GA Notes:”Article 20 and 21 in Indian Constitution” For Railway & SSC Exams 2018-19

Dear Students,

General awareness is an important section that can help you get the maximum time You need not perform complex calculation to settle for the correct option so, it is the best to be ready with the facts and figures in advance. For Railway Group-D Exam 2018, important awards, current affairs, history, geography, general science, economy and static GK is the main part.  To let you have an information about all important sections of GA, this post is to provide you with one of the important topics related to Article 20 and 21 in Indian Constitution. Grab the below given important points related to this particular topic. 

Article 20 and 21 in Indian Constitution

In the light of the bitter experience of the June 1975 emergency the Constitution (Forty Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978 was passed. Several salutary changes were made in the emergency provisions, the most significant of which was the amendment made to Article 359 to the effect that fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution could not be suspended during emergency by a Presidential Order under Article 359. Article 20 provides for protection in respect of retrospective criminal laws, double jeopardy and self-incrimination. Article 21 guarantees that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Article 359: Suspension of the enforcement of the rights conferred by Part III during emergencies

Let us discuss Article 20 and 21 in detail-

Article 20[Protection in Respect of Conviction for Offences]-

  • The Article 20 is one of the pillars of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. It mainly deals with protection of certain rights in case of conviction for offences.
  • Article 20 grants protection against arbitrary and excessive punishment to an accused person, whether citizen or foreigner or legal person like a company or a corporation.
  • It contains three provisions in that direction:

(a) No ex-post-facto law: 
Article 20 protects individuals against ex post facto legislation. i.e. No person shall be (i) convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act, nor (ii) subjected to a penalty greater than that prescribed by the law in force at the time of the commission of the act.

(b)No double jeopardy: 
The Constitution of India prohibits double punishment for the same offence. i.e. No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.


  • Although Article 20 disapproves of the doctrine of ‘Double Jeopardy’, it does not give immunity from proceedings before a court of law or tribunal. Hence, a public servant who has been punished for an offence in a court of law may yet be subjected to departmental proceedings for the same offence. 
  • Also, the Article does not prevent subsequent trial and conviction for another offence even if the two offences have some common aspects. 

(c) No self-incrimination: 
The immunity from self-incrimination is conferred in the Article 20(3) i.e. No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
In short, no individual can be forced to accuse himself.

The Article 20 (3) can be rightfully used as an anchor only by those accused of an offence and against whom an FIR has been lodged, which in normal course would result in prosecution.

Article 21[Protection of Life and Personal Liberty]-

  • Article 21 declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.
  • Article 21 secures two rights:

1)  Right to life
2) Right to personal liberty

  • The Supreme Court of India in the famous Gopalan Case (1950) held that protection under Article 21 is available only against arbitrary executive action and not against arbitrary legislative action. 
  • It clarified that if personal liberty of an individual is taken away by a law, the validity of the law cannot be questioned.
  • However, in the Maneka Gandhi Case (1973) the Supreme Court overruled its judgement in the Gopalan Case by widely interpreting Article 21. 
  • It stated that protection under Article 21 should be available not only against arbitrary executive action but also against arbitrary legislative action by introducing the American concept of ‘due process of law’. 
  • It pronounced the expression ‘Personal Liberty’ in Article 21 is of the widest amplitude and it covers a wide range of rights that go to constitute the personal liberties of a man.

The Supreme Court has reaffirmed its judgement in the Menaka case in the subsequent cases. It has declared the following rights as part of Article 21:
(1) Right to live with human dignity.
(2) Right to decent environment including pollution free water and air and protection against hazardous industries.
(3) Right to livelihood.
(4) Right to privacy.
(5) Right to shelter.
(6) Right to health.
(7) Right to free education up to 14 years of age.
(8) Right to free legal aid.
(9) Right against solitary confinement.
(10) Right to speedy trial.
(11) Right against handcuffing.
(12) Right against inhuman treatment.
(13) Right against delayed execution.
(14) Right to travel abroad.
(15) Right against bonded labour.
(16) Right against custodial harassment.
(17) Right to emergency medical aid.
(18) Right to timely medical treatment in government hospital.
(19) Right not to be driven out of a state.
(20) Right to fair trial.
(21) Right of prisoner to have necessities of life.
(22) Right of women to be treated with decency and dignity.
(23) Right against public hanging.
(24) Right to hearing.
(25) Right to information.
(26) Right to reputation.
(27) Right of appeal from a judgement of conviction
(28) Right to social security and protection of the family
(29) Right to social and economic justice and empowerment
(30) Right against bar fetters
(31) Right to appropriate life insurance policy
(32) Right to sleep
(33) Right to freedom from noise pollution
(34) Right to electricity

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