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Violation Of Right To Equality In India Case Study

A Case Analysis: Of the Maneka Gandhi Case

By Saakshi Sharma July 26, 2016


On the 4th of July, 1977, Smt. Maneka Gandhi received a letter from the Regional Passport Office, Delhi, asking her to submit her passport (No. K-869668) within seven days from the day on which she had received such 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, was “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 general public. Also, there were orders to not issue her a copy of the Statement of Reasons. Smt. Maneka Gandhi thus filed a petition with regards to the matter.



It was held that Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act confers vague and undefined power on the passport authorities, it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution since it doesn’t provide for an opportunity for the aggrieved party to be heard. It was also held violative of Article 21 since it does not affirm to the word “procedure” as mentioned in the clause, and the present procedure performed was the worst possible one. 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.


Ratio Decidendi is commonly defined as the reasons for the judgement. It basically refers to the material part of the judgement without which the judge would have been unable to reach to the present conclusion of the case.

Before stating the ratio of the case and the reasons for the same, let’s first look at Section 10(3)(c) of the Passports Act  1967 – “if the passport authority deems it necessary so to do in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public;”

Following is the ratio of the case, with an analysis of the same –

  1. Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act is violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution –

Article 14 of the Constitution talks about equality before law. This provision is absolutely against arbitrariness or vagueness of any sort as far as the actions of the executive are concerned. Section 10(3)(c) of the Passports Act confers unlimited powers on the passport authorities. Since it is vague in its wordings, the application of such a provision has not been very clearly defined in the Act. Thus, this leaves a lot of scope for the executive to interpret it in whichever way they want, and hence get away with a lot of actions under the guise of varied interpretation.

The provision also leads to arbitrariness in the actions of the executive. The arbitrariness comes from the fact that it is completely in the hands of the passport authorities to decide whether or not, and how to proceed in a particular case. The words ‘deems it necessary’ give the passport authorities complete freedom to act in whichever manner they want, and in whichever cases they want. Thus there is no uniformity or reasonableness in the actions of the passport authorities, and their actions could differ from case to case.

E.P Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu & Another,[1974] 2 SCR 348, was the judgement applied by the Supreme Court to further justify their views. It was held in this case that Article 14 is one of the pillars of the Indian Constitution and hence cannot be bound by a narrow and inflexible interpretation. Article 14 should thus be given the widest interpretation possible, which also includes reasonableness and arbitrariness of certain provisions of the legislations.

Based on these observations the Court held Section 10(3)(c) of The Passport Act violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.


  1. Violation of the Principle of Natural Justice: The Audi AlteramPartem Rule –

The audialterampartem rule is one of the three principles of natural justice, and forms an important part in defining the constitutionality and fairness of any procedure. The literal translation of audialterampartem is “hear the other side”. In a layman’s language it basically means that both the sides should be given the opportunity to present their case before a decision is formulated for the case. In the present case, Maneka Gandhi was denied reasons for the impounding of her passport, which is unfair since every person has the right to know the grounds on which any executive action is being taken against him/her. Also, she was never given a chance to present her own case before the authorities.

The principle of audialterampartem requires that before the final order for the impounding of her passport was passed, Smt. Maneka Gandhi should have been given a chance to approach the authorities and to bring to light her part of the story so that the order for impounding of the passport would have been just. There is always the possibility of arriving at a one sided conclusion when only one party has been heard and the other is denied that opportunity. Thus to keep the orders completely objective and free from bias, it is absolutely imperative that both parties to a situation must be given a chance to put forward their side of the story.

In the present case, during the Court proceedings itself, the passport authorities ultimately ceded to the fact that they had been wrong in not providing Smt. Maneka Gandhi a chance to present her case. Thus, they ultimately agreed to withhold the order and give her a chance to present her case before the concerned authorities. But what is important to note is that the authorities had been held wrong in the first place, and only to mitigate the blame had they accepted to let her present her case. The final change of events prevented them from being held liable. Otherwise, they were definitely in the wrong and even the Court had held that their action had been arbitrary and contrary to the principles of natural justice.

