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Right to life and Personal Liberty

No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.~Article 21


The right to life is certainly the most fundamental of all human rights. Life is necessary for the enjoyment of all other rights. Indeed, other rights seek to improve the quality of life and dignity of individuals. To put it another way, other rights have the goal of making life better.

Hobbes placed a premium on self-preservation, and one of the reasons he gives for the establishment of the state, moving away from the state of nature, was self-preservation. Hobbes leviathan was tasked with many duties, one of which was the defence of the right to life. When it comes to grasping the concept of life, it's no longer enough to just exist and breathe. A great deal of substance has been added to the concept of living, and now the emphasis is on leading a life that is both dignified and meaningful.

The Road leading to the broader understanding

A.K. Gopalan vs. the State of Madras, 1951 The Supreme court has taken a narrow interpretation of Article 21 in this case. The court ruled that Article 21 protects only against arbitrary executive action, not arbitrary legislative activity. This indicates that a law can be used by the state to take away a person's rights under Article 21.

After overruling its decision in the Gopalan Case, the Supreme Court of India interpreted Article 21 more broadly in the Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI, 1978 case. It ruled that the right to life and personal liberty of a person can be deprived by law on the condition that the procedure prescribed by that law is reasonable, fair, and just. Further, it clarified that the right to life does not merely mean animal existence. It held that all those aspects of life which go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete, and worth living will be included in this.

The due process of law doctrine examines not only whether a law exists to deprive a person of his or her life and personal liberty, but also whether the law is fair, just, and not arbitrary. If the SC determines that a law is unjust, it will declare it null and void. This doctrine ensures that individual rights are treated more fairly.


Article 21 encompasses a variety of facets that have evolved through time to incorporate several rights deemed necessary. The Supreme Court has repeatedly expanded article 21 to include rights necessary for living a life worth living. It is all-inclusive, incorporating the concepts of equality, justice, liberty, socioeconomic necessities, and health, as well as environmental concerns.

  • Right to live with human dignity.

  • Right to a decent environment including pollution-free water and air and protection against hazardous industries.

  • Right to livelihood.

  • Right to privacy.

  • Right to shelter.

  • Right to health.

  • Right to free education up to 14 years of age.

  • Right to free legal aid.

  • Right against solitary confinement.

  • Right to a speedy trial.

  • Right against handcuffing

  • Right against inhuman treatment.

  • Right against delayed execution.

  • Right to travel abroad.

  • Right against bonded labour.

  • Right against custodial harassment.

  • Right to emergency medical aid.

  • Right to timely medical treatment in a government hospital.

  • Right not to be driven out of a state.

  • Right to a fair trial.

  • Right of a prisoner to have necessities of life.

  • Right of women to be treated with decency and dignity

  • Right against public hanging.

  • Right to hearing.

  • Right to information.

  • Right to reputation.

  • Right of appeal from a judgment of conviction

  • Right to social security and protection of the family

  • Right to social and economic justice and empowerment

  • Right against bar fetters

  • Right to appropriate life insurance policy

  • Right to sleep

  • Right to freedom from noise pollution

  • Right to electricity

Indian Constitution is a living document that adapts and evolves with changing times, it has been instrumental in fulfilling the aspirations of the Constitution framers and has been successfully serving the needs of the society and its people.


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