Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to life and personal liberty. Over the years, the Indian judiciary has played a pivotal role in interpreting and expanding the scope of this right, ensuring it remains relevant in a changing society.
Expanding Horizons of Article 21:
- Initial Narrow Scope: In the early years, Article 21 was interpreted narrowly, focusing on protection against arbitrary deprivation of life or personal liberty.
- Broadened Interpretation:
- Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978): The Supreme Court held that the procedure established by law to deprive a person of life or liberty must be fair, just, and reasonable. This judgment expanded the scope of Article 21 beyond mere physical restraint.
- Right to Dignified Life:
- Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1984): The Court emphasized that Article 21 assures the right to live with human dignity, free from exploitation, especially for the weaker sections of society.
- Inclusion of Various Rights:
- Unni Krishnan v. State of A.P. (1993): The Court listed several rights under Article 21, including the right to go abroad, right to privacy, right against solitary confinement, right to shelter, and right against custodial death.
- Public Interest Litigations (PILs): The expanded scope of Article 21 has led to PILs addressing various societal issues.
- Olga Tellis and others v. Bombay Municipal Corporation and others (1985): The Court observed that the procedure established by law must conform to the norms of justice and fair play. copyright©iasexpress.net
- Directive Principles and Article 21:
- Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi (1981): The Court held that the procedure depriving a person of his personal liberty must be reasonable, fair, and just.
Conclusion: Through landmark judgments, the Indian judiciary has ensured that Article 21 remains a robust and dynamic provision, safeguarding the rights of citizens in an evolving socio-political landscape.