  1. 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 talks about the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to all citizens of the country. Article 19(1)(g), on the other hand, talks about freedom to carry out any trade and profession. Smt. Maneka Gandhi had alleged that the order to impound her passport also violates these two rights of hers. She alleged that the freedom of speech and expression also includes in its ambit the right to travel abroad to express oneself among the people of other nations. Thus according to her, the freedom of speech and expression also included the right to go abroad to mingle with people, to carry out an exchange of ideas, to be able to converse with the people of other nations, and thus to be able to freely speak and express oneself outside India as well. Now since she had been denied the right to travel out of India due to the impounding of her passport, she alleged that her right to freedom of speech and expression had been violated. The same way, she said that since she was a journalist, it was part of her profession to travel to different parts of the world, to cover news issues. Thus by denying her the opportunity to travel abroad, the passport authorities had violated her right of trade and profession.

It was held by the Court that even though the above mentioned contentions were correct and that such an order would in fact amount to violations of Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g), there was nothing to prove that Ms. Gandhi was scheduled to travel on an official tour at the time the impugned order was passed and her passport was impounded. Neither was there anything to prove that she had some earnest need to travel abroad towards realization of her right of expression under article 19(1), for eg. Public speaking, dancing, literature, art, etc.Thus this argument was rejected and the order was not held to be violative of Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g).

However, the Court did go on to clarify that if at any point of time in the future she was denied her passport from the government when sheneeded or wanted to travel abroad to exercise either of the two rights under 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) and the government denied such rights it would be considered to be an infringement of these two fundamental rights.


  1. The order is violative of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

In the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v D. Ramarathnam, Assistant Passport Officer, Government of India, New Delhi & Ors, the Supreme Court held by a majority judgement that the expression 'personal liberty' in Article 21 takes in the right of locomotion and travel abroad, and under Article 21 no person can be deprived of his right to go abroad except according to the procedure established by law. This decision was accepted by the Parliament and the infirmity pointed out by it was set right by the enactment of the Passports Act, 1967.

Keeping in mind this right, Smt. Maneka Gandhi alleged that her right to travel abroad had been violated by the passport authorities. Also, the clause talking about ‘procedure established by law’ was contended in that the procedure adopted in this case was arbitrary and unfair. Maneka Gandhi contested that the procedure in this particular case was violative of the audialterampartemrule; it was arbitrary in that she was denied the statement of reasons for the impounding of her passport; and it was also violative of her fundamental rights because she was being denied the right to travel abroad under Article 21, without being given valid reasons for the same.

As far as the procedural discrepancy was concerned, the attorney for the government accepted the fact that the actions had been arbitrary and hence she was given the chance to put forward her contentions. Thus that anomaly was taken care of. As far as the question of her fundamental rights was concerned, it was held that true her fundamental right had been violated, but it was in the interest of the general public. The Court has adopted a liberal interpretation of Article 21 in the case, and expanded its ambit by leaps and bounds. However, the Court has refrained from outrightly commenting on this issue in this particular case.



  1. Freedom of Speech and Expression {Article 19(1)(a)} is not bound only to the national territories of India –

This was a landmark opinion of the Court and one that was highly celebrated by the entire country. The Court in the course of this case opined that the right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed to all the citizens of the country, was limitless in that it had given to the citizens a vast number of rights irrespective of whether they were in India or abroad. The Court held that if the Constitution makers had intended this right to be bound by the territories of the country, then they would have expressly mentioned so as they have done for various other rights, such as the right to settle down freely, or the right to assemble freely. However, since no such words had been added at the end of this provision, the Court felt that it was its duty to give it the widest interpretation possible.

Also, supporting this view was the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10th December, 1948 and most of the fundamental rights which we find included in Part III were recognised and adopted by the United Nations as the inalienable rights of man in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This further supported the view of the Court in that even though Indian Courts may not have jurisdiction outside the territory of India, but these rights as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution would still be maintained since they were now fortified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by almost all the countries around the globe.

Giving this kind of an opinion was a landmark judgement and even though it may not have the value of a precedent (since it is an obiter),Courts all over the country have adopted this view of the Supreme Court, and used it in their judgements.

  1. Article 21 is not to be read in isolation; all violations and procedural requirement under Article 21 are to be tested forArticle 14 and Article 19 also.

The Supreme Court in the present case had adopted the widest possible interpretation of the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.  Bhagwati, J. observed:

The expression ‘personal liberty’ in Article 21 is of widest amplitude and it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man and some of them have raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights and given additional protection under Article 19.”

