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Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India, AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

M. Sahithi

(Gitam School of Law)

Petitioner: Maneka Gandhi

Respondent: Union of India

Judgment: 25/01/1978

BENCH: Hameedullah Beg (CJI), Y.V.Chandrachud, P.N Bhagwati, N.L.Untwalia, P.S.Kailasam

S.M. Fazal Ali & V.R. Krishna Iyer.


The case of Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India modified the landscape for indian Constitution. The Supreme Court has given a new dimension to Article 21. This case is not only a landmark case for Article 21 but it also offers an overview of the chapter 3 of the Constitution (fundamental rights). This case, the Central Government had confiscated the petitioner's passport under section 10 (3) (c) of the passport Act-1967.This case is usually connected to A. K. Gopalan vs State Of Madras, as this case revolves around the idea of "personal liberty. "

Important Acts involved in the case.

Passport Act of 1967

Section 10(3)(c) of the Passports Act, where the passport Authority considers it appropriate to do so in the interests of the sovereignty and independence of India,the security of India, the friendly relations of India with any foreign nation or in the interests of the general public.

Sec 10 (5) of the passport Act Where the passport authority makes an order varying or cancelling the endorsements on, or varying the conditions of passport or travel document under sub-section (1) or an order impounding or revoking a passport or travel document under sub-section (3).

Facts of the case:

On 1-6-1976 Maneka Gandhi issued a passport under the Passports Act, 1976.On 4-7-1977 she received a letter from the Regional Passport Officer, New Delhi, dated 2-7-1977. Informing her that the Government of India has agreed to place a "public interest" on her passport under section 10(3)(c) of the Act.

The complainant has ordered her passport to be surrendered within 7 days from the date the letter was received. The plaintiff immediately wrote a letter to the New Delhi Regional Passport Office asking him to include a copy of the declaration of grounds set out in Section 10(5) of the Act. On 6-7-1977, the Indian government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, sent a reply saying that the government of India had agreed This is in the general public's interest not to furnish her a copy of the order document. In compliance with Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner, filed a writ petition in the supreme court challenging the order of the Government of India Impounding her passport and refusing to give reasons for doing so.


1. Right to go abroad is a part of 'personal freedom' within the sense of that expression as used in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and no one could be deprived of that right except in accordance with the procedure specified by the Impounding or Revocation of the Passport Act.Even if some procedure could be prescribed by the said Act, it is not reasonable and arbitrary in as much as the same doesn't allow the holder of the passport to be heard against the order.

2. Article 10(3)(c) violates the constitutional right granted under Articles 14,19(1)(a) and (g) and 21 of the Constitution.

3. The challenged order is contrary to the laws of natural justice and is thus null and void.

4. In order for a passport to be enforced under sec 10 (3) (c) , public interest must necessarily exist in the present and pure possibility of public interest emerging in the future will not be a justification to enforce a passport.

5. It was not correct to say that the petitioner was likely to be required for giving evidence before the commission.

Arguments advanced by the petitioner

1.The right to travel abroad' is a derivative of the right provided for under 'personal liberty' and no citizen can be deprived of that right except in accordance with the procedure laid down in the law. In addition, the Passports Act, 1967 does not prescribe any procedure for confiscating or revoking or impounding the passport of the holder of the passport. It is also irrational and arbitrary.

2. In addition, the Central Government behaved in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India by not allowing the applicant the opportunity to be heard. It is therefore important to lay down the true meaning of Article 21, as well as its purpose and security.

3. Any procedure established by law must be free from arbitrary conduct and must comply with the "principles of natural justice."

4. In order to preserve the aim of the Constituent Assembly and to provide effect to the spirit of our Constitution, fundamental rights should be read in accordance with one another and, during this case, Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India must be read together.

5. Fundamental rights are the right of any person to be human but are not to be violated by the state. Such basic rights should also be broad-based and systematic in order to provide maximum protection.

6. In Article 19 of the Constitution of India, the constitutional assembly provided for fair constraints on clauses (2) to (6). However, the restrictions laid down do not provide any ground for execution in this case.

7. Article 22 confers protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. In this case, the government by confiscating the passport of the petitioner without giving her any reasons for doing so has unlawfully detained her within the country.

8. In Kharak Singh v. U.P. State, it was held that the word "personal liberty" is used in the constitution as a compendium, containing all kinds of rights relating to personal liberty, even though it is not included in certain clauses of Article 19(1).

9. An integral aspect of Natural Justice is "Audi Alteram Partem," i.e. the complainant has not been given an opportunity to be heard.

10. Passports Act 1967 violates the ‘Right to Life and Liberty’ and hence is ultra virus. The petitioner was restrained from traveling abroad by virtue of the provision in Section 10(3)(c) of the Act of 1967.

