In this landmark judgment from Hon’ble Supreme Court, it was held that “We have already extracted a passage from the judgment of Field, J. in Munn v. Illinois (1), where the learned judge pointed out that “life” in the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U. S. Constitution corresponding to Art. 21, means not merely the right to the continuance of a person’s animal existence, but a right to the possession of each of his organs-his arms and legs etc. We do not entertain any doubt that the word “’life” in Art. 21 bears the same signification.”
In our view cl. (b) of Regulation 236 is plainly violative of Art. 21’ and as there is no “law” on which the same could be justified it must be struck down as unconstitutional.
This petition raises a question of far-reaching importance. namely, a right of a citizen of India to lead a free life subject to social control imposed by valid law. The fact that the question has been raised at the instance of an alleged disreputable character shall not be allowed to deflect our perspective. If the police could do what they did to the petitioner, they could also do the same to an honest and law-abiding citizen.
Let us at the outset clear the ground. We are not concerned here with a law imposing restrictions on a bad character, for admittedly there is no such law. Therefore, the petitioner’s fundamental right, if any, has to be judged on the basis that there is no such law. To state it differently, what fundamental right of the petitioner has been infringed by the acts of the police? If he has any fundamental right which has been infringed by such acts, he would be entitled to a relief straight away, for the State could not justify it on the basis of any law made by the appropriate Legislature or the rules made thereunder.
Discussion around infringement of both Articles 19 and 21
At this stage it will be convenient to ascertain the scope of the said two provisions and their relation inter se in the context of the question raised. Both of them are distinct fundamental rights. No doubt the expression “personal liberty” is a comprehensive one and the right to move freely is an attribute of personal liberty. It is said that the freedom to move freely is carved out of personal liberty and, therefore, the expression “personal liberty” in Art. 21 excludes that attribute. In our view, this is not a correct approach. Both are independent fundamental rights, though there is overlapping. There is no question of one being carved out of another. The fundamen. tal right of life and personal liberty have many attributes and some of them are found in Art. 19. If a Person’s fundamental right under Art. 21 is infringed, the State can rely upon a law to sustain the action; but that cannot be a complete answer unless the said law satisfies the test laid down in Art. 19 (2) so far as the attributes covered by Art. 19 (1) are concerned. In other words, the State must satisfy that both the fundamental rights are not infringed by showing that there is a law and that it does amount -to a reasonable restriction. within the meaning of Art. 19 (2) of the Constitution. But in this case no such defence is available, as admittedly there is no such law. So the petitioner can legitimately plead that his fundamental rights both under Art. 19 (1) (d) and Art. 21 are infringed by the State.
Discussion around Article 21
We would, therefore, define the right of personal liberty in Art. 21 as a right of an individual to be free from restrictions or encroachments on his person, whether those restrictions or encroachments are directly imposed or indirectly brought about by calculated measures. If so understood, all the acts of surveillance under,Regulation 236 infringe the fundamental right of the petitioner under Art. 21 of the Constitution.
Kharak Singh Vs The State Of U.P. & Others on 18 December, 1962
Citation: 1963 AIR 1295, 1964 SCR (1) 332
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