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. The Court observed:“The law must therefore now be settled that Article 21 does not exclude Article 19 and that even if there is a law prescribing a procedure for depriving a person of personal liberty, and there is consequently no infringement of the fundamental right conferred by Article 21 such a law in so far as it abridges or takes away any fundamental right under Article 19 would have to meet the challenges of that Article.”Thus a law “depriving a person of ‘personal liberty’ has not only to stand the test” of Article 21, but it must stand the test of Article 19 and Article 14 of the Constitution as well.


The case is considered a landmark case in that it gave a new and highly varied interpretation to the meaning of ‘life and personal liberty’ under Article 21 of the Constitution. Also, it expanded the horizons of freedom of speech and expression to the effect that the right is no longer restricted by the territorial boundaries of the country. In fact, it extends to almost the entire world. Thus the case saw a high degree of judicial activism, and ushered in a new era of expanding horizons of fundamental rights in general, and Article 21 in particular.


Picture Credits: http://www.detectiveupdate.com/advocate/a-new-begining-of-the-right-to-life-and-liberty-maneka-gandhi-case/attachment/second_life_passport-774657/

Tags:Constitution of India Articles 14,19 (1) (a) and 21; Passports Act,1967,Sections 3,5,6,10(3)(c),10(5),1978 AIR 597 1978 SCR (2) 621; 1978 SCC (1) 248,Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India

By Saakshi Sharma

Licensed for years

Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided30 July 1992
Citation(s)1992 AIR 1858
Case opinions
ConcurrenceJustice Kuldip Singh and Justice R. M. Sahai

Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, a 1989 Supreme Court of India case, occurred when the Government of Karnataka issued a notification that permitted the private medical colleges in the State of Karnataka to charge exorbitant tuition fees from the students admitted other than the 'Government seat quota'. Miss Mohini Jain, a medical aspirant student filed a petition in Supreme Court challenging this notification. The apex Court raised an important question that 'whether right to education is guaranteed to the Indian citizen under the Constitution of India?'

The Supreme Court of India observed that mention of 'life and personal liberty' in Article 21 of the Constitution[1] automatically implies some other rights, those are necessary for the full development of the personality, though they are not enumerated in Part III of the Constitution. Education is one such factor responsible for overall development of an individual and therefore, right to education is integrated in Article 21 of the Constitution.

A brief on the Case[edit]

Miss Mohini Jain, a resident of Meerut (in the State of UP), applied for admission to the MBBS course in the session commencing February/March, 1991, to a private medical college located in the State of Karnataka. The college management asked her to deposit a sum of Rs. 60,000/- as the tuition fee for the first year and also to show a bank guarantee of the amount equal to the fee for the remaining years. When Miss Jain's father intimated the management that the asked amount was beyond his reach, the management denied Ms. Jain's admission to the medical college. Miss Jain informed the court that the management demanded an additional amount of Rs. four and a half lakhs, however, the management denied the allegation (?).[2]

As per the notification, the denial of admission of Miss Jain due to her failure to submit the yearly tuition fee of Rs. 60,000/- was a valid step taken by the college management. In this situation, Miss Jain filed a petition (Writ petition (Civil) No. 456 of 1991) under Article 32 (1) ("The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part (Part III: Fundamental Rights) is guaranteed")[1] of the Constitution of India challenging the notification issued by the Government of Karnataka.[2]

A two-member bench consisting Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice R. M. Sahai gave the judgment of the case on 30 July 1992 (1992 AIR 1858).[2] For the first time in the post independent India, right to education of the Indian citizens and the State obligation to secure the right came under scrutiny at the premises of the apex court. It is important to note that this was the time when neo-liberaleconomic policy were knocking at the door of India.

The notification[edit]

It is relevant to know in this context that what was the notification issued by the Government of Karnataka. The Government of Karnataka issued a notification dated 5 June 1989 under section 5(1) of the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Prohibition of capitation fee) Act, 1984, which fixed the tuition and other fees to be charged from the students by the private medical colleges in the state. As per the notification, the tuition fee for the candidates admitted against:[2]

1. "Government seat" was Rs. 2,000 per year,

2. For the students from Karnataka but not falling under "Government seat" was not to be exceeding Rs. 25,000/- per year, and

3. For the Indian students not residing in Karnataka was not to be exceeding Rs. 60,000/- per year.

Responses from the respondents[edit]

