AUTHOR- Akanksha Kashyap, PSIT, College of law (Affiliated to CSJM University)

1. Introduction

Article 21 is includes in Part-III of the Indian Constitution, i.e, fundamental rights. This article mainly provides that-“No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” This is the only one Article in Indian Constitution which is interpreted again and again by the changing of time and needs of the society.

The two main components of Article 21 are:

Ø Procedure established by law (India)

Ø Due process of law(USA)

Our Article 21 is mainly inspired from the American Constitution. According to American Constitution the definition is-“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the due process of law.” This statement means court has power to control actions of both legislatives and executives, i.e. they work on both substantive law and procedural law. Article 21 can only be claimed when a person is deprived of his “life” or “political liberty” by the “state” as mentioned in the article 12.[1]

2. Applicability of Article 21

Article 21 applies to natural persons. It means this right is available to every person, citizens or non-citizens. Thus, even foreigners can claim this right. It doesn’t entitle to the foreigners have the right to permanently settle in India, as mentioned in the article 19(1) (e)[2].

Procedure established by law-

The Supreme Court took the view that “procedure established by law” in Article 21 means procedure prescribed by law as enacted by the state, it with the American statement “due process of law”.

a. A.K. Gopalan V. State of Madras

The A.K. Gopalan V. State of Madras was the first case filed challenging the constitutional validity of an act under the provision of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In this case the Supreme Court has taken a narrow interpretation of the Article 21. It means 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 of the Indian Constitution, which is different from the expression “due process of law” in American Constitution. Hence, the Supreme Court held that the personal liberty means only liberty relating to the any individual person.

b. Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India

In the Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India case, the Supreme Court overruled its judgement of the previous case, i.e. A.K. Gopalan Case by taking a wider interpretation of the Article 21. The Supreme Court observed that the procedure established by law for depriving a person of his life and personal liberty must be right, “Just, fair and reasonable”. If these three points are not included than it would be no procedure at all and the requirement of this article would not be satisfied.

Thus, the ‘procedure established by law’ has acquired the some significance in India as the ‘due process of law’ clause in American Constitution.

Article 21, includes some following rights also –

1. Right to live with human dignity

2. Right to privacy

3. Right to livelihood

4. Right to go abroad

5. Right against illegal detention

6. Right against delayed execution

7. Right against rape

8. Right against sexual harassment at workplace

9. Right against public hanging

10. Right against hand cuffing

11. Right to free legal aid

12. Right to appeal

13. Right to speedy trial

14. Right against solidarity confinement

15. Prisoner’s rights

16. Right against custodial violence

17. Right to improvement of means of communication

18. Right to maintenance and improvement of public health

19. Right to enjoy pollution free environment

20. Right to education flows from the right to life and is added as Article 21A.

Article 21 in a sense is limitless in its scope as it embodies everything that a human being requires to live a quality life so that he/she can afford the opportunities to make his/her life better, more fruitful and secure. In a landmark judgment on the right to life, the Honorable Supreme Court inter alia held that, "life as here used is something more is meant more than mere animal existence…" Therefore, the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, that is to say the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and facilities of self-expression such as reading writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and mingling with society. To have all of this is to live with dignity and we can call ourselves fortunate to be governed by laws that guarantee this basic law of life and liberty.

In this way we see that the right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 covers in totality the entire bouquet of rights and obligations that guarantee a life of freedom and dignity.

Right to Education (Article-21A)

The Eighty sixth amendment act, 2002 inserted Article-21A in the Constitution of India. This article says that state shall provide free and compulsory education to all the children of the age 6-14 years as a fundamental right. The Right to Education Act (RTE Act)[3] is an act of the Parliament of India enacted on August, 2009 which made education for all children of the age of 6-14 years. In practical aspect this right includes free admission in school, free books, free bags, free uniforms, free ration products and mid-day meal also.

This act prohibits-

· Physical punishment,

· Capitation fee,

· Private tuition by teacher,

· Running of school without recognition, etc.

c. Mohini Jain V. State of Karnataka

In this case, a resident of Uttar Pradesh state challenged a notification issued by the Karnataka government that permitted private medical colleges to charge higher fees to students who were not allocated 'government seats'. The Supreme Court of India held that the charging of a ‘capitation fee’ by the private educational institutions violated the right to education, as implied from the right to life and human dignity, and the right to equal protection of the law. In the absence of an express constitutional right, the Court interpreted a right to education as a necessary condition for fulfilment of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In addition, the Court held that private institutions, acting as agents of the State, have a duty to ensure equal access to, and non-discrimination the delivery of, higher education.

REFERENCES- [1] Lakshmikanth, Article 21 of Indian Constitution in Hindi, available at [2] Jahnavi Laungani, Right To Life- Scope in India, available at

[3] Right to Education Initiative, Mohini Jain v Karnataka (Supreme Court of India; 1992), available at



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