Article 21 of the Constitution of India (Right to Life and Personal Liberty)

Article 21 of the Constitution of India (Right to Life and Personal Liberty)


According to Article 21 of the Constitution of India, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Violation of the right by private individuals does not fall within the preview of Article 21. Article 21 secures and provides two rights to the citizens of India:

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

The right to life and personal liberty is provided by the Indian Constitution in part III under the category of ‘right to freedom’. The right to life and personal liberty in accordance with the procedure established by law is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. The right is available for both citizens and non-citizens.

Article 21

The Right to Life and Personal Liberty is assured by the Indian Constitution under Article 21 and many other rights are also included in this Article. It states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law and this procedure must be reasonable, fair, and just and should not be arbitrary. Everyone in the world has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person. This is the universal truth in the world and the right to life is undoubtedly the most fundamental of all rights. All other rights add quality to the life in question and depend on the pre-existence of life itself for their operation.

Right to Life 

‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not a physical act of breathing and it has a much wider meaning which includes the right to live with human dignity, the right to livelihood, the right to pollution-free air, etc. The meaning of the word ‘life’ includes the right to live in fair and reasonable conditions, right to the rehabilitation after release, right to livelihood by legal means, and a decent environment.

The expanded scope of Article 21 has been explained by the Apex Court in the case of Unni Krishnan v. the State of A.P. and the Apex Court itself provided the list of some of the rights covered under Article 21 on the basis of earlier pronouncements and some of them are listed below:

  1. The right to go abroad.
  2. The right to privacy.
  3. The right against handcuffing.
  4. The right against delayed execution.
  5. The right to shelter.
  6. The right against solitary confinement.
  7. The right against custodial death.
  8. The right against public hanging.
  9. Doctors assistance

Right to Personal Liberty

Personal liberty is the liberty of an individual to behave as one pleases except for those restraints imposed by laws and codes of conduct of the society in which one lives to safeguard the physical, moral, political, and economic welfare of others.

The right to personal liberty means a person’s right not to be subjected to imprisonment, arrest, or other physical coercion in any manner that does not admit of legal justification. The Constitution assures to every citizen of India full freedom and liberty from any sort of harassment, repression or exploitation from any government or any authority of the Government.

In the case of Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs Union Of India, it was held that the right of privacy is a fundamental right. It is a right that protects the inner sphere of the individual from interference from both State and non-State factors and allows the individuals to make autonomous life choices. The common law of the right of privacy applies to all the citizens/private persons of India.

The Supreme Court of India has continuously been expanding the scope of Article 21 and declared these rights as a fundamental right under Article 21:

  1. Right to live with dignity,
  2. Right to die with dignity,
  3. Right to education,
  4. Free legal aid,
  5. Protection against police atrocities,
  6. Speedy trial and speedy justice,
  7. Access to open court, judicial accountability, and transparency in judiciary,
  8. Right to proper legal representation.

-Niyti Jangra
Associate at Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar, Advocate & Associates

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