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Srivastava Rajesh
Srivastava Rajesh campaign leader

Article 21. Protection of life and personal liberty. No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Interpretation – Art. 21 has to be interpreted in conformity with the international law as India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. Consequently, right to development has become part of Art. 21, 38, 39 and 46.

(i) Life – The right to life is the most fundamental of all is also the most difficult to define. Certainly it cannot be confined to a guarantee against the taking away of life; it must have a wider application. With reference to a corresponding provision in the 5th and 14th amendments of the U.S Constitution, which says that no person shall be deprived of his “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” in Munn v. Illinois, Field, J. spoke of the right to life in the following words:

“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 the amputation of an arm or leg, or the putting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.”

This statement has been repeatedly quoted with approval by our Supreme Court {Kharak Singh vs. State of U.P., AIR 1963 SC 1295, 1301,1305; Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Admn., (1978) 4 SCC 494; Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corpn., (1985) 3 SCC 545: AIR 1986 SC 180, 194.} has been further expanded in Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi. In Badhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1984) 3 SCC 161: AIR 1984 SC 802, Justice Bhagwati held:

“It is fundamental right of everyone in this country …. to live with human dignity, free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its breath from Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42 and at least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of the workers men and women, and the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity, and no State ….. has the right to take any action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials.”

Right to live guaranteed in any civilized society implies right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter {Chameli Sigh v. State of U.P., (1996) 2 SCC 549B(para 8); AIR 1996 SC 1051}

Expansion of the scope of Art. 21. A most remarkable feature of this is that many of the non-justiciable Directive Principles embodied in Part IV of the Constitution have now been resurrected as enforceable Fundamental Rights by the magic wand of judicial activism. Right of every child to a full development and right to education too has now become part of Art. 21. Residents have constitutional as well as statutory right to live in a clean city B.LWadehra (Dr.) v. Union of India (1996) 2 SCC 594 (para 22) : AIR 1996 SC 2969.

Right to development – Right to development has been declared as a component of Art. 21 of the Constitution. It cannot be treated as a mere right to economic betterment or cannot be limited as a misnomer to simple construction activities. It encompasses much more than economic well being and includes within its definition the guarantee of fundamental human rights. It includes the whole spectrum of civil, cultural, economic, political and social process, for the improvement of people’s well being and realisation of their full potential. It is an integral part of human rights. Of course, construction of a dam or a mega project is definitely an attempt to achieve the goal of wholesome development. Such works could very well be treated as integral component for development {N.D.Jayal v. UOI, (2004) 9 SCC 362, 382 (paras 23 and 24): AIR 2004 SC 867, relying on Samatha v. State of A.P., (1997) 8 SCC 191 and Madhu Kishwar v. State of Bihar, (19916) 5 SCC 125}

Large – scale defoulment of water – Large scale defoulment in quality of water so as to make it unusable by others or as a result whereof the water is contaminated and becomes un-potable, would be violative of Art. 21 of the Constitution {State of W.B v. Kesoram Industries Ltd., (2004) 10 SCC 201, 387 (para 388) : AIR 2004 SC 1646}

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