the Court gave a narrow interpretation to `personal liberty’. This court excluded certain varieties of rights, as separately mentioned in Article 19, from the purview of `personal liberty’ guaranteed by Art. 21.

64. In Kharak Singh v. State of U.P. and Others AIR 1963 SC 1295, Subba Rao, J. defined `personal liberty, as a right of an individual to be free from restrictions or encroachment on his person whether these are directly imposed or indirectly brought about by calculated measure. The court held that `personal liberty’ in Article 21 includes all varieties of freedoms except those included in Article 19.

65. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India and Another (1978) 1 SCC 248, this court expanded the scope of the expression `personal liberty’ as used in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The court rejected the argument that the expression `personal liberty’ must be so interpreted as to avoid overlapping between Article 21 and Article 19(1). It was observed: The expression `personal liberty’ in Article 21 is of the widest amplitude and it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of a man and some of them have been raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights and given additional protection under Article 19. So, the phrase `personal liberty’ is 34 very wide and includes all possible rights which go to constitute personal liberty, including those which are mentioned in Article 19.

66. Right to life is one of the basic human right and not even the State has the authority to violate that right. [State of A.P. v. Challa Ramakrishna Reddy and Others (2000) 5 SCC 712].

67. Article 21 is a declaration of deep faith and belief in human rights. In this pattern of guarantee woven in Chapter III of this Constitution, personal liberty of man is at root of Article 21 and each expression used in this Article enhances human dignity and values. It lays foundation for a society where rule of law has primary and not arbitrary or capricious exercise of power. [Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab and Others (1994) 3 SCC 569].

68. While examining the ambit, scope and content of the expression personal liberty in the said case, it was held that the term is used in this Article as a compendious term to include within itself all varieties of rights which goes to make up the "personal liberties" or man other than those dealt within several clauses of Article 19(1). While Article 19(1) deals with particular species or attributes of that freedom,personal liberty in Article 21 takes on and comprises the residue.

69. The early approach to Article 21 which guarantees right to life and personal liberty was circumscribed by literal interpretation in A.K. Gopalan (supra). But in course of time, the scope of this application of the Article against arbitrary encroachment by the executives has been expanded by liberal interpretation of the components of the Article in tune with the relevant international understanding. Thus protection against arbitrary privation of life no longer means mere protection of death, or physical injury, but also an invasion of the right to live with human dignity and would include all these aspects of life which would go to make a man’s life meaningful and worth living, such as his tradition, culture and heritage. [Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi and Others (1981) 1 SCC 608]

70. Article 21 has received very liberal interpretation by this court. It was held:The right to live with human dignity and same does not connote continued drudging. It takes within its fold some process of civilization which makes life worth living  and expanded concept of life would mean the tradition, culture, and heritage of the person concerned.[P. Rathinam/Nagbhusan Patnaik v. Union of India and Another (1994) 3 SCC 394.]

71. The object of Article 21 is to prevent encroachment upon personal liberty in any manner. Article 21 is repository of all human rights essentially for a person or a citizen. A fruitful and meaningful life presupposes full of dignity, honour, health and welfare. In the modern "Welfare Philosophy", it is for the State to ensure these essentials of life to all its citizens, and if possible to non-citizens. While invoking the provisions of Article 21, and by referring to the oft-quoted statement of Joseph Addision, "Better to die ten thousand deaths than wound my honour", the Apex court in Khedat Mazdoor Chetana Sangath v. State of M.P. and Others(1994) 6 SCC 260 posed to itself a question "If dignity or honour vanishes what remains of life.This is the significance of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed under the Constitution of India in its third part.

72. This court in Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Ltd. and Another v. Brojo Nath Ganguly and  Another (1986) 3 SCC 156 observed that the law must respond and be responsive to the felt and discernible compulsions of circumstances that would be equitable, fair and justice, and unless there is anything to the contrary in the statute, Court must take cognizance of that fact and act accordingly.

73. This court remarked that an undertrial prisoner should not be put in fetters while he is being taken from prison to Court or back to prison from Court. Steps other than putting him in fetters will have to be taken to prevent his escape.

74. In Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration (1980) 3 SCC 526, this court has made following observations:

……. The Punjab Police Manual, in so far as it puts the ordinary Indian beneath the better class breed (para 26.21A and 26.22 of Chapter XXVI) is untenable and arbitrary. Indian humans shall not be dichotomised and the common run discriminated against regarding handcuffs. The provisions in para 26.22 that every under-trial who is accused of a non-bailable offence punishable with more than 3 years prison term shall be routinely handcuffed is violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21. The nature of the accusation is not the criterion. The clear and present danger of escape breaking out of the police control is the determinant. And for this there must be clear material, not glib assumption, record of reasons and judicial oversight and summary hearing and direction by the court where the victim is produced. … Handcuffs are not summary punishment vicariously imposed at police level, at once obnoxious and irreversible. Armed escorts, worth the salt, can overpower any unarmed under- trial and extra guards can make up exceptional needs. In very special situations, the application of irons is not ruled out. The same reasoning applies to (e) and (f). Why torture the prisoner because others will demonstrate or attempt his rescue? The plain law of under-trial custody is thus contrary to the unedifying escort practice. (Para 31)

Even in cases where, in extreme circumstances, handcuffs have to be put on the prisoner, the escorting authority must record contemporaneously the reason for doing so. Otherwise, under Article 21 the procedure will be unfair and bad in law. The minions of the police establishment must make good their security recipes by getting judicial approval. And, once the court directs that handcuffs shall be off, no escorting authority can overrule judicial direction.

This is implicit in Article 21 which insists upon fairness, reasonableness and justice in the very procedure which authorities stringent deprivation of life and liberty. (Para 30) It is implicit in Articles 14 and 19 that when there is no compulsive need to fetter a person’s limbs, it is sadistic, capricious, despotic and demoralizing to humble a man by manacling him. Such arbitrary conduct surely slaps Article 14 on the face.

The minimal freedom of movement which even a detainee is entitled to under Article 19 cannot be cut down cruelly by application of handcuffs or other hoops. It will be unreasonable so to do unless the State is able to make out that no other practical way of forbidding escape is available, the prisoner being so dangerous and desperate and the circumstances so hostile to safekeeping. (Para 23) Whether handcuffs or other restraint should be imposed on a prisoner is a matter for the decision of the authority responsible for his custody. But there is room for imposing supervisory regime over the exercise of that power. One sector of supervisory jurisdiction could appropriately lie with the court trying the accused, and it would be desirable for the custodial authority to inform that court of the circumstances in which, and the justification for, imposing a restraint on the body of the accused. It should be for the court concerned to work out the modalities of the procedure requisite for the purpose of enforcing such control.

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