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Report No. 152

3.3. Article. 21.-

Article 21 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Because of the expansive interpretation placed on the words "procedure established by law", this article has been held to cover a variety of Governmental acts which have an impact on personal liberty. The case law on the article is so vast that none can grasp the total coverage of this article without very deep study and no one can do full justice to it without a lengthy discussion.

But our task at present is confined, to drawing attention to the relevance of Article 21 (as judicially interpreted) to custodial crime. Though Article 21 does not contain any express provision against torture or custodial crimes, the expression "Life or personal liberty" occurring in the Article has been interpreted to include Constitutional guarantee against torture, assault or injury against a person under arrest or under custody. Following are some illustrative decisions:-

(i) Punishment which has an element of torture is unconstitutional.1

(ii) Prison restrictions amounting to torture, pressure or infliction and going beyond what the court order authorizes are unconstitutional.2

(iii) An under-trial or convicted prisoner cannot be subjected to physical or mental restraint:

(a) which is not warranted by the punishment awarded by the court, or

(b) which is in excess of the requirement of prisoner's discipline, or

(c) which amounts to human degradation.3

1. Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1983 SC 378; Javed v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1985 SC 231.

2. lnderjeet v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1975 SC 1867.

3. Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1968 SC 1675; Sita Ram v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1979 SC 745; Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1988 SC 1579, paras. 31, 42; Javed v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1985 SC 231, para. 4; Sher Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1983 SC 465, para. 11.

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