Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India – Analysis

Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India – Analysis

Maneka Gandhi’s case has given a new meaning to the Right to Life under the constitution of India.

Full case name Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India
Decided January 25, 1978
Citation(s) AIR 1978 SC 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621


Related Judges

  1. Chief Justice M. Hameedullah Beg
  2. L. Untwalia
  3. N. Bhagwati
  4. S. Kailasam
  5. Murtuza Faizal Ali
  6. R. Krishna Iyer
  7. V. Chandrachud


Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India [1] is a landmark decision that stands like a bulwark to the Right of Personal Liberty[2] stated in Article 21[3] of the constitution. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi was a journalist and founder of the magazine “Surya” also played an important role in the rising of the Congress party after they lost the 1977 elections helping her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi.  She was often critiqued on the work she used to publish.

She was issued a passport on June 1, 1976, and on 2nd July 1977, the authorities impounded her passport under Passport Act, 1967[4] – Section 10(3)(c)[5] citing “public interest” as the ground.

Soon she approached the Supreme court filing a petition stating that her Right of Personal Liberty[6] was violated in the above-mentioned action. This petition was based on violation of Article 14[7], 19[8] and 21[9] thus giving the case another name “golden triangle”.

After Supreme Court’s decision in ADM Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla[10] case a significant segment of citizens lost faith in the Indian judiciary. This case brought an opportunity to establish faith once again and gave a ray of hope to citizens.

Also, Read M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and Ors.

Issues Involved in Maneka Gandhi case 

  • Whether the rights laid down in Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the constitution are connected or are exclusive?
  • Can the “procedure established by law” be tested on reasonability?
  • Does the right to travel abroad come under the ambit of Article 21? Which in Satwant Singh Sawhney v. Ramarathnam[11] case supreme court said very well does.
  • Can a legislative law take someone’s fundamental rights away?

Judgment of Maneka Gandhi case

A unanimous decision was given by a 7-judge bench on January 25th, 1978. The judgment was a turning point stating the intentions of the judiciary to act as a WatchGuard of the constitution. It involved a series of interlinked factors which together gave citizens access to their fundamental rights. It widened the scope of Article 21 giving goals for an Indian welfare state.

The court upheld its decision of the Satwant Singh[12] case and said that the Right to travel abroad is part of Article 21 of the constitution. According to the court Section, 10(3)(c)[13] and Section 10(5)[14] being an administrative order can be challenged on the grounds of unreasonable mala fide, denial of natural justice, and ultra vires but are not violative towards Article 21, 19(1)(a)[15] and 19(1)(g)[16]. It interpreted “personal liberty” in a much more liberal and broad sense.

The court overruled the Gopalan case[17] and said that Articles 14, 19, and 21 are not mutually exclusive and are linked to each other. Every law has to pass the test based on all three articles’ provisions. Also as stated in Article 21 “procedure established by law” such procedure must not be irrational and arbitrary.

Critical Analysis of Maneka Gandhi case

The apex court has maintained the socio-economic condition of the country very well. This judgment not only provided justice to the needy but also gave wings to the upcoming generation so that they can fight for their rights. The judges unanimously decided in the interest of protection of the constitution. It increased the jurisdiction of Articles 14[18], 19[19], and 21[20] also stating them interdependent.

The judgment showed that the constitution-makers never intended to make a self-destructive heart in the constitution. They never prioritized procedure over fairness, justice, and reasonability.  The court took a commendable stand for the citizens’ fundamental rights. By striking down one of the respondent’s arguments stating that any law is valid till it is repelled by the legislature the court gave Right to Life and Personal Liberty a broader definition.

Also read: Kesavananda Bharati v Union of India- Analysis


It showed that the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution are not different from each other but are branches of the same tree. It also made it clear that they have to safeguard the implementation of the constitution.  The importance of the Maneka Gandhi case is limitless and the actions taken by the apex court should be appreciated. The case paved the way for the court to bring various other Rights under one umbrella such as the Right to Life, Right to Clean Air[21], Right to Clean water[22], Right to freedom from Noise Pollution[23], Right to Livelihood[24], Right to food[25], Right to Medical Care[26], Right to Clean Environment[27], Speedy Trials, Legal Aids, etc.

The Judgement is balanced and one of the best Judgement of the Supreme Court. On one hand, it saved the Citizens’ Fundamental rights on the other hand it also ensured the sanctity of Parliamentary laws. The construction of Article 21 after this case gave the solution to many unsolved problems within the system. It made the Article strong as well as reliable. The court did Justice to the fact that the constitution has been enacted, adopted, and brought by citizens themselves as mentioned in the preamble[28].


-Rudrakshi Sharma

(Writer, The Legal State)


  1. Lawtimesjournal. in

[1] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 AIR SC 597

[2]Right to Life and Personal Liberty, Article 21

[3] Article 21, the constitution of India

[4] Passport Act, 1967

[5] Passport Act, 1967- Section 10(3)(c)

[7] Article 14, the constitution of India

[8] Article 19, the constitution of India

[10] ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla 1976 AIR 1207, 1976 SCR 172

[11] Satwant Singh Sawhney v. Ramarathnam 1967 AIR 1836, 1967 SCR (2) 525

[14] Passport Act,1967 section 10(5)

[15]Article 19(1)(a)

[16] Article 19(1)(g)

[17] Gopalan case 1950 AIR 27, 1950 SCR 88

[21] Right to Clean Air

[22] Right to Clean water

[23] Right to freedom from Noise Pollution

[24] Right to Livelihood

[25] Right to food

[26] Right to Medical Care

[27] Right to Clean Environment

[28] Preamble

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