Introduction

The case of Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India is considered as a landmark judgement due to its significant role towards the transformation of the judicial view on Article 21 of the Constitution of India that further let to the implication of many more fundamental rights from article 21.

This case is always read and linked with the A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras case, because it revolves around the concept of “personal liberty”, that first came up for consideration in the A.K. Gopalan’s case.

Facts of the Case

On 4th July 1977, Smt. Maneka Gandhi received a letter from the Regional Passport Office, Delhi, asking her to submit her passport within seven days from the day when she had received the letter, i.e. before 11th July 1977. The letter stated that it had been the decision of the Government of India to impound her passport under Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act 1967. The grounds for such an impounding, as told to her, were “public interest.”

Smt. Maneka Gandhi immediately sent a letter to the Regional Passport Officer, inquiring about the grounds on which her passport had been impounded. She also requested him to provide a copy of the ‘Statement of Reasons’ for making of such an order. The reply sent by the Ministry of External Affairs was that it was the decision of the Government of India to impound the passport in the interest of the public. Also, there were orders to not issue her a copy of the Statement of Reasons. Smt. Maneka Gandhi thus filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the Government of India as violating her fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution with regards to the matter.

Issues Raised

The issues raised in this case were:

  1. Whether right to go abroad is a part of right to personal liberty under Article 21.
  2. Whether the Passport Act prescribes a ‘procedure’ as required by Article 21 before depriving a person from the right guaranteed under the said article.
  3. Whether section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act is violative of Article 14,19(1) (a) and 21 of the constitution.
  4. Whether the impugned order of the Regional passport officer is in contravention of the principle of natural justice.

Judgement of the case

It was held that that:

  1. Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, 1967 which authorises the passport authority to impound a passport “in the interest of the general public”, violates Article 14 of the Constitution since it grants vague and undefined power on the passport authority.
  2. Section 10(3)(c) is void as conferring an arbitrary power since it does not provide for a hearing to the holder of the passport before the passport is impounded.
  3. Section 10(3)(c) violates Article 21 of the Constitution since it does not prescribe ‘procedure’ within the meaning of that article and the procedure practiced is worst.
  4. Section 10(3)(c) is against Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) since it permits restrictions to be imposed on the rights guaranteed by these articles even though such restrictions cannot be imposed under articles 19(2) and 19(6).
  5. Also, a new doctrine of post decisional theory was evolved.

The Court, however, refrained from passing any formal answer on the matter, and ruled that the passport would remain with the authorities till they deem fit.

Conclusion

Thus, Maneka Gandhi’s case gave the term ‘personal liberty’ the widest possible interpretation and an effect to the intention of the drafters of the Constitution. This case, while adding a whole new dimension to the concept of ‘personal liberty’, extended the protection of Article 14 to the personal liberty of every person and additional protection of Article 19 to the personal liberty of every citizen of India.

 

 

References
  1. A.K. Gopalan v. The State, (1950) S.C.R. 88, (‘50) A.S.C. 27
  2. Article 21 of Constitution of India
  3. Article 19 of Constitution of India
  4. Article 32 of Constitution of India
  5. Passport Act, 1967