Right to Life Article 21

    right to life article 21

    Article 21 – Right to life

    1. What is article 21 of the Indian Constitution?

    article 21 of the indian constitution
    • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees to all the individual the Right to Life & Personal liberty. These Rights are provided to both citizens as well as foreigners.
    • Article 21 – Right to life, is considered as the backbone of Part 3 that is Fundamental Rights & Part 4 which is the Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP’s)

    Types of Rights in article 21

    Article 21 has two types of rights –

    1. Right to life
    2. Right to personal liberty 
    1. Right to Life

    • The right to life is a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution. Right to life doesn’t mean that one should only be alive. It has a broader sense of life which means that one should live a dignified life. 
    • Therefore, it could be clearly seen that among all other rights Fundamental Rights and DPSP’s ultimately aim to extend the quality of life to people. Without the right to life under Article 21, all other Fundamental Rights will become meaningless.
    • Right to life includes all those aspects of life which makes a human being’s life meaningful and complete. It is the only article in the constitution that has received the widest possible interpretation. There are so many rights that are inferred/derived from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    1. Right to personal liberty 

    • On the aspect of personal liberty, by far the most important protection a person has is under Article 21, which provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

    Case related to right to life and personal liberty

    Maneka Gandhi Vs Union of India Case

    Case Fact 

    • Regional Passport Office, New Delhi asked Maneka Gandhi to surrender her passport in the public interest and refused to issue the reason for that. In response to which Maneka Gandhi filed a writ.


    1. Whether the right to go abroad is a part of the right to personal liberty under Article 21.
    2. Whether Passport acts prescribe a procedure, as it is mentioned under  Article 21, that one can be deprived of personal liberty if there is a procedure established by law.
    3. Whether Passport Act violates Article 14. Article 19 (1)(a), and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    4. Is Freedom of Speech is only confined to Indian Territories?


    1. Passport Act was declared Null and void.
    2. Right to Travel is under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    3. If a law is depriving a person of liberty, it has to fulfill the requirements of Article 14 and Article 19 also.

    Rights derived from article 21 of the Indian constitution

    • There are so many rights that are inferred from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    • Article 21 has emerged as fundamental of all the Fundamental Rights in India & has been interpreted in the most extensive manner. Also, Article 21 is the most evolved article which has given rise to the largest number of inferred rights.
    1. What are inferred rights?

    • Inferred rights or Derived rights are those rights, that are not mentioned in the constitution but are now declared as Fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution by the Supreme Court.

    Lists of Derived Rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

    1. Right to privacy.
    2. Right to primary education.
    3. Right to a speedy trial.
    4. Right to health of workers.
    5. Right to shelter.
    6. Right to clean environment
    7. Right against cruel punishment.
    8. Right to corruption-free administration and so on.

    Restriction for article 21 – right to life

    There are two provisions under which one can be deprived of his life and personal liberty.

    1. Procedure established by law.
    2. Due process of Law.

    1. Procedure Established by law

    Procedure established by law under article 21
    • The concept originated in England. Under the procedure established by law, when a person is deprived of his life or liberty, the court will examine whether there is actually a law that authorizes the executive to deprive individuals of his life and liberty.
    • Then the further court will see whether that law is passed by the competent law-making body and also whether proper procedures were followed while passing the law.
    • The court, however, will not examine the fairness of the law or motive behind the law and hence cannot declare the law unconstitutional and void.
    • Therefore, this doctrine of procedure established by law relies more on the good sense of the legislature and the strength of public opinion in the country.
    • It extends the protection to an individual against the arbitrary power of the Executive only but not that of legislatures.


    Under Procedure Established by Law Judiciary will see only two things:

    1. The Law, whether it’s made by the competent body.
    2. Procedures given in law were followed or not.

    Problem with Procedure established by Law:

    Under this, the fairness of the law will not be taken into account. This increases the chance to exercise arbitrary powers over the victim and nobody will be there to question.

    If everything is done on the basis of written law then what is the need for Judges? Even computers can do such a thing and maybe with more accuracy.

    Procedure Established by law was practiced till 1978. After the MANEKA GANDHI CASE “DUE PROCEDURE OF LAW” is followed.

    Under Due process of law, the role of Judges became more clear. Now Judiciary will check these conditions:

    1. The Law, whether it’s made by the competent body.
    2. Procedures given in law were followed or not.
    3. Whether the laws made or procedures followed are affecting the spirit of humanity.

    The Due Process of Law gives wide scope to the Supreme Court to grant protection to the rights of its citizens.

    So, the Due Process of Law reduces the chances to exercise arbitrary powers of executives and legislators.

    NOTE – Explanation is for understanding only.

    1. Due process of law

    Due process of law under article 21
    • This concept was originated in the USA, conferring greater power to the judiciary.
    • Under this doctrine, the court while examining a law, will not only look at the law from the point of view of the competence of the legislature that passed the law. But also that whether the Legislature followed proper procedures while passing the law or not.
    • The court will also see whether the law is fair or not, by applying the “PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL JUSTICE”.

    Principles of Natural Justice

    1. Nobody can be punished unheard of.
    2. Nobody can be the judge of his own case.
    3. Authorities must act bonafide and should act without bias.

    Due Procedure of Law extends the protection to an individual against the arbitrary action of executives.


    Due process of law
    • Due process of law extends protection to an individual from both Executives and legislators.
    • Previously, the Indian Constitution under the Right To Life Article 21 has provided protection only under PROCEDURE ESTABLISHED BY LAW.
    • But the Supreme Court in the MANEKA GANDHI CASE interpreted Article 21 to include the doctrine of DUE PROCESS OF LAW after reading the incorporation of “PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL JUSTICE” in Article 21.
    • The Principle of Natural Justice is regarded as universal in character and is binding on all the authorities including Judiciary, Executives, and Legislators.
    • The principle of Natural Justice emphasizes that any action must be supported by reasons. The purpose of these principles is to exclude the chances of arbitrariness in decision-making.
    • Thė Supreme Court held these principles are found in Article 14 and Article 21 Implicitly.
    • They are very important for the functioning of the state and are also regarded as part of the “BASIC STRUCTURE OF THE CONSTITUTION”.

    Article 21 a

    child study
    • This article was introduced by the 86th Amendment Act 2002.
    • Under this, the State shall provide free and compulsory education for all children between the age (6-14) years as provided by law.
    • It is the Fundamental Right of children between age (6-14).

    Article 51 A (K)

    right to educate children

    It says that it is the duty of every citizen who is a parent or guardian to provide an opportunity for education to his child between age (6-14) years.

    Frequenty Asked questions (FAQ’s)

    1. What is the Basic Structure of the Constitution?

    • The basic structure of the constitution is those parts and features of the constitution without which the constitution loses its character.
    • The Supreme Court did not define exhaustively (completely) the basic structure of the constitution but in various judgments, we keep knowing them.
    • Example – Judicial Review, Secularism, Sovereignty, Federalism, the mandate to build a welfare state, etc.

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