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The golden triangle of constitution: Judgements that led to evolution of these articles

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Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950, also referred as the Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution, or the Golden Triangle Law, constitutes the most essential part of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to not only citizens of India but also non-citizens in as much as several facets of Article 21 of the Constitution[1]. These Articles are connected to one another in a way that ensures that government will function safely and effectively and that no arbitrary restrictions on an individual’s rights within the nation will be made.

In a country like ours where diversity of race, culture, ethnicity, religion, language is so prevalent that it may build a tendency to sunder people, the rights entitled by our Constitution makes it less difficult to unite people of this vast diversification.[2]

These rights not only bind people together to live life peacefully but also ensure legitimate administration of the government. The aforementioned Articles i.e., Articles 14, 19 and 21 may seem at first to be overlapping, yet there is a scope of subtle difference between them. They compose, what’s known as the “Golden Triangle”. It was established in the infamous case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[3]. The Supreme Court interpreted that any law depriving a person of their ‘personal liberty’ has not only to go through the test of Article 21 but also Articles 14 and 19.

Hence, this article will focus on interpretation and expansion of the Articles which form the Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution with the help of various case laws.


In order to understand the concept of Equality, it is to be understood that this Article explicitly asserts, no person shall be granted any special privilege with respect to an individual’s religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. It deals with the individual’s Equality before the law along with its protection in equal terms[4].

It not only abstains government from unreasonable or illegitimate biasness towards its people but, also ensures that arbitrariness does not overlap rationality. In Harsh Mander & Anr. v Uoi & Ors.[5], the Apex Court of India decriminalised begging by stating that it is not a disease and this mindset has led to stigmatization towards criminalization in the society. By making begging a criminal offence, it would be a direct infringement of Article 14.

In M.G. Badappanavar v. State of Karnataka[6], constitutional bench of Supreme Court held that “equality is the basic feature of the Constitution of India and any treatment of equals unequally or unequal’s as equal will be violation of basic structure of the court of India”. This explains the concept of Equality of Law and Equal Protection of Law.

However, Article 14 has certain exceptions to it, which are reasonable in the eyes of law. In the case of State of Bihar v. Bihar Lecturers Association[7], Test of Reasonable Classification came into picture. It was observed that there is a transparent unbiased difference between a trained and an untrained teacher. This classification is purely legitimate and is based on Intelligible Differential that set trained teacher apart from untrained teacher.

This judgement also propounded that unequal’s cannot be treated equally.  In R. D. Shetty v. International Airport Authority[8], it was decided that Reasonable Classification is a judicial formula for knowing whether the legislative or executive action in question is arbitrary and therefore constituting denial of equality. If classification is not reasonable and does not satisfy the two conditions i.e., Test of Reasonable Classification and Intelligible Differentia, it would otherwise be violative of Article 14.

All individuals in similar scenarios must be given the same rights and obligations. The Apex Court in the case of Kush Kalra v. Union of India[9], observed that the concept of reasonableness pervades Article 14 like a brooding omnipotence and is a crucial component of equality or non-arbitrariness from a legal and philosophical standpoint. It is against Article 14 of the Indian Constitution to exclude female candidates from taking the NDA exam.

It was clearly a discriminatory practice that was prevailing since years and is a clear violation of Article 14. This interim judgement supported a number of female candidates who were subjected to gender discrimination. Earlier, by not allowing women to appear for NDA Examinations, the Test of Reasonable Classification and Intelligible Differentia failed.

Therefore, when the actions of the state are arbitrary, it cannot be shadowed under the protection of Doctrine of Reasonable Classification. The state must be vigilant enough in their governance so that they do not infringe the Fundamental Right of Right to Equality.


In India, diversity of its people plays a very vital role in granting them with their rights. Allowing every citizen to participate in political and social activities of the nation is an essential component of healthy democracy. In a strong democracy, there should be plenty of space for free speech, opinion, and expression in all of its forms. India is one of the largest democracies in the world. It requires equal and free participation of its citizens in order to have good governance in the country.

To ensure that no individual is deprived of their Freedom of Speech and Expression, the Constitution of India guarantees this right under Article 19 to all its citizens. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[10], The Supreme Court directed that any individual has a right to express his/her opinion explicitly. Any law that deprives a person of their Right to Speech and Expression and Personal Liberty should stand the test under Articles 19 and 21.

The court also said that although a right may not be expressly mentioned in any provision of Article 19(1), it may nevertheless be included by one or more of those clauses.