Arguments of the respondent

1. The Attorney General of India argued that the 'Freedom to travel abroad' had never been protected by any of the provisions of Article 19(1) , and that Article 19 is independent of evidence of the reasonableness of the acts taken by the Central Government.

2. The Passport Act was not planned to blow away constitutional freedoms in any way whatsoever. In addition, the Government should not be obliged to state the grounds on which it has seized or imposed a passport for the public good and national security. Therefore, even though Article 19 has been bursting, the legislation will not be repealed.

3. Further, the petitioner was required to appear before a committee for an inquiry and hence, her passport was impounded.

4. Repeating the principle laid down in A.K. Gopalan, the respondent argued that the word law referred to in Article 21 can not be understood in the light of the fundamental rules of natural justice.

5. Additionally, the concepts of natural justice are unclear and undefined. Therefore, the constitution should not be referring as part of it to these unclear and undefined clauses.

6. Article 21 is rather large and includes, in itself, the clauses of Articles 14 and 19. However, any law may only be regarded as unconstitutional in Article 21 if it directly infringes Articles 14 and 19. Therefore, the law on passports is not unconstitutional.

7. Article 21 includes "a procedure laid down by statute" in its terms, and these proceedings do not need to pass the test of reasonability.

8. Article 21 includes, in its words, "the procedure laid down by statute" and that procedure does not have to pass the test of reasonableness. The notable omission from the Constitutional provisions of the due process of law represents the intent of the framers of this constitution. The framers' mind and spirit must be guarded and valued.

Difference between the procedure Established by Law and the Due Process of Law.

In the case of A K. Gopalan, the Supreme Court declined to recognize the "procedure defined by statute" in compliance with the "due process of law." In 1978, however, this case was dismissed in Maneka Gandhi, where the Supreme Court itself held that the act of confiscating her passport was arbitrary. Justice Kania, referring to A.K. Gopalan, said that the term "due process" referred to in the article had limited the power of the judiciary to interpret it further and to try its reasonableness. But Maneka Gandhi set a new precedent by broadening the scope of these two phrases.

Procedure established by law

The 'procedure established by law' is contained in the Constitution of India.

It is narrower in nature than the 'due process of law.'

While determining the constitutionality of the law, the Supreme Court examines only the substantive issue, i.e. whether or not the law falls within the competence of the authority concerned.

It is not expected that the SC will address the question of its reasonableness, suitability or policy and implications.

Due process of law.

The due process of law gives the Supreme Court broad scope to protect the interests of its citizens.

It may declare that the laws infringing those rights are unconstitutional, not only on the grounds that they are unlawful in substance, but also on the grounds that they are unjust in procedure.


The word 'personal liberty's in article is one of the widest ranges and it encompasses a number of freedoms that constitute man's personal freedom and some of them have been elevated to the level of separate fundamental rights and granted additional protection under Article 19.

The correct way to interpret the provisions that confer fundamental rights is that the court should attempt to broaden the scope and scope of fundamental rights rather than mitigate their meaning and content through judicial construction.

Article 21 is governed by Article 19, it must meet the conditions of Article 19, and even though there is no violation of fundamental rights under Article 21, it will have met the challenges of Article 19 and the ex-hypothesis of Article 14 in so far as it abbreviates or excludes every right under Article 19. It should be reasonable to interact with Article 14, 19 and 21 as analysed by the court.

The petitioner argued that the expression "procedure established by law" was synonymous with the American Constitution's expression "due process of law." But the supreme court rejected the above assertion and claimed that the protection provided by Article 21 is limited to the extent that Article 21 protects the right to personal freedom from executive intervention that is not protected by statute, and statute here means 'enacted law' or 'state law.'

This case has given the final blow to Gopalan's self-abnegation on two grounds.

1. The arbitrary, oppressive or fanciful procedure was in no way a procedure.

2. It could not be assumed that a practice which was unfair conformed to Article 14, as the principle of reasonableness permeated the article in part or in full.


Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act does not overrule Article 21, as it is implied in the provisions that the rules of natural justice would apply to the exercise of the power to impose a passport on the passport authority. It was also held by majority that the order defect was eliminated and the order was passed in keeping with the procedure laid down by law.

The right to travel and go outside the Country, is included in the right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.

Cases referred:

● Kharak Singh v. U.P. State(1963 AIR 1295,1964 SCR (1) 332)

● A.K. Gopalan vs The State Of Madras(1950 AIR 27,1950 SCR 88)



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[DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only. We have tried to include as much information as possible but there are chances that some important information may have been missed .It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the this article shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note].

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