English Articles

MANEKA GANDHI VS. UNION OF INDIA (1978)

This Article is written by Nashita Nazneen. A, a student of B. S. Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science and Technology Crescent School of Law.

INTRODUCTION

Many Supreme Court judgments have changed the face of Indian polity. The Maneka Gandhi case was conveyed on 25th January 1978 and it adjusted the scene of the Indian Constitution.The judgment widened the scope of Article 21 immensely and the goal of making India a welfare State as assured in the Preamble was successfully reached.

The landmark judgment of Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India stands as the bedrock of the right of personal liberty granted by Article 21of the Constitution. It was a unanimous decision by a seven-judge bench of the Apex Court.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The petitioner was a journalist by profession. Her passport was issued on the 1st June 1976 as per the Passport Act, 1967 hereinafter referred to as “Act”. By an Order dated 2nd July 1977, the petitioner’s passport was impounded by the Regional Passport Office, New Delhi. The surrender of the passport was ordered for the reasons of public interest.

The petitioner sought a Statement of Reasons justifying the act of the Government of India. The same was not provided.  Due to which the petitioner found this decision to be arbitrary and unilateral on part of Ministry of External Affairs.

The petitioner approached the Supreme Court invoking its writ jurisdiction, filing a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the Order on the ground that it violated Article 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.

The respondent in the counter-affidavit stated that the petitioner’s passport was impounded because her presence was likely to be required in the ongoing proceedings before an inquiry commission.

ISSUES AT PRESENT

  1. Whether the Fundamental Rights are absolute or conditional in nature.
  2. Extend of territorial jurisdiction of the Fundamental Rights.
  3. Whether the“right to travel abroad” is protected within the purview of Article 21 of the Constitution.
  4. Whether the provision laid down in Section 10(3) (c) of the Passport Act, 1967 is violative of Fundamental Rights and if it is, whether such legislation is a concrete law.

ARGUMENTS

Petitioner Contention:

  1. The ‘Right to Travel Abroad’ comes within the purview of Article 21, provided under ‘personal liberty’ and no citizen can be deprived of this right except according to the procedure established by law.
  2. The Act does not prescribe any procedure for confiscating or revoking or impounding a valid passport. Therefore, it is unreasonable and arbitrary.
  3. The Central Government acted in violation of Article 14 by not giving an opportunity to be heard.
  4. Any procedure established by law is required to be free of arbitrariness and must comply with the principles of natural justice.
  5. To upkeep the intention of the Constituent Assembly and to give effect to the spirit of our constitution, Fundamental Rights should be read in consonance with each other and in this case, Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India must be perused together. They must be read together and aren’t mutually exclusive.
  6. A basic constituent of Natural Justice is “Audi Alteram Partem” i.e., to be heard, was not conceded to the petitioner.
  7. The Act violates the ‘Right to Life and Liberty’. The petitioner was restrained from traveling abroad by righteousness of the provision in Section 10(3) (c) of the Act.

Respondent Contention:

  1. The Attorney argued that the ‘Right to Travel Abroad’ was never covered under any clauses of Article 19(1) and hence, Article 19 is independent of the sensibility of the activities taken by the Central Government.The Act was not made to infringe the Fundamental Rights in any manner.
  2. The Government should not be compelled to state its grounds for seizing or impounding someone’s passport for the public good and national safety. Therefore, the law should not be struck down even if it overruled Article 19.
  3. The principles of natural justice are vague and ambiguous. Therefore, the Constitution should not refer to the same.
  4. Article 21 is very wide and it also contains in itself, the provisions of Articles 14 & 19.Nonetheless, any law will be unconstitutional to Article 21 when it straightforwardly encroaches on Article 14 and 19. Consequently, the Act is constitutional.

JUDGMENT

RATIO DECIDENDI OF THE CASE –

Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, 1967 is not violative of Article 14, 19, 21 of the Indian Constitution

Section 10(3) (c) of the Passport Act, 1967 provides that the passport authorities may impound or revoke a passport in furtherance with interests of sovereignty and integrity of the nation, its security, its friendly relations with foreign countries, or for the interests of the general public.

Section 10(3)(c) of the Act is not violative of any fundamental rights, especially Article 14. In the current case, the petitioner isn’t segregated in any way under Article 14 on the grounds that the statute provided unrestricted authorities.The ground of “in the interests of the general public” is not vague and undefined, rather it is protected by certain guidelines thatare similar to the restrictions under Article 19. The terms used are not vague or undefined.

E.P Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu & Another [(1974) 2 SCR 348], judgment was applied to further justify their opinions. Article 14 is to be given the widest conceivable interpretation, which incorporates reasonableness and arbitrariness of certain provisions.

