The Ever-expanding Horizon of Fundamental Rights in India
The Indian Constitution guarantees a set of fundamental rights to its citizen and people in general. There’s a huge pool of rights guaranteed to us by our constitution. Almost all of us must have come across the right guaranteed to us via Article 21 which confers ‘Right to life and personal liberty’ to every person. What we are unaware of, is the expanding horizon of the rights guaranteed as a part of ‘right to life and personal liberty’. Let us have a look at some of the rights which are guaranteed to us under the ambit of Article 21.
Right to Reputation
Man being a social animal always strives for reputation, it being one of the most important elements of a man’s life. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution was interpreted in a way to include in its ambit, ‘right to reputation’ in the Kiran Bedi’s case. In the case of Sukhwant Singh v. State of Punjab, it was held that reputation of a person is his personal asset and therefore, has to be protected under Article 21.
Right to Livelihood
Article 21 provides every person a right to live with dignity and thus, practice any profession and earn a livelihood. But, this in no way means that the state can be held liable or accountable for not being able to provide a livelihood to its people. In the case of Olga Tellis v. State of Bombay, while acknowledging the rights of the street hawkers and pavement dwellers, the court held that ‘right to livelihood’ forms a part of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.
Right to Shelter
This right has been guaranteed under Article 21, right to life read with Article 19(1)(e), right to residence of the Constitution of India. To make the right meaningful for the poor, the state has to provide facilities to them to build houses. In the case of Shantistar Builders v. Narayan Khimalal Totame, it was held that the shelter needs of the humans and animals are different and has to be kept in view thus, right to shelter shall form a part of right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Right to life does not mean merely living but means to lead a life with dignity. The question that arises is whether there is a right conferred on a person to end his own life? A similar question arose in the court in the case of Common cause v. Union of India where the court allowed passive euthanasia permitting patients to withdraw medical support. This may only be done with the court’s permission in the cases where the patient slips into irreversible state of coma. The court thus held that ‘right to life’ shall include ‘right to die with dignity’.
Right to Sleep
Yes, you read it right. Right to sleep is guaranteed to be a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court, in the Ramlila Maidan case, held that sleep is essential for a healthy human body and therefore ‘right to sleep’ forms a part of the fundamental rights. However, reasonable regulation on the time, place and manner of the act of sleeping may be imposed. So, you cannot sleep during classes or office meetings and claim right to sleep.
Right to a Clean Environment
Right to life also includes right to live in an environment which is clean and safe. Maintenance of health and preservation of sanitation and environment shall form a part of this fundamental right which falls within the ambit of Article 21. A number of cases such as M.C Mehta v. Union of India, Murli S. Deora v. Union of India etc. have reiterated that ‘right to clean environment’ forms a part of ‘right to life'.
Right to Travel Abroad
This fundamental right came into force after the Supreme Court acknowledged it in the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. Assistant Passport Officer, New Delhi but, it gained popularity only after the very famous case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India. The court in these two cases held that, ‘right to travel abroad’ forms a part of ‘personal liberty’ guaranteed under Artcle 21 of the Constitution.
Right against Public Hanging
The Rajasthan High court ordered the hanging of an accused from a case in the Stadium ground of Jaipur with widespread media publicity. The Supreme court, however, in the case of Attorney General of India v. Lacha Devi, held that the decision of the High Court of Rajasthan was unconstitutional and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. The SC issued that a barbaric crime should not have to be visited with a barbaric penalty” and it would be a shame on the civilized society to give such a punishment to the guilty.