The golden triangle of the Indian constitution

AUTHOR- Bhawna Singla, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Introduction– Constitution, in simple words, is a set of rules which tell the state about working on how a state should work. The Constitution of India is a written document that consists of rules and principles, power and procedures, rights, and duties.The Constitution of India is the Supreme authority. It is a bag of borrowing. The Indian Constitution framers took the idea of fundamental rights from the American constitution. The Constitution of India not only provides fundamental rights but also remedies in case of infringement of the said rights. Fundamental rights are contained in part III of the Indian Constitution which originally consisted of seven fundamental rights that are right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational right, right to property, right to Constitutional remedies; but after the 44th amendment, article – 31, right to property, removed and become a legal right. Articles – 14, 19, and 21 together form the golden triangle of the Indian constitution as they are read together.

Article – 14 (Equality before law)[i]– Equality before the law is an English term of the common law. It is a negative concept which implies the absence of any privilege in anyone's favor. In simple words, it means everyone is a subject matter of law. No one is above or below the law. The concept of equality before the law is similar to the rule of law given by A.V. Dicey. This rule makes no distinction between a common man and a prime minister. Everyone is equal in the eyes of law. Equality before the law is read with equal protection of the law. Equal protection of law means people who are under the same situation will be ruled by the same set of laws. In other words ‘like should be treated alike'. It is positive discrimination. Both equality before law and equal protection of law make Art.14. Article 14 does not give us absolute equality but it does give reasonable classification. Article 14 permits reasonable classification but prohibits class legislation.

Article – 19 ( Right to freedom)– Right to freedom under Article 19 includes freedom of speech and expression by words of writing, printing, pictures, mouth, etc., right to information[ii], right not to speak, right to choose the medium of speech and expression, right to silence, right to assemble peacefully without arms, right to form unions, associations or cooperative society and freely discuss or consult, right to voluntary membership, right to reside or settle in any part of India, right to use of highways, right to shelter, right to practice any profession, or carry any business, trade, occupation, right to hold a particular job of choice, etc. This right is only available to citizens of India. The right to freedom is not absolute and comes with many restrictions. One can enjoy the right to freedom until it is not harmful to others.[iii]

Article – 21 (Right to life and personal liberty)– This article is the heart of the Indian Constitution and has been widely interpreted by the Supreme court of India in various cases. It is available to every person, even a foreigner can claim this right. Life doesn’t mean an act of breathing.The right to life means living with dignity and free from exploitation, continuance of quality life in a civilized society. Liberty of a person is a very old concept. Personal liberty has been widely interpreted in the A. K. Gopalan case[iv] wherein it was highlighted that “personal liberty means nothing more than liberty of the physical body”. Liberty should be with rights and duties which make men happy. The scope of article 21 was narrowed to an extent but it was later widely interpreted in the Maneka Gandhi case[v]. The procedure established by law was interpreted by the Supreme Court of India ‘Law' as ‘state made law'. A valid law should be followed by the correct procedure made by law.

Extended view of Article – 21 - Right to life and personal liberty includes right to privacy[vi], right to go abroad[vii], right against solitary confinement[viii], right to free legal aid, right to a speedy trial[ix], right against handcuffing, right to shelter, right to livelihood[x] right to reputation, and the right to die[xi].[xii]

Inter-relation of article – 14,19 and 21– These three articles form the golden triangle of the Indian Constitution. This view has been evolved from time to time.

A.K. Gopalan vs. The State Of Madras (1950 AIR 27, 1950 SCR 88)[xiii]

In this case, the Supreme Court held that article – 19 has no application on laws depriving a person of his life and personal liberty. Both articles deal with different subject matters and do not relate. Gopalan was detained under a preventive detention law. He went to the Court because his detention was unlawful and violated his right to personal liberty. The court held that Gopalan’s detention was valid under preventive detention law. The Court also ruled that the detention of Gopalan was lawful and violated some of his other Fundamental Rights such as Right to Freedom of Movement under Article 19, or, the detention was arbitrary under Article 14.

Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, 1978[xiv]

In this case, the Central Government on 4th July, 1977, issued a notice of impoundment of the passport of the petitioner under the Passport Act,1967 in the interest of the general public. When she came to know about the notice of impoundment of her passport, she asked the authority a valid reason. The authorities said that the reasons can not be specified in the interest of general public. She challenged the validity of the notice. She approached the Supreme Court under article – 32 for the enforcement of Article – 14 against the arbitrary action of the authorities.

The petition was further amended with the enforcement of Article 21, Article 19(1)(a), 19(1)(d). Among the major reasons contended for the filing of such a petition, the petitioner contended that the impugned order is void as it took away the petitioner’s right to have a fair opportunity to present her defense.

The Court overruled Gopalan’s judgment by stating that there is a unique relationship between Article 14, 19 & 21 and every law must pass the tests of these provisions. Earlier in Gopalan’s case, the majority held that these provisions were mutually exclusive. Therefore, to make up for its earlier drawback, the Court held that these provisions are dependent upon each other and hence are connected with the same thread.

Conclusion– From these cases, it is clear that article – 14,19 and 21 are those articles which are meant to be read together because they all deal with the life of a person and interpreted together. Thus it was the court’s ruling that any executive action,or legislation, needs to stand the test of these three articles. They form a triangle as they are read together. Further, it is the golden triangle because they are important to the protection of freedom of individuals and prevent arbitrariness.


•Anon., 2019, LawEscort. [online]


• DR. NarenderKumar, Constitutional Law of India.

[i] [ii]People's Union Of Civil Liberties vs Union Of India &Anr, 2003 [iii] [iv]A.K. Gopalan vs. The State Of Madras 1950 AIR 27, 1950 SCR 88 [v]Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, AIR 1978, SCR (2), 621 [vi]Kharak Singh vs The State Of U. P. &Others, AIR 1963, SCR (1) 332 [vii]Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, AIR 1978, SCR (2), 621 [viii]Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration, AIR 1980, SCR (2) 557 [ix]HussainaraKhatoon&Ors vs Home Secretary, State Of Bihar, AIR1979, SCR (3) 169 [x] Olga Tellis&Ors. Vs. Bombay municipal corporation, AIR 1986 SCR supl. (2) 51 [xi]GianKaur vs. The State of Punjab, AIR 1996 SCC (2) 648 [xii] [xiii] [xiv]

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