Section 10(3) (c) not violative of Article 19(1) (a) and Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution –

Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution deals with the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to all citizens of the country. Article 19(1) (g), on the other hand, deals with the freedom to carry out any trade and profession. The petitioner had alleged that the order to impound her passport violates these two Fundamental Rights. She affirmed that the freedom of speech and expression also articulates within its ambit the right to travel abroad to communicate with people of other nations. Thus according to her, the activity of exchange of ideas and to be able to converse with the people of other nations must be available outside India as well. Now since she had been denied the right to travel due to the impounding of her passport, she alleges that her right to freedom of speech and expression had been infringed. In a similar way, she said that since she was a journalist, it was part of her profession to travel to different states and nations, to cover news issues. Thus, by denying her the opportunity to travel abroad, the passport authorities had violated Article 19(1) (g).

The Apex Court held that even though the above-mentioned contentions were correct and that such an Order wouldamount to violations of Article 19(1) (a) and 19(1) (g), however, there was no proof that the petitioner was scheduled to travel on an official tour at the time the impugned order was passed leading to impoundment. In the same manner, there was nothing to prove that the petitioner was traveling to deliver speech among other things. Thus, this argument was rejected.

However, the Court went on to clarify that if in the future if the government denied such rights, it would lead to infringement.

Section 10(3) (c) not violative of Article 21 of the Constitution –

It has been specially mentioned in the provisions of Section 10(3) (c) that the passport authorities may impound or revoke a passport in furtherance with interests of sovereignty and integrity of the nation, its security, its friendly relations with foreign countries, or for the interests of the general public.

As the passport was impounded due to the interests of the general public this action of impoundment does not violate Article 21.

It was held true that her fundamental right had been disregarded, but it was in the interest of the general public. The Court has received a liberal understanding of Article 21 for the situation and extended its ambit.

There are certain rights related to human values that are protected by Fundamental Rights even if they are not explicitly written in the Constitution. These are pronounced by various landmark judgments. Similarly, the right to go abroad is not a part of the Right to Free Speech and Expression as both have different natures and characters.

OBITER DICTA OF THE CASE

  1. Freedom of Speech and Expression – Boundary

The Court opined that the right to freedom of speech and expression was limitless including to the persons not in the Indian Territory. The Court held that it would have been expressly mentioned if the rights were bound of territories. However, since no such words had been added at the end of this provision, the Court felt that it was obligated to give it the most stretched out translation conceivable.

  1. All violations and a procedural requirement under Article 21 must satisfy the test of Article 14 and Article 19

The Fundamental Rights are not distinct and are mutually exclusive rights. Also, with respect to the relationship between Article 19 and Article 21, the Court held that Article 21 is controlled by Article 19, i.e., it must satisfy the requirement of Article 19.

Therefore, a law depriving a person of personal liberty has to stand firm to the test of Article 21, 19, and 14. The phrase used in Article 21 is “procedure established by law” instead of “due process of law” which is said to have procedures that are free from arbitrariness and irrationality.

A.K Gopala’s case was overruled by stating that there is a unique relationship between the provisions of Articles 14, 19 & 21 and every law must pass the tests of each provision. The majority held that these provisions are mutually exclusive. Overruling this decision, in theManeka Gandhi case, it was held that these provisions are not mutually exclusive and are dependent on each other.

The Court, nonetheless, shunned from passing any formal answer on the issue and decided that the passport would remain with the authorities till they deem fit.

ANALYSIS

By providing a liberal interpretation to this case, the courts had set a benchmark for coming generations to seek their basic rights whether or not explicitly mentioned under Part III of the Constitution.Due to the interpretation power granted to the Courts, they have successfully interpreted socio-economic and cultural rights under the umbrella of Article 21.

The principles of natural justice play a very crucial role in deciding a case. The principle of “Audi AlteramPartam” must be applied to both judicial and quasi-judicial functions. Under both Article 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court and High court will respectively deal with matters of denial of statutory right affecting personal liberty will be considered.

REFERENCES

  1. K Gopalan vs. State of Madras AIR 1950 SC 27
  2. P Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu & Another (1974) 2 SCR 348
  3. Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978) 1 SCC 248
  4. Maneka Gandhi Case – Important SC Judgment for UPSC – Byju’s; https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/maneka-gandhi-case-1978-sc-judgements/
  5. Saakshi Sharma, A case Analysis: of the Maneka Gandhi Case, July 26, 2016; https://www.lawfarm.in/blogs/a-case-analysis-of-the-maneka-gandhi-case
  6. Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D RamarathnamAIR 1976 SC 1836