• K Sangeetha

Pursuit of happiness in the context of Article 21 of Indian constitution

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

This article is authored by K Sangeetha. She is a legal intern at Law Dexter


Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness are three ingredients of the American Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson mentioned the pursuit of happiness as a euphemism for the pursuit of wealth. Americans have faith in the rage of riches as a version of having a good life while our constitutional framers believed happiness lies in the right to live with human dignity and in social justice. The model fundamental rights traced to the constitution of the USA drafted in 1787 which was based on the Lockean philosophy of protection of life, liberty, and property. Article 21 of the Indian constitution also provides life and liberty but the property was removed from fundamental rights by the very first amendment in 1951. Both countries are once a British colony, having a secular and democratic policy. But why we have different definitions of happiness in our statue?


The right to life under article 21 undergoes much interpretation from case to case. Such landmark judgment found in Gopalan vs. the state of madras where the preventive detention act, 1950 was challenged. The honorable Supreme Court gives the difference between the Indian concept of procedural established by law and the American concept of procedural due process.

∙ The term ‘due’ was absent in article 21

The drafted Indian constitution does have due process of law but later it was omitted. This was done to avoid uncertainty surrounding of due process in judicial decisions of the USA on what reason was not uniform.

∙ American doctrine might generate counter wailing the doctrine of police power to restrict the ambit of due process that is the doctrine of government power to regulate private rights in the public interest.

By underlying these facts, the Supreme Court held that a person can be deprived of his life in accordance with the procedure established by law.

In Mohammed Arif vs. Supreme Court of India, 2014 it was held that not only procedure established by to be just, fair and reasonable but also the law itself has to be reasonable as article 14 and article 19 have now to be read with article 21.


Like the English, Americans are also lovers of a free and open society, and their firm faith is contained in the motto if G.K Chesterton “you can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution”. Meneka Gandhi vs. UoI, 1978 shows how liberal tendencies have influenced the Supreme Court in interpreting fundamental rights especially article 21. The protection of personal liberty after the bitter experience of emergency during 1975-1977 when personal liberty was mercilessly crushed. As become clear from Supreme Court pronounced in ADM Jabalpur vs. Shivkant Shukla where Khanna.J gives dissenting judgment by saying “detention without trial is an injustice to those who love personal liberty. Another important aspect of liberty is to have the right to privacy. The right to privacy is not protected by the constitution stand was overruled by famous justice. KS Puttaswamy (retd) vs. UoI, 2017. The struggle for liberty is always informed by the spirit of equality.


Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosophers say that a certain amount of property is necessary for the good life but if it goes beyond the limit, it becomes a source of vice. Gandhian principle of bread labor requires everyone in a society should do physical labor to compensate for his consumption from society. 44th amendment of 1978 took away article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 from the constitution of India. The natural law jurist regarded protection to lie, liberty, the property is a paramount necessity in a free society. US Constitution in its 5th amendment stated that ‘no person can be deprived of life, liberty, property without due process of law. But in India, our policymakers under obligation to fulfill socialist philosophy started devaluing the institutions of private property. After this amendment, there is article 31 A, 31 B, 31 C, 300 A remains in the area of the right to property. There is no fundamental right to hold property but the right to compensation on the compulsory accusation of land is available under Article 31 A (1). In this period, most of the people having wealth and capital in society, so it’s time to think about the constitutional protection of property. Supreme Court can adopt this purpose to link article 300 A with article 14 and to interpret the word law in article 300 A in the same sense as law in article 21.


The social contract of Rousseau had its impact in the American Declaration of Independence,1776 stated: “ All men are created equal”. Americans are able to bring about a happy synthesis between liberty and authority which is the hallmark of modern constitutionalism. The American rulers are able to grasp the implications of this judicious statement of an eminent man of law and justice. The achievement of liberty is man’s indispensable condition of living and yet liberty cannot exist unless it is restricted and restrained.

To fulfill the dreams and aspirations of citizens, every nation needs to build a most sustainable economy which provides education, employment, income, welfare. Otherwise, the empire will fall. This is what history taught us about the Economy. Thomas Jefferson knew very well that economy will take over the world which makes him write the pursuit of happiness.

K Sangeetha Government law college Chengalpat


1. M.P Jain, Constitution of India, 2019 reprint

2. J C Johari, Comparative politics

3. O.P Gaubha, Introduction to political theory

4. S.K Sharma, Urmila Sharma, western political thought

5. S.L Kaeley, World Constitution

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