Article 19 has a very wide scope. It is classified under 6 rights concerning the Freedom of –

  • Speech and expression
  • Assembly
  • Association
  • Movement
  • Residence
  • Profession

Recently on 3rd January,2023 the Supreme Court in the case of Kaushal Kishor v. State of Uttar Pradesh[11], highlighted the question of irony where it is said that judiciary is considered to be the protector of Fundamental Rights, though it was coming up new means to curtail speech violating Article 19.

Certain restrictions are provided under Article 19(2) to curtail Freedom of Speech and Expression on grounds of sovereignty and integrity of the nation, national security, friendly ties with foreign countries, public order, decency, morality, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to a criminal offence. So, one of the prime questions that arose in this case was whether restrictions provided under Article 19(2) are exhaustive, or can there be other rights restricting Freedom of Speech and Expression.

The facts of the case are two ministers of Uttar Pradesh government gave derogatory comments on Bulandshahar rape case by calling it a mere political conspiracy by opposition parties to defame ruling government. These remarks sparked the controversy and contended that the Right of Life and Personal Liberty is being infringed while exercising Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.

The bench held that no more restrictions can be added in the list of Article 19(2) even if these two Articles are overlapping each other. The list of restrictions is an exhaustive one. The court imposed an onus on the government to defend people’s right to life and liberty against interference from private entities.

On the basis of the concept of collective responsibility, the majority bench determined that the government cannot be held vicariously accountable for a comment made by a minister that was linked to state matters. The judgement also concluded that until the minister’s words caused the citizen or other person distress or loss, they may not be liable.

There must be a fine line between Free speech and Hate Speech. Freedom of Speech is not a license to abuse. One must abide by the legitimate limitations that come with liberty.

Aishat Shifa v. The State of Karnataka and Ors[12]., also known as the “Hijab Row”, sparked a heated controversy questioning whether or not can Muslim women wear Hijab in educational institutions. One issue raised was whether by not allowing women to wear hijab in educational institutions is violative of Article 19(1)(a) i.e., Freedom of Expression or not and whether it infringes Right to Privacy guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Karnataka High Court upheld the ban of hijab in State’s Educational Institutions on 15th March, 2022 by contending that wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice under Islam. Further this decision was challenged in the Apex Court of India, where it was held that banning hijab in educational institutions does not violate Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The bench upheld the High Court’s decision of banning hijab in educational institutions, though there were split opinions of the judges. So, this issue was and will be the most debatable issue that brings in picture the tussle of execution and interpretation between Religious Freedom, Human Rights, Freedom of Expression, Right to Privacy.


Article 21 known as Right to Life and Personal Liberty, deals with the most imperative part of the Constitution. It says that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law[13].” Earlier Article 21 had a very narrow interpretation, however since past couple of years it has evolved a lot to widen its interpretation and use.

It is considered to be as one of the highly conflicted Article. Everything a person would require to have an ordinary fulfilling life is contained in Article 21. If we discuss the scope, it may be summed up with the phrase “limitless.” Of course, there are limitations because else the nation’s law and order would be compromised. However, these limitations are only put in place when someone has blatantly broken the law.

The Court in many case laws has given the term “life” a wide-ranging definition, giving it a broad breadth. In Kharak Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.[14], the Apex Court held that the term ‘life’ does not mean mere animal existence of any person, it is more than just existing. The prohibition against its loss applies to all the limbs and abilities that are used to enjoy life.

In Sunil Batra v Delhi Administration[15], the Supreme Court held that ‘Right to Life’ includes the right to live a healthy and peaceful life. It should include all the amenities which are essential for human bodies to live a prime life, like Right to live and sleep in peace and the Right to repose and health.

The horizon of Article 21 has been increased since time and now. Many modifications have been made for better execution of this Article. In case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[16], Court interpreted that Right to Life is not just a matter of physical survival but also incorporates the right to a life of dignity. The definition of Life of Dignity was expanded through the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India[17].

Right against Sexual Harassment Workplace was incorporated in Vishakha and Ors v. State of Rajasthan[18] [(1997) 6SCC 241] where it washeld that sexual harassment of women at workplace is violative of person’s Right to Equality, Life and Liberty. Following this judgement, Sexual Harassment of woman at Workplace (prevention, prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 was passed.

Right to Clean Environment was propounded in the case of Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India & Ors.[19], where it was observed that lot of pollution is being caused in water bodies. So, with respect to this, the Court issued various guidelines to adopt a sustainable method towards environment.

