AK GOPALAN V. STATE OF MADRAS, 1950 SCC 228
|1950 SCC 228
|DATE OF JUDGMENT
|MAY 19, 1950
|SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
|WRIT PETITION NO. 13 OF 1950
|STATE OF MADRASUNION OF INDIA
|HARILAL KANIA, FAZL ALI, PATANJALI SASTRI, M.C. MAHAJAN, B.K. MUKHERJEA & S.R. DAS
|ARTICLE 32, ARTICLE19, ARTICLE 21, ARTICLE 22 OF INDIAN CONSTITUTIONPREVENTIVE DETENTION ACT 4 OF 1950
Article 19, Article 22, Article 21, Indian constitution, Supreme Court, Detention
A.K. Gopalan V. State of Madras is one of the most important cases in the domain of constitutional right to freedom and its application. In very recent years after the adoption of the Indian Constitution, this case gave an opportunity to the Supreme Court of India to interpret the various articles of Indian Constitution in depth. After independence, this was the first case which brought before the Supreme Court, a question leading to discussion on various articles contained in the chapter of Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution.
The judgement was delivered in this case by a 6 – Judge Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of then CJI Harilal Kania. Each and every article contained in Chapter III of the Indian Constitution, i.e., Fundamental rights was discussed along with its limitations. The validity of the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 was discussed in the light of the fundamental rights given to the citizens of India. The jurisdiction and powers of the ‘State’ as defined under Article 13 were also discussed at length.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
A.K. Gopalan, the petitioner in this case, was a Communist leader in the state of Madras at that time. He filed a suit in the Supreme Court through a writ petition under Article 32(1) of the Constitution through a writ of Habeas Corpus against his detention in the Madras jail from several years. He alleged that he has been kept in detention since 1947. He was detained in the jail according to the rules contained in Section 3(1) of the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.
Through his petition, he had challenged the legality of the said section of the act as the provisions contained there were violative of Article 22 of the Constitution. He also contended that the preventive detention without giving any just cause and reasons was violative of his right to freedom under Article 19 of the Constitution. He also challenged the validity of the order of his detention on being mala fide.
- Whether Preventive Detention Act, 1950 is violative of Article 19, 20 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Whether Preventive Detention Act, 1950 is in consonance with Article 22 of the Indian Constitution.
- Whether the detention of A.K. Gopalan is lawful or unlawful.
- The petitioner in this case contended that Preventive Detention Act, 1950 infringes the right of the citizens given in Article 19-21 of the Indian Constitution. The petitioner further argued that the impugned act is violative of Article 22 (5) of the Constitution. For this, the Court read and interpreted all the clauses of Article 19 of the Indian constitution and made the conclusion that once legislation is formed by the State, as defined under Article 13, it is only needed to see whether it is directly affecting any of the fundamental rights granted to the citizen’s and not its effect on the mode of life of someone who is detained.
- Another argument presented by the petitioner was that the fundamental right to move freely throughout the territory of India was curtailed by the detention. In this context, the court analyzed whether the restrictions imposed on the petitioner were in the interest of the general public and held that the contention urged in the respect of Article 19 was not valid.
- The third argument which was dealt with was that Article 19 and Article 20 of the Constitution shall be read together as if they are implementing each other. However, the Supreme Court contradicted this statement with a clear analysis of both the articles distinctly. The court here stated the major difference between Article 19 and 21 stating that Article 19 grants fundamental rights only to the citizens of India whereas Article 21 gives Right to life to each and every person. It was also explained here that citizens are clearly distinct from people in lawful terms.
- It was further argued that “due process of law” as granted in the American Constitution shall also be applicable to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. To this contention, the Supreme Court clearly laid down the differences between the “due process of law” and “procedure established by law”.
- The last argument was that Section 14 of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 was unlawful in the way that it didn’t allow the person in detention to inquire about the reasons for his detention and hence was restrictive in its application. This contention was upheld by the vast majority of the Six – Judge bench.
- In this landmark judgement, the Six – Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that the detention of A.K. Gopalan was not unconstitutional with a 5:1 ratio. The Supreme Court very vividly discussed each and every contentions presented by the petitioner and held that the detention was not unlawful and not infringing fundamental rights granted to him by the Indian Constitution.
- The Supreme Court in this judgement held that none of the Fundamental Rights granted by the Constitution were interconnected and they must be read separately so as to get the essence of each one of them on their own. They must be read as one complete and separate article and not in connection to other articles.
- The Supreme Court further established the difference between the “due process of law” and “procedure established by law”. The idea of “Procedural due process” was upheld. The absence of “due process of law” in the Indian Constitution was explained in the light of being deliberately omitted by the Constitution makers.
- The Preventive Detention Act, 1950 was held to be not violative of any of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. It was held that natural justice was not violated by the said impugned act because if the freedom of a person is curtailed legally by lawful means by the lawmakers, it cannot be said to be violative of Article 19, 20 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Section 14 of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 was held to be ultra vires, i.e., unconstitutional as it did not allow any person detained to present their case in the Court with just cause and reasons. Section 14 restrained the disclosure of the grounds of detention and was held to be unlawful in this context.
Hence, it can be concluded that the Supreme Court in this judgement, took a restrictive view of the Indian Constitution as it made a literal interpretation of the various Articles of the Indian Constitution and did not delve in the essence of it. Justice Fazl Ali, who gave the dissenting opinion, held that the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 was unconstitutional as any law curtailing the freedom of citizens must be in consonance with “personal liberty” granted to them by the Constitution. The landmark judgement in this case was however turned down in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. UOI.
THIS IS WRITTEN BY: TANYA RAJ, CHANAKYA NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, INTERN AT LEGAL VIDHIYA