Right to Life

Most important judgment of Supreme Court on Right to Life and Personal Liberty


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Right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under constitution of India under Article 21 is the most important right of the citizen as well as non-citizen after article 32. Whether you are a law student, teacher, advocate, or a lawman or whatsoever, these are the most important judgment of Supreme Court on right to life and personal liberty that you must know because it directly affects you. It is a very fascinating development in the Indian Constitution jurisprudence to extend the meaning of Article 21 so as to give recognition to the new emerging rights. The in its eternal youth grows to meet the demand of justice.

AIDS Patient and Employment

It has been held that a person cannot be regarded as medically unfit and denied employment merely on the ground that he is found to be HIV positive in M.X. of Bombay Indian Inhabitant v. M/s ZY, AIR 1997Bom 406.

Quality of Life

The Supreme Court has stretched Article 21 from its negative phraseology to the positive and creative interpretation to impose a positive obligation upon the state and thus observed in Francis Coralie 1981that the right to life includes right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it. the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and mingling with fellow human beings. of course, the magnitude and content of the component of this right would depend upon the extent of economic development of the country, but it must, in any view of the matter, include the right to the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry on such function and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of the human self.

Anticipatory Bail is not for limited purpose

The Supreme Court held that an anticipatory bail cannot be granted for a limited period. If accused is released on anticipatory bail then he cannot be compelled to surrender as it will amount to deprivation of his personal liberties in Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre v. State of Maharasstra, AIR 2011

Right to Livelihood

The Supreme Court observed in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corp. 1986 that the important aspect of right to life is an equally important facet of that right is the right to livelihood because no person can live without the means of living, that is, the means of livelihood. If right to livelihood is not treated as a part and parcel of the Constitutional right to life, the easiest way of depriving a person of his right to life would be to deprive him of his means of livelihood to the point of abrogation. The court has further stated that the State may not by affirmative action, be compellable to provide adequate means of livelihood or work to the citizens. But, any person who is deprived of his right to livelihood except according to just and fair procedure established by law, can change the deprivation as offending he right to life conferred by article 21.


The Supreme Court in Lal Kamlendra Pratap Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh refuted the age old concept and stated that arrest is not must in all the cases of cognizable offences.

Arrest on child

In Saheli v. Commissioner of Police 1990 the police officers had, at the behest of the landlord, beaten up the lady tenant “k” and her minor son “n”. The son succumbed to the injuries,. The mother was held entitled to compensation against the Delhi administration. The compensation so awarded included:

  • Solatium for mental pain;
  • Solatium for distress and indignity;
  • Damages for loss of liberty;
  • Damages for death.

It was further directed that Delhi Administration may recover the amount from the officer responsible for the beating.

Slum Dwellers

In Olga Tellis, the Supreme court has made a significant pronouncement on the impact of Article 21 on urbanization. That the removal of pavement dwellers would lead to deprivation of their ‘livelihood’, and hence the purpose of life. What Article 21 insist is that such deprivation ought to be according to procedure established by the law which should be fair, just and reasonable. Therefore, anyone who is deprived of his right to livelihood without just and fair procedure established by law can challenge deprivation as being against Article 21. This means that anyone who is sought to be evicted by the municipality must be given notice and hearing.


While hawkers have a fundamental Right under article 19 (1) (g) to carry on trade or business of their choice, they have no right to do so at a particular place. In Sodan Singh v. New Delhi Municipal Committee, 1989 it was held in negative that footpaths, streets or roads are public property and are intended to several general public and are not meant for private use.


In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary of Bihar, 1979 the court held that the pre-trial release on personal bond (without surety) should be allowed where the person to be released on bail is indigent and there is no substantial risk of his absconding.

Beauty Contests

In Chandra Kumari v. Police commissioner, Hyderabab 1998 it was held that the beauty contest in their true form are not objectionable but if there is indecent representation of the figure of a woman or of if there is any matter derogatory of women then it would offend the Indecent representation of Women Act, 1998.

Right to Privacy

Bright to privacy for the first time reflected in the Judgment of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh 1963 where Subba Rao. J. observed that the right to personal liberty takes in not only a right to be free from restriction placed on his movement, but also free from encroachment on his private life. It is true that out constitution does not expressly declare a right to privacy as a Fundamental Right, but the said right is an essential ingredient of personal liberty. Every democratic country sanctifies domestic life.

It was re-confirmed in People’s union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India 1991 where that court observed;

            “We have, therefore, no hesitation inn holding that right to privacy is a part of the right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. Once the facts in a given case constitute a right to privacy, article 21 is attracted. The said right cannot be curtailed ‘except according to procedure established by law.”


Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar, AIR 1983 was the first case in which compensation was awarded by the writ court.

Criminal Trial resulting in Deprivation of Life

A criminal trial which may result in depriving a person of not only his personal liberty but also his life has to be unbiased and without any prejudice for or against the accused in Nahar Singh Yadav v. Union of India, AIR 2011.

Cruel Punishment

A punishment which is too cruel or torture some is unconstitutional was held in Inderjeet v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1979.

Custodial Death

For Custodial Death, the writ can be compensation. Custodial death has been described as “one of the worst crimes in a civilised society, governed by the rule of law.” was held in D.K. Basu v. State of Bengal, AIR 1997.


The Supreme Court has given direction to the Union of India to frame rules or guidelines as regards the circumstances in which handcuffing can be allowed. Handcuffing is permitted only in extraordinary circumstances as held in Sunil Gupta v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1990.

Right to Reputation

Right to Reputation is a facet of the right of a citizen under Article21. It takes within its sweep right to reputation as it was held in State of Bihar v. Lal Krishna Advani, (2003).

The march of Article still continues. The frontier of Article 21 are still expanding and its new dimensions are still being explored by the Courts. It is quite possible that, in course of time, the Courts may possibly be able to imply some more rights for the people out of Article 21 because the concept of a dignified life guaranteed by Article 21 seems to be inexhaustible in range and scope. It is left to the ingenuity of the Courts to explore this concept to the extent they can in the Indian social context.


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