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Case Analysis of Maneka Gandhi v. Union Of India (1978) by Mayurakshi Sarkar

 Case Analysis of Maneka Gandhi v. Union Of India (1978)

Mayurakshi Sarkar


Maneka Gandhi, the petitioner who was a journalist, her passport was

issued on June 1 1976. However, in the year 1977, the passport authority

issued a letter to the petitioner to surrender her passport under section

10(3)(c) of the Passport act 1967 a week after receiving the letter. After

receiving the letter, the petitioner responded by asking the authorities for

specific reasons behind this order, but the authorities responded by saying

that in its “interest of sovereignty and integrity of the state” and

petitioner’s passport was revoked. Then, the petitioner filed a writ petition

under Article 32 in the Supreme court for violation of fundamental rights

under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian constitution. She stated that the

order of revoking her passport was void as she was not given the

opportunity of being heard in her defence.

Issues before the Court:

1. Are the provisions under Articles 21, 14 and 19 are anyway

connected or they are mutually exclusive?

2. Whether Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act 1967 a violation of

Article 14 and Article 19 of the Constitution?

3. Whether the power of passport authority to impound or revoke any

individual’s passport arbitrary?

4. Is “Right to travel abroad” included in Article 21 of the constitution?

5. What is the scope of “procedure established by law” given in Article

21 of the constitution?

6. Whether the word ”law” in Article 21 of the constitution can also be

read as rules of natural justice?

Judgement by the Court

1. The court gave the expression “personal liberty” in Article 21 a wide

interpretation. Personal liberty includes a variety of rights “which go

to continue the personal liberty of man”. Personal liberty cannot be

read in a narrow restricted sense. The right to travel abroad is also

included in Article 21 of the Indian constitution.

2. The court rejected the plea of the petitioner that Section 10(3)(c) of

the Passport Act 1967 is a violation of article 14, 19, 21 of the Indian

constitution as impounding an individual’s passport on grounds of ”

interest of sovereignty and integrity of the state” is not at all vague

and wrong.

3. The court stated that Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian constitution

are not at all mutually exclusive. There is a unique relation or nexus

established between these articles. Any law prescribing a procedure

to deprive an individual’s liberty and life has to comply with all the

requirements of Article 19. Similarly, any procedure of law

established in Article 19 has to meet up the requirements of Article

14. Justice Krishna Iyer said “No article in constitution pertaining to

Fundamental right is an island” He gave an example that “a man is

not dissectible into separate limbs, cardinal rights in an organic

constitution have a synthesis”.

4. The court said that the “law” in Article 21 does not only mean

enacted law but also refers to rules and principles of natural justice.

5. The court overruled its judgement in the Ak Gopalan case and

reinterpreted the expression “procedure established by law” used in

Article 21. Any law prescribed under ” procedure established by law”

should be fair and reasonable. According to Justice Bhagwati ” The

procedure cannot be arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable”. Any

procedure which is not right or fair and is arbitrary does not meet the

requirements of Article 21 of the constitution and is no procedure.

Analysis of the Judgement

This Judgement by the Supreme court sets a benchmark for all coming

generations. Unlike in the Ak Gopalan case, this time the court gave a quite

liberal and progressive interpretation of fundamental rights, mainly Article

21 of the Indian Constitution. Widening the scope of ” procedure

established by law” was most appreciated as it provided the citizens'

protection against any arbitrary laws. After this judgement, there was no

difference between ” procedure established by law” in the Indian

Constitution and “due process of law” used in the American constitution.

This judgment also helped to secure the fundamental rights of citizens

provided in the constitution. The court gave Article 21 of the Indian

constitution an expansive interpretation. Justice Krishna Iyer said, ” The

spirit of a man is the root of Article 21. Personal liberty makes for the

worth of the human person”. Over the years, Article 21 has become the

most essential right of citizens provided by the Indian constitution. The

“Golden Triangle Test” was introduced by the court that any law which is

depriving a person’s liberty must not only answer Article 21 but meet also

the requirements of Article 14 and Article 19 of the Indian constitution.


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