October 2, 2022

Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India[1]

This case comment series is being written by Awaljot Kaur. she is a law student of Department of Laws, Panjab University Chandigarh.

Background

As, per article 21 of our Indian Constitution no individual can be deprived of his personal life and liberty except according to the procedure determined by law. The concept of ‘personal liberty’ first came up for consideration of the Supreme Court in A.K. Gopalan[2]. In this case, the Petitioner had been detained under Preventive Detention Act, 1950. The petitioner challenged the validity of his detention on the ground that it was violative of his Right to freedom of movement under Article 19(1) which is the main essence of personal liberty guaranteed under article 21 of the Constitution. He argued that the words ‘personal liberty’ not only included the freedom of movement but also cannot restrict any movement. Moreover the preventive detention act should be in accordance to this. Ad Rem in this case the attention of Supreme Court was drawn from due process of law to procedure determined under law where there was not much attention paid to the same.

Parties to the Case

Petitioner:-                  Maneka Gandhi

Respondant:-               Union of India and ors.

Bench of Judges: –      Chief Justice M.H. Beg, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice N.L. Untwalia, Justice S. Murtaza Fazal Ali and Justice P.S Kailasam.

Facts of the case:-

The petitioner (Maneka Gandhi) who was a journalist had her passport issued on June 1, 1976, under the Passport Act, 1967. Later on July 2nd, 1977, the Regional Passport Officer, New Delhi, ordered the petitioner to surrender her passport by a letter posted. On being questioned about the reasons for her passport forfeiture, The Ministry of External Affairs declined to produce any reasons Therefore, the petitioner filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India stating the confiscation of her passport as the violation of her fundamental rights; specifically Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 19 (Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression) and Article 21 (Right to Life and Liberty) guaranteed by the Constitution of India. In this once again arose the question before the Supreme Court on the true scope of Personal Liberty. The expression of personal liberty under Article 21 covers a variety of rights and even some of them have been given special consideration under Article 19. It should be considered that Article 21 does not exclude Article 19 and even though there is a procedure for depriving the individual of his personal rights. Thus the law which destitute an individual of their personal liberty has to not only stand through Article 21 but also fulfill the criteria under Article 19 and Article 14 of the constitution.

Judgment:-

In Satwant Singh Vs. Ramarathnam[3] it was stated that – “personal liberty” in its essence also includes the right of relocation and travel abroad. Hence, no indiviual can be deprived of such rights, except through any procedures established by law. Since the State had not made any law regarding the regulation or prohibiting the rights of a person in such a case, the confiscation of the petitioner’s passport is in direct violation of Article 21, and it is also violative of Article 14. Moreover the Central Government never did disclose any reasons for impounding the petitioner’s passport, so how can a common person understand these vague statements. The phrase used in Article 21 is “procedure established by law” instead of “due process of law” which is said to have procedures that are free from arbitrariness and irrationality of the government. It is true that fundamental rights are sought in case of violation of any rights of an individual and when the State has violated it. But that does not mean, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is applicable only in India and not outside. Merely because the state’s action is restricted to its territory, it does not mean that Fundamental Rights are also restricted in a similar manner. The right to travel overseas is not a part of the Right to Free Speech and Expression as both have different natures and characters.  A.K Gopalan judgment was overruled stating that there is a unique relationship between the provisions of Article 14, 19 & 21 and every law need to pass the tests of the said provisions. Earlier in Gopalan, the majority held that these provisions in it are mutually exclusive. Therefore, to correct its earlier mistake the court held that these provisions are not mutually exclusive but dependent on each other.

Conclusion:-

After this judgment Supreme Court began to act as a watch keeper to protect the valid provisions and essence of our Indian Constitution. With the closing statement of mainly the whole bench was that any law which deprives any individual of his personal liberty needs to stand through the test of Article 21, 19 and 14. And in order to declare any law invalid by the state the golden triangle of these three articles can be sought.


[1] (1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621, 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621)

[2] ((AIR 1950 SC 27))

[3] (1967 AIR 1836, 1967 SCR (2) 525)

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Awaljot Kaur
Dept of Laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh.


Awaljot is a Student of legal studies at Panjab University, She mainly has interest towards field of criminal law and Aditional dispute resolution. She has interned many organization and recently with Advocate on record of Supreme Court Mr. Deepak Dayal, and currently interning with Additional Soliscter General to government of Jharkhand. She is also an NSS volunteer for 3 years and love imparting the light of knowledge to underprivileged children

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