Right to Life under Indian Constitution

The foundation of civilized human life has always been human rights. They are unalienable, universal, sacrosanct, and inviolable. They guard the sacredness of human life. The right to life is one of these rights that is most important. Nobody’s life or personal freedom can be taken away from them without following the legal requirements, according to the right to life. The right to life and personal freedom is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It contains three crucial components: life, liberty, and dignity. As judicial activism and concern for human rights have increased over time, the meaning of Article 21 has been widened to encompass a range of other factors that make human beings


The history of the evolution of human rights and the history of the right to life are intertwined. The Tablet of Hammurabi contains the earliest official enumeration of human rights. It was created by Sumerian King Hammurabi 4000 years ago and served as a legally binding document that shielded individuals from harassment and punishment that was arbitrary and unjust. With the advent of the natural school of law, “human rights” in Greece came to be equated with “natural rights.” Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato held the view that nature represented the divine will that guided the law. With the advent of positive law, which gave human rights a positivist spin, a new conception of human rights emerged. controlled by the sovereign will. Ancient Indian writings like the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata contain the ideas of life and individual independence as well.

Fundamental rights were first formally demanded during the British era. The rights of Indian citizens were entirely disregarded as the British only enacted rules that benefited them. To suppress anti-British activities and emotions, various laws that unjustly violated Indians’ rights to life and personal liberty were introduced. As a result, between 1917 and 1919, the Indian National Congress voted a number of resolutions calling for the passage of a Fundamental Rights Bill. Nobody “should be deprived of his liberty, sequestered or confiscated, unless in accordance with the law,” according to the Nehru Report of 1928. All Indian citizens received some fundamental rights, including the right to life and personal liberty, with the adoption of the Indian Constitution in 1950.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution covers the arena of protection of human life and liberty. It prescribes that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”

Article 21 gives everyone the right to life and personal liberty, which cannot be infringed upon even by the state, save where necessary to uphold the law and avoid harm to or loss of life. As a result, Justice Iyer called it, appropriately, the “procedural Magna Carta protective of life and liberty.” The right to life is guaranteed in this article to both citizens of our nation and foreigners, which is its most striking aspect. As a result, anyone can ask for protection under Article 21 in India. Article 21 can only be used against the state and not against private parties, though. Anyone whose rights under Article 21 have been violated may file a complaint with the Supreme Court under Article 32 or with any High Court under Article 226.

Meaning To Right to Life

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses a person’s rights to life, liberty, and security. Additionally, every human person has the inherent right to life, according to Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. No one’s life should be taken arbitrarily, and this right should be safeguarded by the law. The right to life is also firmly enshrined in the legal systems of numerous nations worldwide.

The most fundamental of all other rights is the right to live. Fundamentally, this right is to defend against the state’s wrongful deprivation of human life. It states that no one may be deprived of their life unless it is required by law.

The right to life has been given a fairly broad definition in India. According to Article 21 and the court’s interpretations, breathing is not the only physical activity that constitutes “life.” It encompasses a variety of different things in addition to just animal life. It encompasses a number of comparable rights, such as the right to privacy, the right to health, and the right to a decent standard of living. Without a question, of all the other essential rights, it is the most important. Being the most important of all rights, it serves as the foundation for all others.

The right to life is fundamental to who we are as people. This is due to the fact that without access to all other linked aspects, such as health, liberty, and safety, which make life worthwhile and complete, we cannot fully thrive as humans. As a result, it covers the bare minimal requirements that must be provided to every person in order for them to live fully and enjoy this life to the fullest.

Case laws

Murli S. Deora v. Union of India

The Supreme Court ruled that passive smokers’ right to life is violated when they smoke in public settings. The Supreme Court, seeing the gravity of the situation and the harmful effects of smoking on smokers and passive smokers, issued an order prohibiting smoking in public areas.

The right to life, as guaranteed by Article 21, “cannot be reduced to simple animal existence and goes beyond only physical survival,” as stated in Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi (1981). The right to life also encompasses the freedom to move around and interact freely with other people as well as the basic essentials of life, such as appropriate nutrition, clothes, and shelter. It also includes the right to live in dignity and everything that goes along with it.

Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab

This created the “rarest of the rare” cases doctrine (1980). It was determined that when carried out in line with the just, fair, and reasonable process provided by a legal statute, the death penalty did not violate the right to life under Article 21. Additionally, it was noted that the death penalty should only be applied in the most extreme circumstances to prevent the execution of innocent people.


The right to life is one of the most important human rights since it protects not only one’s life and liberty but also other aspects of life that make living valuable, such as livelihood, dignity, shelter, privacy, and health. It is not unassailable and is subject to the legal process’ ability to be restricted. However, it has been affirmed by the courts that in addition to the procedure being lawful, it should also be reasonable and based on a law that is both valid and just. India’s judiciary has given Article 21’s protection of the right to life and personal dignity a broad interpretation. Additionally, it is accessible in other nations and is protected by international law.


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