Research Work- Constitutional Law

FACTS

The Passport Authorities of India, under the Ministry of External Affairs is the passport issuing authority in India. All citizens of India are entitled to get a passport issued in their name and have the right to travel abroad. The passport Authority has refused to issue the passport to ‘Mr A’, a citizen of India, to go abroad. Passport Act, 1967[1] empowers the authorities to refuse to issue the passport to certain individual if such action is necessary in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or general public. Mr A is a law abiding citizen who has no criminal records registered against him. Upon asking for the reason for refusal of his passport, Mr. A did not get any valid or just reason for the same. Mr. A has challenged this move by the issuing authorities on the ground that it violates his Right to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21[2] of the Indian Constitution. The right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 reads: ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.’

ISSUES

  1. Whether Article 21 of the constitution of India which protects the Right to Life and Personal Liberty of citizens extends to providing Passport to every citizen of India.
  2. Can procedure applied by law  deprive Mr. A from getting a passport issued.

JURISDICTION

Mr. A can directly approach the Supreme Court under article 226 of the Constitution to enforce his/fundamental right to Life and personal Liberty guaranteed under Article 21. Supreme court will take necessary action to enforce Fundamental Rights.

WHAT STATUTES AND PROVISIONS CAN MR. A TAKE SHELTER OF?

Mr. A can take shelter under Article 20 (3)[3] of the Indian Constitution. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees citizens the Right to Life and Personal Liberty. Further, Article 14[4] of the Indian constitution states that the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of laws within the territory of India.

PRECEDENTS

Ak Gopalan v. Union of India

This was the first time, in 1950, the Supreme Court  interpreted the Fundamental Rights. The judgment held that a person can be deprived of the fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty with the help of a ‘procedure established by law.’ It didn’t matter whether the law was just or fair or if it confirms with the basic principles of natural justice. This meant that any arbitrary law passed by the legislature could lay out procedures to deprive/prevent citizens of their basic fundamental rights. This judgment reduced ‘personal liberty’ to being only titular.

Satwant Singh v Assistant Passport Officer, Government of India[5]

The External Ministry of India asked Satwant Singh, a businessman to surrender his passport as it was believed that he was likely to leave India to avoid a trial. The supreme court’s judgment concluded that the term “liberty” had a wide range and only excluded what was otherwise explicitly mentioned and protected under Article 19[6]. It put an end to the ambiguity in the meaning of the expression ‘procedure established by law’. The judgement cancelled the governments order on account that there was no procedure as relating to the denial of passports under Indian Passport Act 1920. Soon after, the parliament enacted The Passport Act 1967 to regulate passports being issued, refused, revoked etc.

Maneka Gandhi v Union Of India [7]

Soon after the Emergency, the Maneka Gandhi Case proved to be a landmark judgment which changed the way various courts had been interpreting Article 21. Maneka Gandhi, a citizen of India was asked to surrender her passport under section 10(3)(C) of the Passport Act 1967 in Public interest. Subsequently, a writ petition under Article 32[8] of the Indian Constitution was filed by her challenging the order was violating her fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21. It was held by the court that the right to travel and go outside the country is included in the right to personal libertyguaranteed under Article 21. This proved to be a turning point towards the way the Supreme Court interpreted Article 21.The supreme court concluded in its judgment that Right to Life embodied in Article 21 is not merely a physical right but also includes right to live with human dignity. It also held that a law ( Section 10 (3) (C) ) depriving a person of personal liberty has to stand the test of Article 21 along with Article 19 and Article 14.  Subsequently, the judgment put an end to the arbitrary and authoritative nature of the legislature to curb fundamental rights of citizens. This increased the ambit of the word ‘personal liberty’ and empowered courts to expand the usage of the phrase and include a wide range of rights like rights of prisoners, children and environmental rights. The judgment was the pioneer in human rights law. Faith in judiciary was restored.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The interpretation of Article 21 has come a long way and it has only evolved stronger with time. Even though it limited it’s scope in the AK Gopalan case, post Maneka Gandhi Case there was no going back. Along with that judgement, it opened door to numerous human rights which essentially needed to be recognised like Rights of Prisoners, children etc. It can be concluded that the ambit of Article 21 has only increased over the years. Article 21 is considered the soul of human rights and fundamental rights in India. In the years that followed the Maneka Gandhi Judgement, Article 21 was treated as an organic document whose interpretation must evolve with changing times. Now, no person can be deprived of right to life and personal liberty except according to ‘fair, just and reasonable’ procedure established by valid law. The balance of power between the legislature, executive and the judiciary was restored. Faith in judiciary was restored. Fundamental Rights form the heart and soul of the Constitution, leaving very little scope for infringement.


[1] The Passports Act, 1967, § 1o 

[2] India Const. art. 21.

[3] India Const. art. 20, § 3.

[4] India Const. art. 14.

[5] Satwant Singh v Assistant Passport Officer, Government of India, AIR 1967 SCR 2 525. 

[6] India Const. art. 19.

[7]Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, AIR 1978 2 SCR 621.

[8] India Const. art. 32.

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