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Judgements that newfangled Fundamental Rights


All the newly formed democracies of the 20th Century are fascinated by the idea of a constitution. The American constitution had its first ten Amendments in the year 1791. These amendments protected the citizens against the neglect of the states by providing each of them with the rights such as that of freedom to express or to profess any religion and file petition against the government. These rights were called the bill of rights and became the foundation of the rights that every citizen shall be granted from his birth till death. These fundamentals inspired every democracy. Soon enough, having a Preamble and associated Fundamental Rights became the norm. The Preamble became the introduction to the constitution that summarises its principles and Fundamental Rights became the flowered ground for the citizens to walk upon. Well, the thing with Fundamental Rights is that they are socially adored and misused. India calls itself a Socialist, Secular, and Democratic Republic that provides to its citizen’s equality, liberty, and opportunity to get justice and above all, promote fraternity. Fundamental Rights in India are enshrined in the Part-III of the Constitution. Just like Preamble talks about the vision of the framers of the constitution, the chapter on Fundamental Rights elaborates on the same. It offers equality, freedom, right against exploitation, right to education, freedom to choose religion and also, freedom to get constitutional remedies.


The preamble to the constitution succinctly describes the emotions of the makers of the constitution which are enshrined in the form of principals and ideals. The case started with the Kerala government’s attempt towards land reforms that attempted to lay down restrictions over the management of a Hindu temple headed by the plaintiff. Article 26 of the constitution emphasizes on the right to manage religious affairs that includes the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.[2] The major question before the court was to check whether Parliament can be allowed to formulate laws that go against the “basic structure” doctrine.[3] Fundamental Rights were termed as "inalienable." The primordial nature of the Fundamental Rights is indicated through the Preamble and therefore, the Preamble to the constitution is an all-important part of the Constitution. Hence, whenever a matter of the constitution is to be decided, the Preamble must be looked upon for guidance as it entails in itself the mind and thoughts of the framers of the constitution.


The case of roller coaster around the nationalisation took place in the 1970s under the Indira Gandhi government. The National Textile Corporation Limited takes over the management of MinervaTextile Mills. This was being done under the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974. It was found that an amendment to the constitution can be pronounced as an invalid under Article 13. The Constitution of India had conferred amending powers to the Parliament and therefore, it cannot overstep this power and amend the “basic structure of the constitution,” as held in the Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors v. State of Kerala and Anr[5]. Article 368(4) & 368(5), and Article 31C amended by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment were held to be void. The Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policies together contribute to the socialistic secular values of the constitution. Thus, a state is said to have a mandate under Article 37 of the constitution to carry out duties enshrined in Part IV, even in an absence of a corresponding right.


This case revolves around the confiscation of a legally issued passport of Maneka Gandhi, a journalist. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied to provide a reason for confiscating the passport and simply stated that it was done in the interest of the public. Since no reasonable grounds were found which could form a basis for such an act of confiscation, a writ petition was filed for depriving a citizen from traveling out of the country. It was found that the right to travel abroad is an essential element of the right to personal liberty as provided under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14, 19 and 21 include in its ambit, the right to travel abroad. The statement, “procedure established by law” under Article 21 cannot be used arbitrarily. The A.K. Gopalan case[7] was overruled and Article 14, 19 and 21 were found to be mutually exclusive. In fact, Ambedkar can rightly be quoted here, “Liberty cannot be divorced from equality;” and therefore, liberty and equality go hand in hand.


This is a peculiar case of a warder trying to extract money from the family of a prisoner (Prem Chand) upon death sentence through torturous methods. The prisoner was hurt by the warder (Maggar Singh) by inserting a rod in his anal. This inflicted a serious injury on the prisoner. The prisoner was kept in a ‘punishment cell’. Due medical care was not given and this led to the death of the prisoner. The letter submitted by an inmate about the incident was converted into a writ of habeas corpus[9]. Amicus curiae (Dr. Y. S. Chitale and Shri Mukul Mudgal) were appointed by the court to inquire about the incident. The court observed that a person shall not be deprived of his/her Fundamental Rights upon entry into the jail as a prisoner. A prisoner shall not be subjected to cruel treatment and shall be subjected to licit limits prescribed by law. The major takeaway of the judgement was the right to life does not include in itself mere animal existence but right to live with dignity.


This case was filed by a retired judge who failed to file his Income Tax returns through his PAN Card as the Government of India has made use of Aadhaar Card mandatory in all its departments through the Aadhaar Act[10]. A case was filed for the imposition for the use of the Aadhaar Card on the citizens. It was held that the right to privacy is concomitant and the state cannot force into an individual's private sphere. The ADM Jabalpur Case[11] was overruled. It becomes the duty of the state to protect an individual's right to privacy. Under the garb of Article 21, the state cannot use the statement, “procedures established by law” in pursuit of providing so-called benefits. The Aadhaar Act was amended and Article 21 (right to life) was found to include in itself a right to privacy as well.

The above-mentioned cases are only a handful that has made a huge impact in widening the meaning and scope of each word written in the chapter on Fundamental Rights. These have helped bring in relief and made the law flexible for the benefit of the public.

CITATION: [1] (1973) 4 SCC 225 [2] Article 26(a), Fundamental Rights, Part III, The Constitution of India. [3] Article 368, Part XX, The Constitution of India. [4]Minerva Mills Ltd. and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors., 1981 SCR (1) 206 [5] Writ Petition (civil) 135 of 1970 [6]Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 SCR (2) 621 [7] A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras and Anr, 1950 AIR 27,1950 SCR 88 [8] Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration (1978) 4 SCC 409 [9] Article 32, Fundamental Rights, Part III, The Constitution of India. [10] The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 [11] Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. S.S. Shukla, 1976 SCR 172

~Ridha Dhawan

2nd Year, LL.B.

Punjab University Regional Centre,


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