Question: Describe the right to life and personal liberty, whether the death sentence is violative of Article-21? How the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed by Article 21, may be curtailed? [MPJS 2018] Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Describe the right to life and personal liberty, whether the death sentence is… Read More »

Question: Describe the right to life and personal liberty, whether the death sentence is violative of Article-21? How the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed by Article 21, may be curtailed? [MPJS 2018] Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Describe the right to life and personal liberty, whether the death sentence is violative of Article-21? How the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed by Article 21, may be curtailed?] Answer: Article 21 of...

Question: Describe the right to life and personal liberty, whether the death sentence is violative of Article-21? How the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed by Article 21, may be curtailed? [MPJS 2018]

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Describe the right to life and personal liberty, whether the death sentence is violative of Article-21? How the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed by Article 21, may be curtailed?]

Answer:

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Article 21 can only be claimed when a person is deprived of his life or personal liberty by the State as defined in Article 12. Violation of the right by private individuals is not within the preview of Article 21. Article 21 uses three crucial expressions, which are listed below:

  • Right to life, and
  • Right to personal liberty;
  • The procedure established by law

The court has given the right of life and personal liberty a wide interpretation through various landmark judgments to include other essential allied rights, without which the rights guaranteed under Article 21, seem futile.

While specifically talking about whether a death sentence is violative of Article 21, the Supreme Court has declared that death by hanging is not violative of Article 21 of the Indian constitution. The question of the constitutional validity of the death sentence has been raised before the Supreme Court several times vis-a-vis Articles 14, 19, and 21.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the death penalty in Rajendra Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1979 AIR 916). The Court did agree with the proposition that, as the death penalty finally deprives the accused of his right to life and other Fundamental Rights, the validity of such a punishment can be tested with reference to Article 14, 19, and 21 of the constitution.

Article. 21 guarantees fair procedure; Article. 19 is based on the reasonableness of deprivation of freedom to live and exercise the seven liberties guaranteed therein; Art. 14 is an assurance of non-arbitrary and civilized punitive treatment. Art. 14 ensure that principled sentences of death, not arbitrary or indignant capital penalty, shall be imposed.

In Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab (1983 AIR 957), the Supreme Court has emphasized that the death penalty need not be inflicted except in the “gravest of cases of extreme culpability” and that “life imprisonment is the rule and death sentence is an exception.”

Now, it is to be noted that the fundamental right under Article 21 can’t be curtailed except according to the procedure established by law. Interpretation of this term arose in the famous A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950 AIR 27) case where the Supreme by majority court ruled that the word ‘law’ in Art. 21 was used in the sense of lex (state-made law) and not jus. The expression ‘procedure established by law’ would, therefore, mean the procedure as laid down in an enacted law.

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978 AIR 597), the court observed the meaning of the term as under:

The procedure “cannot be arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable”. The concept of reasonableness must be projected in the procedure contemplated by Art. 21. The Court has now assumed the power to adjudge the fairness and justness of procedure established by law to deprive a person of his personal liberty. The Court has reached this conclusion by holding that Arts. 21, 19 and 14 are not mutually exclusive, but are inter-linked.

Therefore, the procedure contemplated by Article. 21 must answer the test of reasonableness in order to conform to Article 14. Thus, the procedure in Article 21, “must be ‘right and just and fair’ and not arbitrary, fanciful or oppressive, otherwise, it would be no procedure at all and the requirement of Article 21 would not be satisfied”.


Important Mains Questions Series for Judiciary, APO & University Exams

  1. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-I
  2. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-I
  3. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-II
  4. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-IV
  5. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-V
  6. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-VI
  7. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-VII
  8. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-VIII
  9. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-IX
  10. Constitutional Law Mains Questions Series Part-X
Updated On 2021-05-28T05:20:27+05:30
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