Maneka Gandhi and S.R Bommai Case

Maneka Gandhi 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.


The factual summary of this case is as follows-

  • Maneka Gandhi was issued a passport on 1/06/1976 under the Passport Act 1967. The regional passport officer, New Delhi, issued a letter dated 2/7/1977 addressed to Maneka Gandhi, in which she was asked to surrender her passport under section 10(3)(c)of the Act in public interest, within 7 days from the date of receipt of the letter.
  • Maneka Gandhi immediately wrote a letter to the Regional Passport officer, New Delhi seeking in return a copy of the statement of reasons for such order. However, the government of India, Ministry of External Affairs refused to produce any such reason in the interest of general public.
  • Later, a writ petitionwas filed by Maneka Gandhi under Article 32 of the Constitution in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the government of India as violating her fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.


The main issues of this case were as follows-

  1. Whether right to go Abroad is a part of right to personal liberty under Article 21.
  2. Whether the Passport Act prescribes a ‘procedure’ as required by Article 21 before depriving a person from the right guaranteed under the said article.
  3. Whether section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act is violative of Article 14,19(1) (a) and 21of the constitution.
  4. Whether the impugned order of the Regional passport officer is in contravention of the principle of natural justice.


  • To the extent to which section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, 1967 authorises the passport authority to impound a passport “in the interest of the general public”, it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution since it confers vague and undefined power on the passport authority.
  • Section 10(3)(c) is void as conferring an arbitrary power since it does not provide for a hearing to the holder of the passport before the passport is impounded.
  • Section 10(3)(c) is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution since it does not prescribe ‘procedure’ within the meaning of that article and the procedure practiced is worst.
  • Section 10(3)(c) is against Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) since it permits restrictions to be imposed on the rights guaranteed by these articles even though such restrictions cannot be imposed under articles 19(2) and 19(6).
  • A new doctrine of post decisional theory was evolved.

One of the significant interpretation in this case is the discovery of inter connections between the three Articles- Article 14, 19 and 21. This a law which prescribes a procedure for depriving a person of “personal liberty” has to fulfill the requirements of Articles 14 and 19 also.

It was finally held by the court that the right to travel and go outside the country is included in the right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21. The Court ruled that the mere existence of an enabling law was not enough to restrain personal liberty. Such a law must also be “just, fair and reasonable”.



S.R Bommai vs Union of India case

  • S.R. Bommai was the Chief Minister of the Janata Dal government in Karnataka.
  • His government was dismissed on April 21, 1989 under Article 356 of the Constitution and President’s Rule was imposed.
  • The dismissal was on grounds that the Bommai government had lost majority following large-scale defections engineered.
  • The then Governor refused to give Bommai an opportunity to test his majority in the Assembly despite the latter presenting him with a copy of the resolution passed by the Janata Dal Legislature Party.
  • Bommai party went to Supreme Court against the Governor’s decision to recommend President’s Rule.

The judgement of Supreme Court in this regard

  • Supreme Court issued the historic order, which in a way put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spelling out restrictions.
  • The verdict concluded that the power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute.
  • The verdict said the President should exercise the power only after his proclamation (imposing his/her rule) is approved by both Houses of Parliament.
  • Till then, the Court said, the President can only suspend the Legislative Assembly by suspending the provisions of Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly.

The significance of this judgment

  • The case become one of the most cited whenever hung Assemblies were returned and parties scrambled to form a government.
  • The case put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government.
  • The verdict ruled that the floor of the Assembly is the only forum that should test the majority of the government of the day, and not the subjective opinion of the Governor.
  • SC issues ordered which stated that, if the Presidential proclamation is not approved by the Parliament then,
  1. Both Houses of Parliament disapprove or do not approve the Proclamation, the Proclamation lapses at the end of the two-month period. In such a case, the government which was dismissed revives.
  2. The Legislative Assembly,which may have been kept in suspended animation gets reactivated.
  3. Also the Court made it amply clear that a Presidential Proclamation under Article 356 is subject to judicial review.

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