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  • The core of the Indian Constitution is Article 21.
  • The fundamental freedom that every person is entitled to under Article 21 is safeguarded regardless of nationality.
  • The Right to Life and the Right to Personal Liberty are the two rights that are protected by this article.


The most organic and forward-thinking clause in our living Constitution, this Article has been called the "heart" of our Constitution. Two rights are guaranteed under Article 21, the first of which is the right to life, and the second of which is the right to personal liberty. Under this Article, both Rights are protected, except when following the legal requirements. This clause of the Indian Constitution is only applicable when the state violates a person's right to life and personal freedom, which is outlined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Private individual rights violations are not covered by the preamble to Article 21.

When the state or any of its representatives take away someone's freedoms, their acts can only be justified if there is a law that authorizes them and the legal processes they must follow have been thoroughly considered. According to Article 21's definition, a law must be rational, just, and fair. To prevent people from losing their freedom, our Constitution includes the writ of habeas corpus.

No person from any country is given absolute freedom. The fundamental tenet behind this is that only the representatives of the people who sit in parliament have the authority to decide how far human rights can be exercised or how far they can be restricted as a result of the demands of the state's development through time.


The core of our constitution is Article 21. According to a literal reading of this Article, 

No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedures established by the law.

According to the definition of this Article given by Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Article 21 is a representation of constitutional ideals in a democratic society. It is the basis for the advancement of our civilization.

It appears that Article 21 is a negative right. Thus, a person's life and personal freedom may be taken away by the legal process. The Constitution's Article 21 is written in pejorative terms, but through a process of imaginative interpretation, it has come to represent many positive rights. This is because of the extraordinary interpretation of the expression of life, personal liberty, and legal procedure that occurs in Article 21.

It's crucial to keep in mind, though, that Article 21 only applies when a person is denied his "life or "personal liberty" by the "State," as that term is defined in Article 12. Therefore, violations of fundamental rights committed by private individuals will not be covered by Article 21.

What Does The Term "Person" Mean?

According to this Article, the definition of a person encompasses every individual, regardless of nationality or the situation they find themselves in. It is crucial to remember that both citizens and visitors are covered under Article 21. Furthermore, protection is guaranteed by Art. 21 and includes people who are incarcerated.

What Does The Term "Deprived" Mean?

Only when a person's life is threatened or they are personally liable does Art 21 come into play. Taking away someone's legal right is the definition of the word "deprived" in its literal sense.

In the well-known case of Gopalan v. State of Madras (AIR 1950 SC 27), the meaning of "deprive" was taken into account. The Honourable Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on the right to free movement did not fall under the purview of Art. 21, which only applies to deprivation in the sense of "total losses."

In the case of Ramcharan v. Union of India (AIR 1989 SC 549)According to the Supreme Court, direct and concrete conduct that endangers a person's or a community member's sense of existence is necessary for someone to be considered "deprived."

What does Article 21 cover?

The Right to Life and the Right to Personal Liberty are the two rights that are protected by this article.

What does ‘life’ mean under the Article?

To comprehend the meaning of the word "life," one must first grasp the fundamental characteristic that sets living things apart from all other materials. Life is more than just "breathing," including everything else that surrounds it. The Supreme Court has ruled time and time again, most notably in Kharak Singh v. State of UP, that life is more than just an animal's existence. Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi, decided by Justice P.N. Bhagwati, stated that "any act which damages or injures or interferes with the use of any limb or faculty of a person, either permanently or even temporarily, would be within the inhibition of Article 21."

How does the Supreme Court broaden Article 21's enforcement?

The fundamental right known as Article 21 is one that everyone and every living thing is entitled to, regardless of nationality. Every person has the right to life, liberty, and personal security. The article's scope is broad enough to cover all the components necessary to safeguard and improve a person's quality of life.

The right to life and the right to live in dignity are inseparably interlinked. In the case of Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, where the jailor had treated several of the detainees brutally, which led to their deaths, the Supreme Court made this comment. The universal truth of a person's life is contained in Article 21, and it cannot be contested absent a formal legal process. 

In Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. UOI, it was decided that denying workers a minimum wage amounted to denying them their essential human life and dignity. 

The Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. The UOI case was heard by the Supreme Court, a case involving the issue of bondage and the rehabilitation of certain laborers, that Article 21 includes the right to live with human dignity and be free from exploitation. The Directive Principles of State Policy under Articles 39(e) and (f), 41, and 42 give rise to this right to live with dignity.

Because "no person can live without the means of living, that is, the means of living," the Supreme Court ruled in the Board of Trustees of the Bombay v. Dilipkumar R. Nadkarni that the right to livelihood is a part of the right to life. Similarly to this, it was determined in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corp. that agriculturalists' right to cultivate is a component of their fundamental right to subsistence.

Article 21 also recognizes the right to a clean environment and the preservation and conservation of nature's gifts. The same strategy was employed in M.C. Mehta v. UOI, a case in which Mr. Mehta, a green activist, argued that the right to the preservation of ecological balance and sustainable development was a fundamental human right. 

The supreme court made a bold declaration when it ruled that rape constitutes a violation of the victim's right to life under Article 21 in the case of Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Shubhra Chakraborty. By the Article, the right to reputation and self-preservation is to be regarded as a component of "life."

Following the landmark ruling in KS Puttaswamy v. UOI, the SC has made it abundantly clear that Article 21's right to life and liberty includes the right to personal privacy. By itself, the right to privacy entails the right not to be questioned. The privacy of one's person, family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, childbearing, and education is protected by law.

What does ‘liberty’ mean under the Article?

The literal meaning of 'liberty' is freedom from all limitations. The US Constitution has a broad scope that extends beyond basic freedom from bodily restraint to all of the actions that an individual is free to pursue. However, in the Indian context, the word liberty is qualified by 'personal,' making it narrower than in the US, and this was accepted in the case of AK Gopalan v. The State of Madras.

The issue of personal liberty's scope came up for the first time in Kharak Singh v. the State of UP, and the supreme court determined that it was used in the Article as a compendious term to include all the different kinds of rights that contribute to a person's "personal liberties," aside from those covered by several clauses of Article 19(1). 

Maneka Gandhi v. UOI, decided by the Supreme Court, stated that "The expression personal liberty is of the widest amplitude, and it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute personal liberty, some of which have been raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights."

According to the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam, the ability to travel internationally is a part of "personal liberty," and as a result, no one can be denied the passport services that are necessary for the enjoyment of that same right. 

In the case of the State of Maharashtra v. Prabhakar Pandurang, it was determined that when a detainee exercised their freedom to write a book and even have it published, their refusal without fair deliberation violated Article 21.


The Indian constitution's authors crafted this Article in a way that neither makes any provision obligatory nor exempts any person from the fundamental obligations that all of the nation's citizens are required to uphold.No rights or obligations will be ignored because this article has observed the socio-economic structures of the countries so closely. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of our constitution that sets it apart from those of other countries is this.

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