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Book traces evolution, highlights importance of Article 21

New Delhi, Jan 25 (PTI) As India celebrates its 73rd Republic Day on Wednesday, a new book provides a comprehensive and fascinating account of the origins and evolution of the most important fundamental right – the right to life and personal liberty – as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.

“Liberty After Freedom: A History of Article 21, Due Process and the Constitution of India” by Rohan J Alva, a counsel practising in the Supreme Court, also traces how the evolution of Article 21 mirrors the broader history of the republic of India.

Alva says the right to life and personal liberty is that one fundamental right which impacts the life of every single Indian, and its growing salience is represented by the fact that in recent years this right has become part of our daily conversations, in terms of the recognition of the right to privacy and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

“Given its high importance, I believe the story of how this right came to be and the women and men who shaped its destiny deserves to be told,” he says.

According to the author, “much of what we hold precious and dear today in terms of rights is because of Article 21 and a result of not being chained to the past.” Article 21 has now become the prime basis for persons to become equal members in society and to enable them to fulfil their individual worth, he says.

“The fundamental right to life and personal liberty is not an arcane right: it was a site of political contest, ideological dispute and above all a struggle to realise a strong framework of rights for India. This book presents that history,” Alva writes in the book to be released by HarperCollins India on February 10.

Article 21 has had the most outsized influence on the progressive development of rights in India. When India gave herself the Constitution on January 26, 1950, both life and liberty were thought to be in peril because the Constituent Assembly decided not to grant due process protection to them.

“Liberty After Freedom” explores the intellectual beginnings of this paramount fundamental right in order to decode and unravel the controversies which raged at the time the Constitution was being crafted.

Alva argues that “semantics must not cloud the fact, and indeed our judgment, about the central importance of due process, and the fact that it has now been accepted as a part of Article 21”.

“The sooner we recognise this the better it will be for the cause of constitutional justice, given that it is in the nature of Article 21 to resolve emerging and vitally important questions concerning the liberty and freedom of individuals,” he writes.

Alva is also of the view that since the Constitution does not enumerate a detailed list of rights which apply to all aspects of human life, the open-textured reading of Article 21 as incorporating the due process guarantee becomes the vehicle by which new rights are to be realised for the people.

“It is due process which has made Article 21 a robust fundamental right and which has today enabled the triumph of individual freedom. If we can exercise individual autonomy as free agents in India, it is largely because of what Article 21 has come to mean, and we are fortunate for it. From a promising start in 1946-1947, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune had something entirely else in store for due process,” the book says.

“By the time the Indian Constitution came to life in 1950, the due process guarantee was absent from the Constitution’s text. Nevertheless, from the ashes of its unsavoury rejection by the Drafting Committee, due process against all odds found its way into the Indian Constitution. It had to,” it adds. PTI ZMN RB RB RB

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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