Article 21 of the Indian Constitution Right to Life

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution: Right to Life

This article on ‘Article 21 of the Indian Constitution: Right to Life‘ was written by Arpita Tiwari, an intern at Legal Upanishad.


The essence of mature human life has always been human rights. They are unalienable, global, sacrosanct, and irrevocable. They guard the sacredness of human life. One of these rights is the right to live freely and it is very essential. Nobody’s life or personal freedom can be taken away from them without following the legal requirements, according to the right to life.

The right to life and individual liberty is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It contains three crucial components: life, liberty, and dignity. The meaning of Article 21 has grown throughout time to embrace a range of other components that make human existence meaningful and worthwhile because of increasing judicial activism and respect for individual rights.

This article will be going to deal with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution its meaning and its interpretation further, the author will discuss landmark cases related to Article 21 in India.


Article 21 of the Indian Constitution addresses issues related to the defence of individual freedom and life and it states that no one “should be stripped of his life or his own freedom unless in accordance with the method prescribed by law”.

Article 21 gives everyone the right to life and individual liberty that cannot be infringed by the government save where necessary to uphold the law and avoid harm to or death to anyone. Judge Iyer aptly referred to it as the “procedural Magna Carta safeguarding of life and liberty” in this way.

The freedom to live is guaranteed in this Article to both residents of our nation and outsiders, which is its most amazing view. As a result, anyone can ask for security under Article 21 in India. Article 21 plays a major role as it is a key for the normal individual in opposition to the government instead of private parties, though. Every individual whose rights are being violated by Article 21 may register a suit with the Honorable Supreme Court under Article 32 or any High Court under Article 226.


No freeman shall be kidnapped or confined, except by the laws of the nation, according to the English Magna Carta, which was signed in 1215, which is the first recorded reference to individual freedom. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, personal liberty is the freedom to conduct however one pleases. Yet, it is crucial to abide by the laws of the society in which one resides.

According to Justice Field in the US case of Munn v. Illinois, personal freedom is a necessary component of life (1877). It suggests that since all men are born free, they must stay that way. Yet, freedom cannot be permitted to turn into a licence in order for people to coexist happily in society. Hence, it is subject to some fair limitations. Because of this, individual freedom indicates that nobody is entitled to be unfairly restrained unless the law specifically requires it.

With the case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, the idea of personal liberty gained prominence in India (1959). A communist leader who was being held at the centre of the case argued that his imprisonment was unlawful and violated his right to personal liberty under Article 21. The freedom to rest, eat, and engage in other bodily functions are all included in the scope of personal liberty, according to the court.

In Kharak Singh v. State of U.P. and Others (1964), it was defined once more that individual freedom included the liberty of being free from constraints imposed on both our private lives and our freedom of movement.


Everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and personal protection.

The right to live is the basic need of every individual and it is a very essential right compared with all the other rights. All other liberties that raise the level of living in question depend on life as a whole in order to operate properly. The right to life itself is our major right above all other rights because without it there are no other rights that have any definition or advantage as individual rights only applicable to living organisms.  It is noted that if we apply the actual meaning of Article 21 then there is no other basic right This section will examine the Indian Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of the freedom of life.

According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, “life” includes more than just inhaling. It will not suggest a life of constant labour or easy living in the real world. It addresses a much broader variety of concerns, including the freedom to a respectable quality of living, the freedom to financial security, the freedom from disease, the freedom to fresh air, etc.

The foundation of life includes all of those aspects of life that provide a person’s presence meaning, fulfilment, and worth as they are crucial to our very survival and without them, we’re unable to remain as individuals. The only Constitutional provision that has received the broadest interpretation. As a result, the underlying premise of the freedom to live gives rise to the basic resources, least requirements, and needs of a human.

In Kharak Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court cited and decided as follows:

When the word “life” refers to more than mere physical presence. All of the organs and abilities that are employed to live a happy life are prohibited from being lost. The provision outlaws the disfigurement of the body, along with the amputation of an eye, a limb with armour, or a different part that permits a connection between the spirit and the external realm.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution Right to Life
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution: Right to Life


The idea of dignitas hominis, which can be interpreted as “status,” was the origin of the concept of dignity in classical Roman thought. Due to achieving a certain rank, the individual deserving of it was accorded honour and respect. As a result, a person’s worth and charm were determined by his standing, which gave him his dignity.

In Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi (1981), it was further determined that “the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 extends further than ensuring one’s bodily sustenance and cannot be restricted to just living creatures. The right to life also encompasses the freedom to move around and interact with other people without restriction, as well as the basic essentials of life, such as appropriate nutrition, clothes, and shelter. It also involves the right to live in dignity.


Article 21 states that the legal process may be used to restrict someone’s right to life and personal freedom. The phrase “procedure established by law” is a legalese that refers to the process required by any statute or state law. It was discussed in great detail in the case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1959), where the idea of personal liberty gained prominence in India. A communist leader who was being held at the centre of the case argued that his imprisonment was unlawful and violated his right to personal liberty under Article 21. According to the Court, the scope of personal liberty includes the freedom of the corporeal body, along with the freedom to eat, sleep, and use other bodily functions.

The major decision in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India marked a change in this strategy (1978). In this instance, the idea of “procedure prescribed by law” was granted a substantive definition, and the Indian Constitution was amended to incorporate the American concept of “due process of law” into it. Due process of law examined the fairness of the law defining the mechanism to revoke a person’s life or freedom in addition to validating the course of action that was taken. It was emphasised that the law must also pass the reasonableness test in addition to the requirement that the process be fair and reasonable. As a result, “due process of law” was expanded to include “method established by law”.


The Right to Primary Education is protected by Article 21A of the Indian Constitution, which was inserted in 2002 as a result of the 86th Amendment. It stipulates that children between the ages of 6 and 14 have a legal right to receive a free education. On April 1, 2010, Article 21A went into effect, and anyone who breaches that provision of the constitution may face punishment.


One of the most important human rights is the right to life, which protects not only an individual’s life and freedom but also those aspects of existence that render living valuable, such as livelihood, respect, housing, privacy, and health. India’s judiciary has given Article 21’s protection of the right to life and personal dignity a broad interpretation. Additionally, it is permissible under international law and in other nations. It has also generated debate on controversial topics like euthanasia and the death penalty. But in every argument, the right to life has prevailed.


  1. Article 21 of the Constitution of India: Protection of Life and Personal Liberty, Retrieved:
  2. Riya Jain, Article 21: Understanding the Right to Life and Personal Liberty from Case Laws-Academike Explainer, Retrieved:
  3. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, Right to life and Liberty, Retrieved: