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CASE BRIEF

Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India


1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621

Brief Facts of The Case


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.

Procedure: Maneka Gandhi filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court as violating her
fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.

ISSUES OF THE CASE–


The main issues of this case were as follows-

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
21of the constitution.
4. Whether the impugned order of the Regional passport officer is in contravention of the
principle of natural justice.
Article 21 states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in
accordance with the procedure established by law but that does not mean that a mere semblance
of the procedure provided by law will satisfy the Article, the procedure should be just, fair and
reasonable. Justice Krishna Iyer observed that “the spirit of man is at the root of Article 21”,
“personal liberty makes for the worth of the human person” and “travel makes liberty
worthwhile”.

Held: It was finally held by the court that the right to travel and go outside the country is
included in the right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21. The Court ruled that the
mere existence of an enabling law was not enough to restrain personal liberty. Such a law must
also be “just, fair and reasonable

Majority: The majority has held that Articles 14, 19 and 21 are not mutually exclusive. A
nexus has been established between these three articles. This means that a law prescribing a
procedure for depriving a person of „personal liberty‟ has to meet the requirements of Article
19. Also the procedure established by law in Article 21 must answer the requirement of Article
14 as well. According to Krishna Iyer J. „No Article in the Constitution pertaining to a
Fundamental Right is an island in itself. Just as a man is not dissect-able into separate limbs,
cardinal rights in an organic constitution have a synthesis.

Minority: The rights conferred under Article 19(1)(d) and (e) being limited in its operation to
the territory of India the question of their extraterritorial application does not arise. Also, he
denied any Interrelation between articles 14, 19 and 21.

Analysis: I will agree to what is held by majority, in light of the above discussion, following
the principles developed, the fundamental right of citizens to travel abroad is now protected.
Also, this case established and provided legal sanctity to interrelation between Art. 14, 19 and
21 of the Indian Constitution.
The right of Indian citizens to travel abroad is now established as fundamental right.
interrelation between Art. 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution has also been established.

Ratio Decidendi Of The Case

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.
It is true that the Passports Act does not provide for giving reasonable “opportunity to the
holder of the passport to be heard in advance before impounding a passport. But that is not
conclusive of the question. If the statute make itself clear on this point, then no more question
arises but even when statute is silent the law may in a given case make an implication and apply
the principle. Natural justice is a great humanising principle intended to invest law with fairness
and to secure justice and over the years it has grown into
a widely pervasive rule affecting large areas of administrative action.