First respondent was the State of Karnataka. The second (the intervener) and the third respondent were the Karnataka Private Medical Colleges Association and the private medical college respectively. According to the third respondent, the private medical college, those students who were admitted under "Government seat quota" were meritorious and those who were admitted under the "Management quota" (other than "Government seat") were not meritorious; the classification was valid and hence, in such situation, the college-management had the right to charge more fee from non-meritorious students to meet the expenses in order to provide medical education to the students.[2]

According to the intervener, Karnataka Private Medical Colleges Association, the private medical colleges in the state of Karnataka received no financial aid either from the State or Central Government. The expenditure per student for 5-year MBBS course in private medical colleges was about 5 lakhs and forty percent of the seats were filled by the "Government Quota" under which students paid only Rs. 2,000/- per year, therefore, students admitted under "Management quota" had to share the burden. Hence, the tuition fee was not excessive and there was no question of profit making by the private medical colleges in the State of Karnataka.[2]

Moreover, both the intervener and the third respondent mentioned that there were no provision either in the constitution of India or under any other law which prevented the charging of capitation fee.[2]

Issues before the Court[edit]

In the lieu of above situation several crucial questions appeared before the court. Now, the court had to answer the following major questions:

a) Was there a 'right to education' guaranteed to the people of India under the Constitution?

b) If the right is guaranteed to the people then, does applying capitation fee violate the guaranteed right to education?

c) Whether charging capitation fee in educational institutions is arbitrary, unjust, unfair and violated Article 14 ("The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India" ) of the constitution?[2]

Responses from the Court[edit]

The court said that the dignity of human can not be violated under any situation and it is the responsibility of the state to respect and protect the dignity of her citizens. An individual cannot be assured human dignity unless his/her personality is developed and the only way to do that is to educate the individual. When the Constitution was framed (the Constitution was adopted in 1950), 70 percent of the citizens of the country were illiterate. The framers of the constitution hoped to achieve 100 percent literacy within a time period of 10 years. Guided by this hope, Article 41 ("The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of underserved want") and Article 45 ("The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years") were included in the Chapter IV of the constitution.[2]

The court referred to the various provisions in the Constitution of India and reminded that the 'Preamble' has promised to secure to all citizens of India "Justice, social, economic and political", "Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship". It further provided "Equality of status and of opportunity" and assured dignity of the individual. The objectives flowing from the 'Preamble' cannot be achieved and shall remain on paper unless the people in this country were educated.[2]

The Court said that although 'right to education' had not been guaranteed as a fundamental right under Part III of the constitution, the Articles 21 (in Part III of the Constitution of India), Article 38, 39(a), (f), 41 and 45 (in Part IV of the Constitution of India) together makes it clear that the framers of the constitution made it obligatory for the State to provide education for its citizens. Article 21 says "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law". The right to life under Article 21 and the dignity of an individual cannot be assured unless it is accompanied by right to education. Therefore, every citizen had a 'right to education' under the constitution and thus, the state had an obligation to provide educational institutions at all levels for the benefit of all the citizens. All educational institutions whether it was state owned or state recognized were obliged to secure the 'right to education'.[2]

In Part IV, the directive principles of the state policy, the Constitution asks the State to secure social order and minimize inequalities for the promotion of welfare of citizens (Article 38). Article 39 of Part IV talks about directing the state policies to secure adequate means of livelihood of citizen and offer opportunities to children to facilitate their healthy al-round development. Reality of the fundamental rights under chapter III will not be realized by illiterate citizens unless "right to education" under Article 41 was ensured to the individual citizen. Therefore, "right to education" was concomitant to the fundamental rights provided under Part III of the constitution.[2]

The fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the constitution of India including the right to freedom of speech and expression and other rights under Article 19 cannot be appreciated and fully enjoyed unless a citizen is educated and is conscious of his individual dignity. Education is instrumental to reduce the inequality, and ensuring adequate livelihood. Illiterate people is vulnerable to exploitation. Without education the vision expressed in the said articles of the Constitution can not be realized. The court said that the 'Directive Principles', which were fundamental in the governance of the country, cannot be isolated from the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III. They were supplementary to each other and have to be read into the fundamental rights.[2]

Court's responses on charging capitation fee[edit]

