Article 21 of Constitution of India

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Article 21 of Constitution of India deals with Protection of life and personal liberty.


From the Constitution

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


  • The right is only against arbitrary action of the Executive and not from Legislative action.
  • This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.
  • This article also covers the right to travel abroad.

Related Cases / Recent Cases / Case Laws

  • Dr Balwant Singh v Commissioner of Police and Others, Civil Appeal Jurisdiction, Civil Appeal No 10024 OF 2014, Supreme Court of India judgement dated November 7, 2014
  • Hardeep Singh v State of Punjab and Others, Criminal Appeal Jurisdiction, Criminal Appeal No. 1750 OF 2008, Supreme Court of India judgement dated January 10, 2014
  • Mohini Jain v State of Karnataka and Others (1992) 3 SCC 666: Right to Education is a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Chameli Singh v State of UP (1996) 2 SCC 549: Right to shelter is a fundamental right under Article 21.
  • Chandran Ratnaswami v K C Palanisamy and Others, Civil Appeal Jurisdiction, Civil Appeal No. 4540 OF 2013, Supreme Court of India judgement dated May 9, 2013
  • Aarushi Dhasmana v Union of India and Others, Civil Appeal Jurisdiction, Civil Appeal No. 1794 OF 2008, Supreme Court of India judgement dated April 10, 2013
  • Indian Soaps & Toiletries Makers Association v Ozair Husain and Others, Civil Appeal Jurisdiction, Civil Appeal No. 5644 OF 2003, Supreme Court of India judgement dated March 7, 2013
  • Tukaram Kana Joshi and Others through Power of Attorney Holder Vs MIDC and Others, Civil Appeal No. 7780 of 2012, Arising out of SLP(C) No.2418 of 2012, Supreme Court of India judgement delivered on November 2, 2012
  • Sabeeha Faikage and Others Vs Union of India and Others, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 505 of 2006, Supreme Court of India order dated October 18, 2012
  • Public Union for Civil Liberties Vs State of Tamil Nadu and Others, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3922 of 1985, Supreme Court of India judgement delivered on October 15, 2012
  • Baby Devassy Chully @ Bobby Vs Union of India and Others, Criminal Appeal No. 866 of 2008, Supreme Court of India judgement dated October 12, 2012
  • Gulzar Ahmed Azmi and Another Vs Union of India and Others, Writ Petition (CRL.) No. 19 of 2012, Supreme Court of India judgement delivered on October 11, 2012
  • Under Article 143(1) of the Constitution of India, RE: Special Reference No.1 of 2012, Advisory Jurisdiction, Opinion delivered by the Supreme Court of India on September 27, 2012
  • Sahara India Real Estate Corp. Ltd. and Others Vs Securities and Exchange Board of India and anr., Supreme Court Judgement delivered on September 11, 2012
  • Mohd. Hussain @ Julfikar Ali vs The State (Govt. of NCT) Delhi, Supreme Court Judgement dated August 31, 2012
  • Mohammed Ajmal Mohammad Amir Kasab @ Abu Mujahid Vs State of Maharashtra: Criminal Appeal Nos. 1899-1900 of 2011 Mohammed Ajmal Mohammad Amir Kasab @ Abu Mujahid Vs State of Maharashtra with Criminal Appeal No.1961 of 2011 State of Maharashtra Vs Fahim Harshad Mohammad Yusuf Ansari & Another and Transfer Petition (Criminal) No.30 of 2012 Radhakant Yadav Vs Union of India & others
  • Govindaraju Alias Govinda Vs State By Sriramapuram Police Station and another (2012) 4 SCC 722
  • Abdul Rehman Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, (1992) 1 SCC 225: Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court has formulated 11 guidelines for Speedy Trial of cases
  • State v. Narayan Waman Nerukar (Dr), (2002) 7 SCC 6
    • Accused was charged with the offences punishable under Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secret Act and Section 120-B of the IPC.
    • Magistrate had taken cognizance vide its order dated 16.08.1999 and issued process.
    • Accused approached the High Court for quashing of the criminal proceedings on the ground of delay.
    • High Court quashed the proceedings on the ground of unnecessary delay of 12 years.
    • The prosecution approached this Court against the order of the High Court.
    • Supreme Court while setting aside the order of the High Court remanded the matter to the High Court for fresh disposal after considering all the relevant factors including that criminal courts are not obliged to terminate trial of criminal proceedings merely on account of lapse of time.
    • Supreme Court observed, that, while considering the issue of delay in trial there are some relevant factors which ought to be taken into consideration by the court such as:
      • whether the prolongation was on account of any delaying tactics adopted by the accused and other relevant aspects which contributed to the delay
      • number of witnesses examined
      • volume of documents likely to be exhibited
      • nature and complexity of the offence which is under investigation or adjudication.
  • Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar (2009) 3 SCC 355
    • The charge sheet was filed after the completion of investigation and subsequently, the learned Magistrate took cognizance vide its orders dated 20.02.1982, but nothing substantial did happen till 1987.
    • Thereafter, the accused approached the High Court for fresh investigation as the Investigating Officer had no jurisdiction to investigate. The High Court vide its order dated 07.12.1990 quashed the order of cognizance taken by the Magistrate and ordered fresh investigation.
    • Nothing was done till 1988.
    • The accused again approached the High Court for quashing of entire criminal proceedings on the ground that re-investigation has not been initiated by the prosecuting agency.
    • Subsequently, the re-investigation was ordered only in the year 2007 and fresh charge-sheet was filed. The High Court dismissed such petition filed by the accused.
    • However, Supreme Court found that there is inordinate delay and has quashed the proceeding. It has observed that the speedy trial in all criminal prosecutions is an inalienable right under Article 21 of the Constitution. This right is applicable not only to the actual proceedings in court but also includes within its sweep the preceding police investigations as well.
  • Japani Sahoo v. Chandra Sekhar Mohanty, (2007) 7 SCC 394
    • Normally, in serious offences, prosecution is launched by the State and a court of law has no power to throw away prosecution solely on the ground of delay.
    • Mere delay in approaching a court of law would not by itself, afford a ground for dismissing the case, though it may be a relevant circumstance in reaching a final verdict.
  • P. Vijayan v. State of Kerala, (2010) 2 SCC 398
    • cannot be claimed that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the appellant and discharge is the only course open. Further,

