Decided On: 19.05.1950

Equivalent Citations:

AIR1950SC27, 1950CriLJ1383, 1942-55-LW638, 1950-63-LW638, (1950)2MLJ42, [1950]1SCR88


Ayillyath Kuttiari Gopalan (a communist leader from Kerala and the first Leader of Opposition in India.)


The State of Madras


H.J. Kania, C.J., B.K. Mukherjea, M.C. Mahajan, M. Patanjali Sastri, Sudhi Ranjan Das and Sir Saiyid Fazl Ali, JJ.

Cases Referred:

Administrator General vs. Premlal Mullick and Ors.; King Emperor vs. Benoarilal Sarmaand Others; A.L.S.P.P.L. Subrahmanyan Chettiar vs. Muttuswami Goundan; Sunil Kumar Bose and Ors. vs. The Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal and Anrs.


Being the first case in the Indian judicial history that dragged the then newly formed Fundamental Rights under scrutiny, AK Gopalan vs State of Madras holds great significance in the Indian judicial history. The reader can base the current unceasing debate on the legality of the present preventive detention laws on the judgment.


The reader, in order to get to the bottom of the facts of the case, must know the following fundamentals:

Preventive Detention: Imprisoning or Detaining a person to prevent him/ her from committing any offence or any further offence. Governments, following prudence, make laws containing provisions to detain any person with an aim of maintaining public order.

Article 13 of COI: States that any law inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights, contained under Part III of the Constitution of India will be void to the extent of such inconsistency.

Article 19 of COI: Provides for right of free speech and expression clubbed with certain rights related to it in 6 parts.

Article 21 of COI: Provides for Protection of Life and Personal Liberty. Translates as: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Article 22 of COI: Guarantees certain fundamental rights to an arrested person.


  • The case prevails to the detention of Ayillyath Kuttiari Gopalan, a communist leader from the State of Madras. Gopalan was sentenced to be imprisoned for a specific period of time by the Madras government for certain criminal acts.
  • However, the convictions due to which he was imprisoned were removed and the government was supposed to set him free, he was further detained by the Madras Government. In the meantime, he was served an order signed by the Government of Madras applying the provisions of section 3 (1) of the Preventive Detention Act IV, 1950.
  • He moved to the apex court and filed a writ of Habeas Corpus challenging his detention by the administration. He also called into question the constitutionality of the orders on the grounds that they violate his fundamental rights enshrined under the Articles 13, 19 and 21 of the constitution.
  • He further added that the provisions of the same act do not go along with Article 22 of the Constitution of India. While putting allegations, Gopalan went to an extent of declaring the intention of the government as wicked while detaining him. Any justification of the arrest in the courtroom therefore, was untrue according to the petitioner, Golaknath.
  • Whereas in the case, the onus of proving the allegations were on the applicant, i.e., Golaknath. The court declined to indulge in determining the government’s motive behind detaining Golaknath, which as claimed by him, was unjustifiable.

Also Read: Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India


  • Whether or not is the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 ultra-vires to Part III (notably Articles 13, 19, 21 and 22) of the constitution of India.
  • Does the same Act back the ‘Procedure Established by Law’ doctrine provided for under the Article 21 of the constitution?


The court reasoned that the provisions regarding preventive and punitive detention were immune from the ensured freedom of movement as Article 19 protects only those citizens who are free and not those who are lawfully detained or those whose freedom has been restricted following certain laws. The majority opinion also recognized that the purview of Article 19 does not include Preventive Detention so no question of the Preventive Detention Act 1950 violating Article 19 arises.

The State of Madras followed the validated procedure while enacting the Preventive Detention Act, 1950, therefore any allegation of it not following the procedure established by law doctrine under Article 21 stands pima facie false.

Also Read: The Doctrine of Severability and Doctrine of Eclipse- Explanation, Differences

The Preventive Detention Act, 1950 has certain provisions of it covered under Article 22 barring some which are codicil through the very facet of Article 21. The court also justified the Section 3 of the same act as it was well founded to give vest such obligatory authority to the executive.

 In addition, the majority bench also agreed upon the validity of Section 11 and 7 of the said Act by citing Ar.22(7)(b) under which, there is no mandate on the Parliament to set a minimum detention period and under 22(5) and 22(6) the right of representation and that of to be heard orally are not necessitated.

Only Section 14 was declared ultra vires as it contended the judiciary’s right to determine the validity of the detention.


It was held by the bench that the contended Sections (barring Section 14) did not violate any provision of the Fundamental rights ensured under Part III of the Constitution of India.

Section 14 of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950, however, was declared ultra vires for notwithstanding article 9.9 of Constitution of India. The extent of it being outlawed was up to which it for it flew in the face of Article 22 of COI by prohibiting a detained person from disclosing either the ground he was detained on or his grounds of opposing representations to the detention order to the Court.

Article 13 of COI was followed hence, only Section 14 of the Act was declared void and not the whole Act.

Justice Fazl Ali dissented to the judgement by putting forth his view that Section 12 and Section 14 both were violating Article 21 of the constitution.

Although Justice M.C. Mahajan seconded the majority’s judgement but he declared Section 12 of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 as ultra vires.

Chief Justice Kania, Justices Patanjali Shastri, BK Mukharjea and Sudhi Ranjan Das contended that Article 19 should be discretely read with regards to the ‘Right to move freely throughout the territory of India’ and not to be modulated by the provisions of Article 21, specifically displaying the ‘Personal Liberty’ part.


Written by Mrutyunjay Saramandal

(Writer, The Legal State)

References taken:

AK Gopalan vs State Of Madras.Union Of … on 19 May, 1950 (indiankanoon.org)

AK Gopalan vs State of Madras (1950 AIR 27, 1950 SCR 88) | Lawsisto Legal News

AK Gopalan vs State of Madras – Indian Legal Solution

Case Brief: AK Gopalan vs State of Madras – LawBhoomi


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