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Right to Freedom under Article 19

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees several fundamental freedoms to its citizens, essential for a vibrant democracy. These freedoms include the right to free speech and expression, the freedom of assembly, the right to form associations or unions, the right to move freely throughout the territory of India, and the freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country and the freedom to practice any profession, trade, or occupation.

Freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) encompasses the right to express opinions through various means, including written works, verbal communication, gestures, and signs. This includes the freedom of the press, which enables journalists to report news and information without prior censorship or interference from the government. The press also enjoys the freedom to publish information and circulate publications without additional taxes or restrictions, ensuring the dissemination of diverse viewpoints and news to the public. However, these freedoms are subject to certain restrictions outlined in Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, which may be imposed in the interest of protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, security of the State, maintaining foreign relations, in the interest of public order, decency, morality, or to prevent defamation, contempt of court, or incitement to an offense.

Article 19(1)(b) provides for the freedom of assembly which allows citizens to holding assemblies to disseminate ideas and educate the public. This freedom allows citizens to peacefully gather and protest, but such gatherings must not take place on government property or private residences. Meetings or demonstrations can be held in public places such as parks or designated areas. According to Article 19(3), this freedom can be restricted for ensuring that public order and sovereignty and integrity of the nation are maintained.

Additionally, individuals have the right to form or join associations, union, or co-operations under Article 19(1)(c) to pursue common goals or interests, which could be for the welfare of its members, the broader public, or for purposes such as scientific research, charitable activities, or other endeavours. This includes the freedom to withdraw from or dissolve associations, providing individuals with autonomy in their affiliations. However, these freedoms may be restricted under Article 19(4) by the state to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the nation and public order or morality, ensuring that associations do not engage in activities detrimental to society.

Citizens have the freedom to move and settle anywhere within India under Articles 19(1)(d) and 19(1)(e), facilitating mobility and integration within the country. Nevertheless, these freedoms may be curtailed by the state in the interest of the general public or protection of scheduled tribes as mentioned under Article 19(5).

Freedom of trade and profession grants individuals the liberty to choose and pursue any occupation, trade, or business of their choice under Article 19(1)(g). For instance, a person may choose to become a doctor, lawyer, or entrepreneur based on their interests and skills. However, reasonable restrictions can be imposed as under Article 19(6), such as obtaining professional qualifications or licenses, to ensure that general interest of the public are considered.

Right to Life and Personal Liberty

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, encompassing a broad spectrum of rights that enhance the quality of life and standard of living for all individuals. Beyond safeguarding mere existence, this fundamental right extends to include aspects such as privacy, autonomy, and identity. It encompasses access to essential amenities like electricity, food, water, and shelter, ensuring a dignified quality of life for individuals. Moreover, Article 21 protects against practices that degrade human dignity, such as solitary confinement and delayed justice. It also upholds the right to a healthy environment and access to healthcare and medical aid, reinforcing the holistic well-being of individuals.

Over the years, the judiciary has played a pivotal role in expanding the scope of Article 21 by reading additional rights into it. This judicial activism has led to significant advancements in safeguarding individual liberties and promoting social justice. The courts have interpreted privacy rights to bring about greater autonomy and respect for personal choices, emphasising the importance of an individual’s right to self-determination and identity. However, it’s crucial to note that the right to life under Article 21 does not include the right to die.

While Article 21 guarantees certain fundamental rights, it also acknowledges that these rights may be subject to restrictions under specific circumstances. These restrictions must be imposed through a legally established procedure, that is just, fair and reasonable in nature, thereby ensuring accountability and preventing arbitrary actions by the state. The state must justify these restrictions as necessary and proportionate, balancing the collective welfare with individual rights Certain rights, such as the right to life itself, cannot be restricted even during emergencies, as they form the core of human dignity and existence. Thus, Article 21 serves as a crucial safeguard against state overreach, ensuring the protection of essential freedoms while upholding the principles of justice and equality.

The Golden Triangle

Articles 14, 19, and 21 collectively constitute the “golden triangle” of the Indian Constitution, embodying the fundamental principles of justice, liberty, and equality. When there is a breach of Article 21, resulting in an individual’s liberty being compromised due to arbitrary state action, Article 14 also becomes relevant as it signifies the infringement of the right to equality. For instance, if an individual is denied accommodation solely based on their marital status, it violates their personal liberty and right to equality, as there is no justifiable reason for the denial. Additionally, it curtails their freedom to settle and reside anywhere within the country. This interconnectedness of rights was emphasised in the landmark case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, where it was established that a violation of rights under any one of Articles 14, 19, or 21 often leads to the infringement of rights under the other two articles. Consequently, these articles collectively ensure a more comprehensive realisation of individual rights.

Right to Education

The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 introduced Article 21A into the Indian Constitution, popularly known as the Right to Education. This amendment sought to elevate education to the status of a fundamental right for children aged 6 to 14 years, guaranteeing them free and compulsory education. The primary objective behind this amendment was to rectify existing disparities in educational access, with a specific focus on marginalised and underprivileged segments of the population. By recognising the Right to Education as a fundamental right, the amendment aimed to eliminate obstacles such as poverty and social status that hindered equitable access to education.

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