Right to Life and Personal Liberty
One of the most basic elements of human existence is the right to live a free, complete, and dignified life. Every individual has the right to conduct their lives on their own terms, free of unjustified interference from others. A strong democracy can only exist if its inhabitants have the right to defend their own lives and liberties.
In India, citizens have the right to life and personal liberty, which is guaranteed under Part III of the Indian Constitution of 1950. These Fundamental Rights embody the people's core principles and are protected from governmental acts, meaning that no official authority can violate a citizen's fundamental rights unless the method set by the Constitution is followed.
Article 21 of this part states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”, and this is known as the Right to Life and Personal Liberty.
Hence, this Article prohibits the encroachment upon a person’s right to life and personal liberty against the state. The state here refers to all entities having statutory authority, like the Government and Parliament at the Central and State level, local authorities, etc. Thus, violation of the right by private entities is not within its purview.
The terms ‘life’ and ‘personal liberty’ encompass a wide variety of rights of the people, which are a result of the evolution in the interpretation of Article 21 by the courts over the years. Here, we shall examine the various aspects of this Fundamental Right; but before that, let’s have a look at the jurisprudential evolution of this concept and the significance of one of the most famous judgements related to it – Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978).
In India, the concept of a citizen's personal liberty has changed and its scope has grown. Prior to the Maneka Gandhi case, it had a much smaller reach, including just a few of a person's freedoms.
The case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, which is discussed below, was the first to interpret personal liberty.
The Right to Life and Personal Liberty has a wide ambit which is only growing over time. There has been increasing awareness about the various aspects of a person’s life which he or she is entitled to control and which would, thus, facilitate the enhancement in quality of his or her life. This Right has been described as the “heart and soul” of the Constitution of India by the Supreme Court and certainly proves to be so – representing the very basic necessities of human life.
Every person on the planet has the right to life, liberty, and personal security. This is a universal fact, and the right to life is without a doubt the most basic of human rights. All other rights enhance the quality of life in question and rely on the presence of life itself to function. Given that human rights can only be attached to live beings, one may anticipate the right to life to be first, given that without it, none of the other rights would have any worth or purpose. If Article 21 had been read in its original context, there would have been no Fundamental Rights worth noting.