Article 21 of the constitution states that no person shall be deprived of his life and liberty except with the procedure established by law.
The supreme court in many cases interpreted article 21 and told us that the right to life means to live dignity, free from exploitation, not merely an animal existence for enjoying life.
The expression personal liberty defined by the supreme court in:
CASE 1. A.K.GOPALAN VS. STATE OF MADRAS, 1950
The narrow interpretation of the expression of personal liberty given by the court in this case.
The court observed that the word liberty is qualified by the word personal, this expression is limited to the liberty of the physical body like freedom from arrest, freedom from detention, etc.
The wide meaning of liberty cannot be allotted to this expression as the word liberty is qualified by the word personal. It further expressed that the word law in article 21 means the state made laws and not the principle of natural justice covered under that.
The decision has not been followed by the supreme court in a later decision.
In this case, the supreme court also observed that article 19 and article 21 deprive a person of his life and personal liberty.
CASE 2. MANEKA GANDHI VS. UNION OF INDIA, 1978
The wide interpretation of the expression of personal liberty given by the court in this case.
Justice Bhagwati observed, ‘the expression personal liberty is of the widest amplitude and it covers various rights. Some of them even have risen to the status of distinct fundamental rights and given additional protection under article 19’.
Any law which is interfering with personal liberty must satisfy triple test:
- The law must provide the prescribed procedure.
- The procedure must satisfy the test of one or more fundamental right conferred under article 19 which may be applicable in the given situation.
- The procedure must satisfy the test of article 14 and must be just, fair and reasonable.
The court further observed that one cannot separate article 19 and 21 in a watertight compartment. The procedure established by law must satisfy the test of article 14, 19 & 21 of the constitution. Every executive and legislative action must satisfy the test of article 14,19 & 21.
Court referred to these observations as the golden triangle which protects the person from the arbitrariness of executive or legislative action.