Case Analysis

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [AIR 1978]

By- P. Nithin Pramod Kumar, K.A Nithin Kishore, Joysree Das, Manvee

Facts

The petitioner’s passport dated June 1,1976 having been confiscated “in the public interest” by an order dated July 2, 1977, and therefore the Government of India has declined within the “interest of the general public” to furnish to her the explanations for its decision, she filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India to challenge that order.

Issues

  1. Is there any connection between the provisions mentioned under Articles 14, 19 & 21.
  2. Scope of the word “Procedure Established by Law.”
  3. Whether the right to travel abroad resides in Article 21.
  4. Whether a legislative law that takes away the Right to life is affordable.

Argument of Parties[1]

Petitioner’s Arguments

1. By the executive order of confiscation of the passport on 4th  July 1977, the respondent has infringed Petitioner’s Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression, Right to travel abroad, Right to life and private liberty & Right to freedom of movement.

2. The provisions of Article 14, 19 & 21 are to be read in synchronization, and they do not seem to be exclusive. These provisions in themselves though not explicitly constitute in itself principles of natural justice. A combined reading of the three provisions will give effect to the spirit of the constitution and constitution-makers.

3. Even though India has not adopted American “due process of law” in its constitution, the procedure established by law must be reasonable, fair & just free from any variety of arbitrariness.

4. Section 10(3)(c) is violative of Article 21 of the constitution within the sense that it violates the right to life and private liberty guaranteed under the said constitutional provision. By the virtue of this provision, the petitioner was restrained from traveling abroad.

This restrains on the petitioner was unconstitutional since it absolutely was generally accepted that the right to travel abroad was within the right to life & personal liberty u/a 21.

5. Audi Altrem Partem which means the opportunity to be heard is universally recognized as an important ingredient of principles of natural justice. These principles of natural justice find no unambiguous place in any constitutional provisions. However, the spirit of Fundamental Rights constitutes in itself the essence of those principles. Further, Article 32 provides a chance to the affected parties to directly approach Apex Court just in case there is any violation of Part III provisions. This provision of Article 32 was coined as Heart & Soul of the Constitution is equivalent to Audi Altrem Partem. Therefore, it can not be said that the Principle of Natural Justice is separate and exclusive to the Constitution.

Respondent’s Arguments

1. The respondent contended before the court that the passport was impounded because the petitioner was required to take it before some committees for inquiry. The Attorney General further promised the court to try and do away with all the appearances within the said committees as soon as possible.

2. The respondent reiterating the principle laid down in Gopalan contended that the word law u/a 21 can’t be comprehended within the light fundamental rules of natural justice.

3. The respondent further contended that the principles of natural justice are vague and filled with ambiguities. Therefore, the constitution mustn’t read such vague and ambiguous provisions as a component of it.

4. The ambit of Article 21 is very wide and it generally contains the provisions of Articles 14&19. However, any law can only be termed unconstitutional to Article 21 when it directly infringes Article 14&19.

5. Article 21 in its language contains “procedure established by law” & such procedure needn’t pass the test of reasonability. Further, the said provision needn’t necessarily be in conformity with Articles 14 & 19.

6. The constitution-makers while drafting this constitution had debated at length on American “due process of law” & British “procedure established by law”. The conspicuous absence of the due process of law from the Constitutional provisions reflects the mind of framers of this constitution. The mind and spirit of the framers must be protected and revered.

Judgment

To the extent to which section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, 1967 authorizes the passport authority to confiscate a passport “in the interest of the final public”, it is violative of

1. Article 14 of the Constitution since it confers vague and undefined power on the passport authority.

2. Section 10(3)(c) is void as conferring an arbitrary power since it doesn’t provide for a hearing to the holder of the passport before the passport is impounded.

3. Section 10(3)(c) is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution since it doesn’t prescribe ‘procedure’ within the meaning of that article and therefore the procedure practiced is worst.

4. Section 10(3)(c) is against Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) since it permits restrictions to be imposed on the rights guaranteed by these articles although such restrictions can’t be imposed under articles 19(2) and 19(6).

A new doctrine of post-decisional theory was evolved.

One of the numerous interpretations during this case is the discovery of interconnections between the three Articles- Articles 14, 19, and 21. This law which prescribes a procedure for depriving someone of “personal liberty” should fulfill the requirements of Articles 14 and 19 also.

It was finally held by the court that the proper to travel and go outside the country is included within the right to private liberty guaranteed under Article 21. The Court ruled that the mere existence of an enabling law wasn’t enough to restrain personal liberty. Such a law must even be “just, fair and reasonable”.

Analysis

Overruling A.K Gopalan’s decision was appreciated nationwide and this case had become a landmark case in history since it broadened the scope of fundamental rights. The respondent’s contention that any law is valid and legit until it is repealed was highly criticized by judges.

Also, by providing a liberal interpretation to Maneka Gandhi, the courts had set a benchmark for coming generations to hunt their basic rights whether or not explicitly mentioned under part III of the constitution.

Today, the courts have successfully interpreted different cases so as to determine socioeconomic and cultural rights under the umbrella of Article 21 like –  Right to wash Air, Right to wash Water, Right to freedom from sound Pollution, Speedy Trial, Legal Aid, Right to Livelihood, Right to Food, Right to Medical aid, Right to wash Environment, etc. as a component of Right to Life & Personal liberty.

The judgment opened new dimensions within the broad interpretation and PIL’s were appreciated and judges took interests in liberal interpretation wherever it absolutely was needed within the prevailing justice.


[1]  Hemant Varshney, August 30, 2018, 22:21, http://lawtimesjournal.in/maneka-gandhi-vs-union-of-india/

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