RIGHT TO FREEDOM (Articles 19-22)

by | Nov 15, 2023

At the heart of the Indian Constitution lies the robust right to freedom, intricately woven into Articles 19 to 22. The right to freedom is a fundamental and inherent entitlement granted to the citizens of India. It is considered one of the essential pillars of democratic governance. The right to freedom encompasses a range of individual liberties and protections designed to ensure the dignity and autonomy of every citizen.

Article 19: Freedom of Speech and Expression

This article guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, allowing citizens the freedom to express their thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs freely.

Case Study: Indian Express vs. Union of India (1985)

In a watershed moment, the Supreme Court vigorously championed the freedom of the press in the Indian Express case, emphasizing its pivotal role in exposing corruption.

Recent Development: Navigating the Landscape of Social Media and Misinformation

As social media’s influence burgeons, the legal landscape grapples with regulating the spread of misinformation and hate speech, presenting a complex interplay with the boundaries of free expression in the digital age.

Article 20: Protection in Respect of Conviction for Offences

Article 20 safeguards individuals against self-incrimination, ensuring that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against oneself.

Case Study: M.P. Sharma vs. Satish Chandra (1954)

This pivotal case laid the foundation for protecting individuals against self-incrimination, asserting the principle that no one can be compelled to act as a witness against oneself.

Recent Development: Pondering Privacy in the Age of Digital Surveillance

Contemporary debates revolve around privacy rights amidst the surge in digital surveillance, exploring how constitutional protections adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of technology.

Article 21: Right to Life and Personal Liberty

Article 21 is often considered the heart of the Indian Constitution, declaring that no person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to a fair and just procedure established by law.

Case Study: Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978)

A landmark case, Maneka Gandhi’s echoes expanded Article 21, asserting that the right to life encompasses the right to live with dignity and emphasizing fair procedures before depriving personal liberty.

Recent Development: Recognizing the Sanctity of Privacy as a Fundamental Right

In a historic pronouncement, the Supreme Court acknowledged the right to privacy as a fundamental right, adding another layer of fortification to personal liberties, particularly in the digital era.

Broad interpretation of Article 21
Aspect Elaboration Case
Basic Provisions Guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.
Expansive Interpretation Interpreted expansively by the courts to encompass a broad range of rights beyond mere survival. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978): The Supreme Court broadened the scope of Article 21, emphasizing that personal liberty is not confined to mere physical restraint but includes a variety of rights.
Positive and Negative Aspects Not only protects against the deprivation of life and personal liberty but also ensures a life of dignity.
Procedure Established by Law Specifies that deprivation must be according to a “procedure established by law,” ensuring fairness and justice. A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950): The court initially took a literal approach but subsequent cases, such as Maneka Gandhi, brought a more expansive interpretation.
Right to Privacy Recognized as an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty. Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2017): The landmark case affirmed the fundamental right to privacy as a part of the right to life and personal liberty.
Preventive Detention Limited the government’s power of preventive detention to prevent misuse against personal liberty. A.K. Roy v. Union of India (1982): The court emphasized the need for procedural safeguards to prevent arbitrary preventive detention.
Right Against Solitary Confinement Courts have held that solitary confinement violates the right to life and personal liberty. Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration (1978): The court laid down guidelines restricting the use of solitary confinement to protect personal liberty.
Right to Livelihood Expanded to include the right to livelihood, emphasizing the right to a dignified life. Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985): The court recognized the right to livelihood as an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty.
Right to Shelter Recognized as a fundamental component of the right to life. Chameli Singh v. State of U.P. (1996): The court emphasized that the right to shelter is a fundamental right flowing from the right to residence and settlement.
Right to Clean Environment Courts have interpreted the right to a clean and healthy environment as part of the right to life. Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar (1991): The court recognized the right to a clean environment as a part of the right to life.
Right to Health Evolved to include the right to health and medical care. Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal (1996): The court acknowledged the right to health and medical care as an integral part of the right to life.
Right to Education Expanded to include the right to education as an essential aspect of a meaningful life. Unni Krishnan, J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993): The court recognized education as a fundamental right under Article 21.
Right to Reputation Upheld the right to reputation as a facet of personal liberty. R. Rajagopal alias R.R. Gopal v. State of T.N. (1994): The court recognized the right to reputation as a part of the right to privacy and personal liberty.
Right to Travel Abroad Courts have recognized the right to travel abroad as part of personal liberty. Satwant Singh Sawhney v. Assistant Passport Officer, Government of India (1967): The court recognized the right to travel abroad as a component of personal liberty.
Exception in the Interest of National Security Allows restrictions on personal liberty in the interest of national security under certain conditions. Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri v. State of Gujarat (2014): The court clarified that restrictions for national security must be narrowly tailored and subject to judicial review.
Compensation for Unlawful Detention Provides for compensation in case of unlawful detention, acknowledging the importance of reparation. Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar (1983): The court emphasized the right to compensation for unlawful detention under Article 21.
Dynamic Interpretation Subject to dynamic interpretation to align with evolving societal norms and needs. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India (1997): The court emphasized that the


Article 21A: Right to Education

This article, inserted by the 86th Constitutional Amendment in 2002, guarantees the right to education as a fundamental right for children aged 6 to 14 years.

Case Study: Unni Krishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993)

This case underscored the profound significance of education as a fundamental right, setting the stage for the subsequent insertion of Article 21A into the Constitution.

Recent Development: Confronting Challenges in the Digital Education Landscape

Modern challenges encompass ensuring the right to education in the digital realm, with a focus on addressing disparities amplified by the shift to online learning.

Article 22: Protection against Arrest and Detention

Article 22 provides protection to individuals against arrest and detention, laying down specific safeguards such as the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest and the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner.

Case Study: A.K. Gopalan vs. State of Madras (1950)

This foundational case paved the way for interpreting Article 22, ensuring safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention, emphasising the importance of due process.

Recent Development: Balancing National Security Imperatives and Individual Liberties

In contemporary legal discourse, the focus is on striking a delicate balance between national security imperatives and safeguarding individual rights, particularly in cases of preventive detention.


In essence, the right to freedom in the Indian Constitution is a comprehensive set of rights aimed at empowering citizens to participate actively in the democratic process, ensuring their personal liberties are protected, and fostering a society built on principles of justice, equality, and individual autonomy. These rights are subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality. The Constitution seeks to strike a delicate balance between individual freedoms and the larger interests of society.

Also read: Right To Equality

Written By Vishakha Khatri

My name is Vishakha Khatri. I am an engineering graduate and a civil service aspirant with a passion for spreading knowledge about Indian polity. I believe that understanding our political system is crucial for every citizen, and I am committed to making this information accessible to everyone in my own easy way. Through my experiences in civil service preparation and my unique perspective as an engineering graduate, I hope to inspire and educate others on the importance of Indian polity.

Related Posts



Articles 168 to 177 of the Indian Constitution delineate the essential framework governing state legislatures, ensuring representation and accountability in...