Article 15, 19, 21 of Indian Constitution

Article 15, 19, 21 of Indian Constitution – 

Article 15; prohibits discrimination by the state against any citizen on grounds ‘only’ of caste, religion, sex, race, and place of birth. Fundamental rights are provided to every citizen of the country without any discrimination.

Article 15 restricts discrimination on the ground of:

  • Religion – It means that no person should be discriminated on the basis of religion from accessing any public place or policy by the state or any group.
  • Race – Ethnic origin should not form a basis of discrimination. For example, a citizen of Afghan origin should not be discriminated from those of an Indian origin.
  • Caste – Discrimination on the basis of caste is also prohibited to prevent atrocities on the lower castes by the upper caste.
  • Sex – Gender of an individual shall not be a valid ground for discrimination in any matter. For example, discriminating transgenders, females, etc.
  • Place of birth – A place where an individual is born should not become a reason for discriminating among other members of the country.

Fundamental Rights are guaranteed to all persons by the constitution of India without any discrimination of caste, religion, sex etc. These rights entitle an individual to live life with dignity. Fundamental Rights are meant for promoting the idea of democracy.

Originally the constitution provided 7 Fundamental Rights but as of now, there are just 6 Fundamental Rights in force. They are;

1. Rights to equality (Article 14-18)

2. Rights to freedom (Article 19-22)

3. Right against exploitation (Article 23-24)

4. Right to freedom of religion (Article 25-28)

5. Cultural and educational rights (Article 29-30)

6. Rights to constitutional remedies (Article 32)

Features and Provisions of article 15 are;


Article 15 states that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of race, religion, caste, sex, and place of birth.

The world “discrimination” refers to make adverse distinctions with regard to or to distinguish un-favourable from others while the term ‘only’ means that discrimination can be done on the basis of other grounds.

Article 19 –

The constitution of India provides six fundamental freedom rights under article 19.

Article 19 is covered under part three of the constitution.

All the six rights covered under article 19 deals with providing freedom to the citizens of India which can only be curtailed by order of state in case of emergency or on the basis of grounds mentioned in clause (2) of this article.

Earlier there were 7 freedom rights covered under article 19 but by the 44th amendment the Right to Hold and Dispose Property

earlier included in clause 1 sub clause f of article 19 was deleted and included in article 300A and now this right is no more a fundamental right it has now become an ordinary right.

There are six clauses in article 19 the first one{19(1)} deals with the important freedom rights and {19(2)-19(6)} deals with tests for restrictions imposed on freedom.

The six freedom rights covered under article 19(1) are:

  • 19(1)(a)
    Right to freedom of speech and expression
  • 19(1)(b)
    Right to assemble peacefully without arms
  • 19(1)(c)
    Freedom to form associations
  • 19(1)(d)
    Right to move freely in territory of India
  • 19(1)(e)
    Right to settle in territory of India
  • 19(1)(g)
    Freedom of trade and profession


Article 21 secures two rights:

1)  Right to life, and

2) Right to personal liberty.

It prohibits the deprivation of the above rights except according to a procedure established by law. Article 21 corresponds to the Magna Carta of 1215, the Fifth Amendment to the American Constitution, Article 40(4) of Eire 1937, and Article XXXI of the Constitution of Japan, 1946.

It is also fundamental to democracy as it extends to natural persons and not just citizens.

The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right. It, however, does not entitle a foreigner to the right to reside and settle in India, as mentioned in Article 19 (1) (e).

This Article is an all tell for Article 21.

The first part will understand the meaning and concept of ‘right to life’ as understood by the judiciary. Further, the piece will lay out how several violations of the body, reputation and equality have been understood and brought under the purview of the right to life and the right to live with dignity.

Meaning, Concept And Interpretation Of ‘Right To Life’ Under Article 21

‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.’

The right to life is undoubtedly the most fundamental of all rights. All other rights add quality to the life in question and depend on the pre-existence of life itself for their operation. As human rights can only attach to living beings, one might expect the right to life itself to be in some sense primary since none of the other rights would have any value or utility without it. There would have been no Fundamental Rights worth mentioning if Article 21 had been interpreted in its original sense. This Section will examine the right to life as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court of India.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 provides,

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not merely the physical act of breathing. It does not connote mere animal existence or continued drudgery through life. It has a much wider, including, including the right to live with human dignity, Right to livelihood, Right to health, Right to pollution-free air, etc.

The right to life is fundamental to our very existence, without which we cannot live as human beings and includes all those aspects of life, which make a man’s life meaningful, complete, and worth living. It is the only Article in the Constitution that has received the broadest possible interpretation. Thus, the bare necessities, minimum and basic requirements for a person from the core concept of the right to life.

In Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh the Supreme Court quoted and held:

By the term ‘life’ as here used, something more is meant than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by amputation of an armored leg or the pulling out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.

In Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, the Supreme Court approved the above observations. It held that the ‘right to life’ included the right to lead a healthy life to enjoy all faculties of the human body in their prime conditions. It would even include the right to protect a person’s tradition, culture, heritage and all that gives meaning to a man’s life. In addition, it consists of the Right to live and sleep in peace and the Right to repose and health.

Right To Live with Human Dignity

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the Supreme Court gave a new dimension to Art. 21. The Court held that the right to live is not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity. Elaborating the same view, the Court in Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi observed:

“The right to live includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, viz., the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head and facilities for reading writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and mingling with fellow human beings and must include the right to basic necessities the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry on functions and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of human self.”

Another broad formulation of life to dignity is found in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India. Characterising Art. 21 as the heart of fundamental rights, the Court gave it an expanded interpretation. Bhagwati J. observed:

“It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country… to live with human dignity free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42 and at the least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

“These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity and no State neither the Central Government nor any State Government-has the right to take any action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials.”

Following the above-stated cases, the Supreme Court in Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, held that non-payment of minimum wages to the workers employed in various Asiad Projects in Delhi was a denial to them of their right to live with basic human dignity and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

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