Article 21 of the Constitution of India
Article 21 of the Constitution of India- Right to Life and Personal Liberty
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.’ The right to life is undoubtedly the most fundamental of all rights. All other rights add quality to the life in question and depend on the pre-existence of life itself for their operation. As human rights can only attach to living beings, one might expect the right to life itself to be in some sense primary, since none of the other rights would have any value or utility without it. There would have been no Fundamental Rights worth mentioning if Article 21 had been interpreted in its original sense. This Section will examine the right to life as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court of India.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 provides that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” ‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not merely the physical act of breathing. It does not connote mere animal existence or continued drudgery through life. It has a much wider meaning which includes right to live with human dignity, right to livelihood, right to health, right to pollution free air, etc.
Right to life is fundamental to our very existence without which we cannot live as a human being and includes all those aspects of life, which go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete, and worth living. It is the only article in the Constitution that has received the widest possible interpretation. Under the canopy of Article 21, so many rights have found shelter, growth, and nourishment. Thus, the bare necessities, minimum and basic requirements that are essential and unavoidable for a person is the core concept of the right to life.
In the case of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[i], the Supreme Court quoted and held that:
By the term “life” as here used something more is meant than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by amputation of an armored leg or the pulling out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.
In Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
the Supreme Court reiterated with the approval the above observations and held that the “right to life” included the right to lead a healthy life so as to enjoy all faculties of the human body in their prime conditions. It would even include the right to protection of a person’s tradition, culture, heritage and all that gives meaning to a man’s life. It includes the right to live in peace, to sleep in peace and the right to repose and health.