Charging capitation fee limits the access to the education only to the richer section of the people. Poorer person with better merit can not get admission due to inability to pay money and as a consequence in educational institution a citizen's 'right to education' gets denied. Further, allowing charging capitation fee violates Article 14 of the constitution of India. The only method of admission to the medical colleges should be by merit and merit alone. The court further stated that the capitation fee was simply a price for selling education. The concept of "teaching shops" was not at par with the constitutional scheme and was entirely opposing character to the Indian culture and heritage.[2]

Court made one significant remark in stating that if government recognises or approve a professional institution to run a professional course, it is State responsibility to ensure that the Institute should charge the government rates only and right to education is preserved.[2]

Significance of the Case[edit]

The judgment is historic in its own accord. The judgment of the Supreme Court has huge significance in a context of state's failure to maintain the endeavor set by article 45 of the Constitution even after 40 years of independence.[3] However, the judgment of the court resulted mixed reaction. While, some critic the court's judgment as impractical and court's role as unnecessarily proactive,[4] others welcomed the court's decision as logical[5] and response to the call of hour.[6] Others noted the judgment as the expression of judicial activism due to the fact that only a two judge bench made a substantial change in constitution.[7]

Mohini Jain judgment of the Supreme Court was appeared at a time when liberalisation as a government policy was searching Indian soil to sprout. Commercialisation of education was not as rampant as it is now.[8] In the recent trend of liberalization and privatization, the scourge of commercialization of education looms large. It is a challenge to keep the conformity with the socialist structure of Constitution and the judgment is in the line of retaining the conformity.[5]

The most notable part of the judgment was its insistence that the right to education be read as an integral part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21, Part III. The decision of the Court that the fulfillment of the right to life requires a life of dignity and therefore, must be interpreted to include both the economic and social rights. Education is as basic as to ensure rights to food, water, and health. But, question arise whether right to education at all level is essential for citizens for living a descent life? Whether right to education should be limited to only right to primary and basic education? Whether, declaring right to education at higher education level actually increase status quo and unequal distribution of resources results in collapsing the entire education system in India?[9] According to some critic, the private educational institutions do not get any government grants and therefore should not be interpreted under the purview of article 12 of the Constitution of India.[9] Later Supreme court had to modify its judgment and limits the right to free and compulsory education up to 14 years of age.[3]


The most important thing is, there was a traditional look towards Directive Principle as idealistic preaching of the constitution.[10] This case, revisited the traditional ritualistic approach towards Directive Principles and provides a solid base of pragmatism.[citation needed]

The 86th Amendment of the Constitution, passed by Parliament in 2002, and which came into force on 1 April 2010, the same date as its enabling legislation (Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009), made the Right to Education a Fundamental Right.


  1. ^ ab[Constitution Of India. Available on Official Website of Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India.http://lawmin.nic.in/coi/coiason29july08.pdf.]
  2. ^ abcdefghijklmno[Official Website of Supreme Court of India. Available online at http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in]
  3. ^ ab[Tilak, J. B. (1998). Available online athttp://www.doccentre.org/docsweb/Education/Scanned_material/New-Folder/fre2.seminar98.646.pdf accessed on 11 September 2011.]
  4. ^[Sathe, S. P. (1992). Supreme Court on Right to Education . Economic and Political Weekly; 27 (35); 1847–1848.]
  5. ^ ab[Nagasaila, D and Suresh, V (1992). Can Right to Education be a Fundamental Right? Economic and Political Weekly; 27 (45); 2442–2443.]
  6. ^[Anand, A. S. (1997). Justice N.D. Krishna Rao Memorial Lecture Protection of Human Rights — Judicial Obligation or Judicial Activism. Online available athttp://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/97v7a2.htm accessed on 10 September 2011.]
  7. ^[Suchindran, B. N. (2011). An injudicious fraud. Blog post available athttp://lawandotherthings.blogspot.com/2011/02/injudicious-fraud.html accessed on 11 September 2011.]
  8. ^[Times on India. available onlinehttp://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-02-21/india/28130476_1_capitation-fee-private-schools-education accessed on 10 March 2010.]
  9. ^ ab[Sathe, S. P. (1992). Supreme Court on Right to Education. Economic and Political Weekly; 27 (35); 1847–1848.]
  10. ^[Times on India. available online at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Schools-cant-be-allowed-to-fix-exorbitant-fees/articleshow/5600370.cms accessed on 10 March 2010.]

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