Delhi High Court: State Has Failed In Protecting Basic Right To Life Under Art. 21

The Delhi High court, while hearing  a bunch of cases on oxygen shortage in the capital’s fight against Covid-19, remarked that “State has failed in its fundamental obligation in protecting basic fundamental right i.e. right to life contained under Article 21.”
The court passed a series of orders in the different matters.


 Article 21 reads as:

         “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.” Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right.

            It is the only article in the Constitution that has received the widest possible interpretation. 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.

           The Supreme Court took the view that “procedure established by law” in Article 21 means procedure prescribed by law as enacted by the state and rejected to equate it with the American “due process of law.”

              But, in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India the Supreme Court observed that the procedure prescribed by law for depriving a person of his life and personal liberty must be “right, just and fair” and not “arbitrary, fanciful and oppressive,” otherwise it would be no procedure at all and the requirement of Article 21 would not be satisfied. Thus, the “procedure established by law” has acquired the same significance in India as the “due process of law” clause in America.

                    The purpose of infusing a right with a constitutional element is precisely to provide it a sense of immunity from popular opinion and, as its reflection, from legislative annulment. Fundamental rights are the only constitutional firewall to prevent State’s interference with those core freedoms constituting liberty of a human being.

[i] A statutory right can be modified, curtailed or annulled by a simple enactment of the legislature. In other words, statutory rights are subject to the compulsion of legislative majorities.


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