whether the trial will end in conviction or acquittal is also immaterial.

    • It is also observed that the question whether the materials at the hands of the prosecution are sufficient or not are matters for trial.
  • Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, (1994) 3 SCC 569: Constitution Bench considered the right to speedy trial and opined that the delay is dependent on the circumstances of each case, because reasons for delay will vary.
    • This Court held: “84. The right to a speedy trial is a derivation from a provision of Magna Carta. This principle has also been incorporated into the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 and from there into the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of United States of America which reads, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...”.
  • Hussainara Khatoon (I) v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar (SCC p. 89, para 5): “No procedure which does not ensure a reasonably quick trial can be regarded as ‘reasonable, fair or just’ and it would fall foul of Article 21. There can, therefore, be no doubt that speedy trial, and by speedy trial we mean reasonably expeditious trial, is an integral and essential part of the fundamental right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21.
  • Ranjan Dwivedi vs C.B.I., Through the Director General in Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 200 of 2011 with Ac. Sudevananda Avadhuta vs C.B.I., Through the Director General in Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 205 of 2011: Common judgement delivered on August 17, 2012
    • Case is unique because of two reasons, as pointed out
      • The prolongation of criminal trial is as long as 37 years and petitioners have spent better part of their human life in the jail.
    • This Court in the year 1991 while disposing of the petitioners writ petition, had issued specific directions to the trial court to expeditiously complete the trial, which mandate has been conveniently ignored by the trial court, which amounts to total ignorance and indifference to the directions issued by this Court.
    • "We can only observe, that, our legal system has made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding citizens."
    • "Our Constitution does not expressly declare that right to speedy trial as a fundamental right. The right to a speedy trial was first recognised in the Hussainara Khatoon’s case, AIR 1979 SC 1360, wherein, the court held that a speedy trial is implicit in the broad sweep and content of Article 21 of the Constitution. Subsequently, in a series of judgments, this Court has held that ‘reasonably’ expeditious trial is an integral and essential part of the Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India."
    • "22. In the present case, the delay is occasional by exceptional circumstances. It may not be due to failure of the prosecution or by the systemic failure but we can only say that there is a good cause for the failure to complete the trial and in our view, such delay is not violative of the right of the accused for speedy trial."
    • "23. Prescribing a time limit for the trial court to terminate the proceedings or, at the end thereof, to acquit or discharge the accused in all cases will amount to legislation, which cannot be done by judicial directives within the arena of judicial law making power available to constitutional courts; however, liberally the courts may interpret Articles 21, 32, 141 and 142."
    • "...We certainly say that our system has not failed, but, accused was successful in dragging on the proceedings to a stage where, if it is drawn further, it may snap the Justice Delivery System..."
  • Supreme Court held that Right to speedy trial is a requirement under Article 21 for guaranteeing right to life and liberty of a citizen.
  • Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India (1978) 1 SCC 248; AIR 1978 SC 597: A person can be deprived of life or liberty only in accordance with the procedures of Law and it has to be fair, just and reasonable. It should not be fanciful, oppressive or arbitrary. The principles of natural justice audi alteram partem should be followed.
  • Parmatma Prasad vs Union of India, AIR 1971 Pat 316: Bar Council of India restricting the entry of person already carrying on other profession is rightful. The applicant is not deprived of is right to livelihood by pursuing two professions, contrary to any established procedure of law. See Also: Section 24 of Advocates Act, 1961
  • A K Gopalan v State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 27: Life, liberty and property are at the mercy of procedure and authority established by law because the Indian Constitution allows overriding of Principles of Natural Justice so that legal and statutory justice can become very different from natural justice.

Related Sections from Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

  • Section 309: Power to postpone or adjourn proceedings
  • Section 311: Power to summon material witness, or examine person present
  • Section 258: Power to stop proceedings in certain cases
  • Section 482: Saving of inherent powers of High Court

Related Articles from the Constitution of India

  • Article 22: Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases
  • Article 226: Power of High Courts to issue certain writs
  • Article 227: Power of superintendence over all courts by the High Court
  • Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour
  • Article 24: Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.

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