Right to Life and Personal Liberty

Right to Life and Personal Liberty: Supreme Court Cases

This article on ‘RIGHT TO LIFE AND PERSONAL LIBERTY: A STUDY OF SUPREME COURT CASES‘ was written by Priyal an intern at Legal Upanishad.


We all are individuals and we all live our lives with all essential rights and liberties. In our nation, the Indian Constitution is a foremost law that gives these rights and liberties to individuals so that they can enjoy life to the fullest. The most important right given to an individual is the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This right is applicable to both nationals and foreigners. The article deals with the interpretation of Article 21 by the Supreme Court with the help of landmark judicial pronouncements.  


In this world, every human life existing on this earth is worthy of living a fulfilling life. they have the right to life, security and liberty. Each of the rights under the constitution is essential for living a quality and fulfilling life. This Article 21 is applicable to natural persons whether it is nationals or aliens.

In the judgment of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, SC said that the word “life” includes something that is more than just existence with the human body and soul. The inhibition besides the deprivation includes all limbs and facilities to enjoy life.

Right to spend life with Dignity

In the judgment of Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, SC said that the right to life under Article 21 right to live a healthy life with all the necessary facilities. This right includes the protection of the traditions, customs, traditions and heritage which adds meaning to a person’s existence. It further covers the right to spend life with peace and repose.

Right against sexual harassment at the workplace

The court in this matter made an observation that the rights provided under the Constitution have sufficient ambit as it includes the concept of gender equality which also includes sexual abuse and harassment. The SC held the sexual harassment faced by women at the workplace to be an infringement of their rights under Article 21.

For the first time in the case of Vishakha v. the State of Rajasthan, SC dealt with the matter related to sexual abuse of working women employees which is a violation of gender equality and rights under Article 21, the judgment of this case led to the formation of the special act specifically dealing with the sexual harassment of women at their workplace.

Right to have a Reputation

Reputation is one of the most crucial parts of a person’s life. It is the dignity that they earn with lots of struggle and hard work. In the judgment of D.F. Marion v. Minnie Davis, SC said that a good reputation is a key element of security and that security is protected under the shadow of the Constitution.  The court said that right of enjoying a reputation is a necessity of human civilization.  

Right To have a Livelihood

SC elucidated that SC held that the right to have a livelihood is not included under Article 21. In the judgment of Re Sant Ram, SC said that right to have livelihood will not be considered under the ambit of Article 21 of the constitution. This right will fall under the ambit of Articles 19 and 16 but in a restricted sense. But if we go over the words then life includes livelihood.

Right to have Shelter

In the judgment of Chameli Singh v. the State of U.P., SC said that right to have shelter is an essential right present with every person. It is considered under the ambit of Article 21 as shelter is essential for a meaningful life. The court made the observation that Shelter provides a person to develop physically, intellectually, spiritually, and mentally. Therefore, the right to have shelter includes the right to live in ample space, and have a clean environment, light, air, water, and civil facilities.  It is not merely existing under one roof but having the necessary infrastructure to live a happy life.

Right to have Medical Assistance

In the judgment of Parmananda Katar v. Union of India, SC said that the protection of life is very important. The court said that as soon as life ends, the status quo can’t be returned back. It is the professional duty of all medical professionals to provide medical assistance to every injured person who seeks such assistance so as to protect their life without even complying with any legal formality to be performed with the police first.

Right to be Aware and Informed

In the judgment of R.P. Ltd. v. Proprietors Indian Express Newspapers, Bombay Pvt. Ltd., SC said that for the effective functioning of the democracy and nation, the people of the country must be aware of the affairs conducted by the state.

Further, in the Judgment of Essar Oil Ltd. v. Halar Utkarsh Samiti, SC focused on the link of A.21 and the right to be aware mainly in the case where secretive decisions of the government could affect the lives of individuals. Again, in the case of Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v. Proprietors of Indian Express Newspapers, SC said that the people who protect the environment had the right to be aware of government affairs.

Right to get Education

The right to get an education is a part of life and the state has a constitutional duty to establish educational institutions that has a major benefit to the citizens. In the judgment of Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, SC said that life and personal liberty under Article 21 include all the rights crucial for the building of a personality. It includes those rights as well that are not elucidated in Part III of the Constitution.


Right to have Privacy

 In the judgment of Kharak Singh v. the State of U.P, the right to privacy was first taken into consideration by the SC. The SC said that there is no precise guarantee to have the right to privacy. Personal Liberty includes the right to have dignity. The court said that the unauthorized interruption into an individual’s home and disturbance caused is violative of common-law rights.

Right to Get a Free Legal Aid & Right to make an Appeal

In the judgment of M.H. Hoskot v. the State of Maharashtra, the SC said getting free and permitted legal aid is an important part of an ideal court procedure. The essential part of the right to make an appeal is providing a copy of a judgment to the prisoner and the right to receive free legal aid to the prisoners. This right of legal aid is an implicit part of Article 21 with reasonableness.

Right to get a Speedy Trial

In the judgment of Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, SC said that it is unfortunate for the Indian judicial framework that has given permission for the detention of both genders with a long trial procedure. The court further said that the detention of the under-trial inmates was for a long period. It was said to be an infringement of Article 21 of such inmates.

Right to Life and Personal Liberty
Right to Life and Personal Liberty


Indian judicial system gave an excellent interpretation of the right incorporated under Article 21 of the constitution was the right to life and personal liberty. The SC has from time to time interpreted the human essential elements to live a fulfilling life.  Every interpretation made by the SC and procedure laid with respect to Article 21 of the constitution was particularly made to achieve the height of justice and to fulfill the motive of the Preamble. Each interpretation made by the SC is made taking in the view to meet all the needs of a human being.

It is quite impossible to get such an extent of interpretation over life and personal liberty. The concept of Indian interpretation is not restricted to just mere terms and physical existence. It is meant to provide the overall development of the person as an individual and live with dignity.


  1. Aparna Ramamoorthy. Right to life and Personal Liberty. Legal Bites. https://www.legalbites.in/right-to-life-personal-liberty-article-21/.
  2. Himanshu Rajan Nath. Right to life and personal liberty under Indian Constitution: A Strive Justice. Papers SSRN. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm?abstractid=2733238.
  3. Constitution of India. J.N Pandey