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Maneka Gandhi v.

Union of India and Another


CASE NUMBER : Writ Petition No. 231 of 1977

PETITIONER : Maneka Gandhi

RESPONDENT : Union of India (UOI) and Another





This case was decided by a 7-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 1978.

1. M. Hameedullah Beg, C.J.,

2. N.L. Untwalia,

3. P.N. Bhagwati,

4. P.S. Kailasam,

5. S. Murtaza Fazal Ali,

6. V.R. Krishna Iyer and

7. Y.V. Chandrachud, JJ.

For Appellant/Petitioner/Plaintiff : Madan Bhatia and D. Goburdhan, Advs

For Respondents/Defendant : S.V. Gupte, Attorney General, Soli J. Sarabjee,

Additional Sol. Genl. Of Indian, R.N. Sachthey and K.N. Bnhatt, Advs.

DATE OF JUDGEMENT : 25.01.1978

DISPOSITION : Disposed off

AUTHORITIES REFFERRED : Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd. ed. vol 37


What is Maneka Gandhi v. Union Of India Case?

This case is a landmark judgement which played the most significant role towards the transformation of
the judicial view on Article 21 of the Constitution of India so as to imply many more fundamental rights
from article 21.

This case is always read and linked with A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras case, because this case revolves
around the concept of “personal liberty” which first came up for consideration in the A.K. Gopalan’s


The factual summary of this case is as follows-

On June 1, 1976, Maneka Gandhi was issued a Passport under the Passport Act 1967. In a letter written
to Mrs. Gandhi on July 2, 1977, Regional Passport Officer, New Delhi, had asked her to surrender her
passport u/s 10(3)(c) of the act in public interest within 7 days of receipt of the letter.
Mrs. Gandhi wrote a letter to the officer seeking in return a copy of the statement of reasons for the

Ministry of External Affairs, however, refused to produce any such reason in the interest of the general

Therefore, the petitioner approached Supreme Court u/a 32 for the enforcement of Fundamental Right
mentioned u/a 14 against the arbitrary action of the authorities. The petition was further amended and
enforcement of Article 21 i.e. Protection of Life & Personal Liberty, Article 19(1)(a) i.e. Right to freedom
of speech & Article 19(1)(g) i.e. Right to freedom of Movement. Among the major reasons contended for
the filing of such petition, the petitioner contended that the impugned order is void as it took away the
petitioner’s right to be given a fair hearing to present her defense.


The main issues of this case were as follows-

 Whether Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act is violative of Article 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the

 Scope of the word “Procedure Established by Law.”

 Whether right to travel abroad is a port of Right to Liberty under Article 21.

 Whether a legislative law that takes away Right to life is reasonable.

 Whether the impugned order of the Regional passport officer is in contravention of the principle
of natural justice.

 Is the Freedom of Speech and Expression confined to Indian territories?


 By the administrative order of impoundment of the passport on 4th July, 1977 the respondent
has infringed Petitioner’s Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression, Right to travel
abroad, Right to life and personal liberty & Right to freedom of movement.

 The provisions of Article 14, 19 & 21 are to be read in synchronization and they are not mutually
exclusive. These provisions in itself though not explicitly constitutes in itself principles of natural
justice. A combined reading of the three provisions will give effect to the spirit of the
constitution and constitution makers.

 Even though India has not adopted American “due process of law” in its constitution, the
procedure established by law must be reasonable, fair & just free from any sort of arbitrariness.

 Section 10(3)(c) is violative of Article 21 of the constitution in the sense that it violates the right
to life and personal liberty guaranteed under the said constitutional provision. By the virtue of
this provision the petitioner was restrained from travelling abroad. This restrain on the
petitioner was unconstitutional since it was generally accepted that right to travel abroad was
within the right to life & personal liberty u/a 21.

 Audi Altrem Partem e. opportunity to be heard is universally recognized as an essential

ingredient of principles of natural justice. These principles of natural justice find no explicit place
in any constitutional provisions. However, the spirit of Fundamental Rights constitutes in itself
the essence of these principles. Further, Article 32 provides an opportunity to the affected
parties to directly approach Apex Court in case there is any violation of Part III provisions. This
provision of Article 32 was coined as Heart & Soul of the Constitution is equivalent to Audi
Altrem Partem. Therefore, it cannot be said that Principle of Natural Justice are separate and
exclusive to the Constitution.


 The respondent contended before the court that the passport was impounded because the
petitioner was required to appear before some committee’s for enquiry. The Attorney General
further promised the court to do away with all the appearances in the said committee’s as soon
as possible.

 The respondent reiterating the principle laid down in Gopalan contended that the word law u/a
21 cannot be comprehended in the light fundamental rules of natural justice.
 The respondent further contended that the principles of natural justice are vague and full of
ambiguities. Therefore, the constitution should not read such vague and ambiguous provisions
as a part of it.

 The ambit of Article 21 is very wide and it generally contains the provisions of Articles 14 & 19.
However, any law can only be termed unconstitutional to Article 21 when it directly infringes
Article 14 & 19.

 Article 21 in its language contains “procedure established by law” & such procedure need not
pass the test of reasonability. Further the said provision need not necessarily be in conformity
with the Articles 14 & 19.

 The constitution makers while drafting this constitution had debated at length on American
“due process of law” & British “procedure established by law”. The conspicuous absence of due
process of law from the Constitutional provisions reflects the mind of framers of this
constitution. The mind and spirit of the framers must be protected and respected.