By further adding new dimensions to Article 21, Right to be informed was incorporated through the case of Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v. Proprietors of Indian Express Newspapers, Bombay Pvt. Ltd. and Ors.[20], in this case court propounded that in a participatory democratic country where there is vast diversity, an effective way of administration requires that people have a knowledge of internal affairs of the state administration. This enables them to have a right to ask and question the government on matters which are directly or indirectly affecting them.

The landmark judgement of K. S. Puttaswamy & Anr. v. Union Of India & Ors.[21], started a debate of whether privacy is an intrinsic part of people’s life, whether it needs to be protected by the Constitution or not. The bench on 24 August, 2017 unanimously held that Right to Privacy is an inherent part of people’s life and is innate to their Right to Life and Personal Liberty.  People’s freedom to express and live their life on their own terms lies in their privacy.

The Apex Court outrightly overruled its past judgements given in the Case of Kharak Singh v. The State Of U P. & Ors.[22]and M.P. Sharma & Ors. v. Satish Chandra and Ors.[23] where they decided that Right to Privacy is not guaranteed to the citizens under the Indian Constitution. Hence, Right to Privacy was constituted as a Fundamental Right under Article 21.

There are many more rights which were incorporated like Right against Illegal Detention, Right to Travel Abroad, Right to choose a life Partner, Right to Speedy Trial, Right to Fair Trial, Right against Handcuffing, Right Against Solitary Confinement, Right Against Custodial Violence, Right to Bail, Euthanasia And Right To Life, and more.

The scope of Article 21 has a very wide ambit which is gradually and progressively advancing. Many judgements contributed to add and modify the essence of Right to Life and Personal Liberty. In order to make sure that no individual is deprived to live peacefully and with dignity in the society, Article 21 gives them the utmost power to lead a life of meaning and essence.

However, still there is a huge bridge between different sections of society and people still struggle to live a life even with basic necessities. For them these powers in form of Article 21 are of no use unless they are they are fulfilled with the basic requirements to live a life of a mere human existence.


Our Constitution makers tried their level best to draft our country’s Constitution keeping in mind the then current and future situation of the nation with utmost diligence. It’s not easy to formulate a set of rules and regulations in form of laws for such a wide diversified piece of land. From 1950 to 2023, many amendments, additions and subtractions have been made to make it a better set of written rules and regulations as per the current scenario and requirements of the country.

In order to even have a thought to formulate certain old laws, issues relating to it are put forward in front of the Courts in form of Case Laws.  As discussed above, this Article primarily discusses about the evolution of Articles 14, 19 and 21 which is possible with the help of various questions that were raised since many years about the shortcomings of current Laws and Fundamental Rights.

The Fundamental Rights keeps a check and balance of proper running of Judicial system against violations and exploitations of Human Rights. When a concern about the nation’s liberty, fraternity, and equality emerges, this Trio of Articles 14,19 and 21 co-operates and creates a path so that justice may be served successfully and an appropriate framework can be provided for the administrator of the country.

[1] India Const. art. 14,19 & 21.

[2] Chakraborty Archisman, The Golden Triangle of the Indian Constitution, Jus Corpus LJ 2, p.1068 (2021).

[3] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978) 1 SCC 248.

[4] Bakshi, Parvinrai Mulwantrai, and Subhash C. Kashya, The constitution of India, Universal Law Publishing, (1982).

[5] Harsh Mander & Anr. v. Uoi & Ors., MANU/DE/2785/2018.

[6] M.G. Badappanavar v. State of Karnataka, (2001) 2SCC 666.

[7] State of Bihar v. Bihar Lecturers Association, (2007) 7SCC 231.

[8] R. D. Shetty v. International Airport Authority, (1979) 3SCC 489.

[9] Kush Kalra v. Union of India, MANU/DE/0027/2018.

[10] (supra)

[11] Kaushal Kishor v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2023 4(SCC)1.

[12] Aishat Shifa v. The State of Karnataka and Ors., (2023) 2SCC 1.

[13] Ullah, Aman, and Samee Uzair, Right to Life as Basic Structure of Indian Constitution,South Asian Studies, 26(2), (2011).

[14] Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., MANU/SC/0085/1962.

[15] Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, MANU/SC/0184/1978.

[16] (supra)

[17] Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, MANU/SC/0051/1983.

[18] Vishakha and Ors v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6SCC 241.

[19] Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India & Ors., (1996) 5SCC 647.

[20] Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v. Proprietors of Indian Express Newspapers, Bombay Pvt. Ltd. and Ors., (1988) 4SCC 592.

[21] K. S. Puttaswamy & Anr. v. Union Of India & Ors., (2017) 10 SCC 1.

[22] Kharak Singh v. The State Of U. P. & Ors., MANU/SC/0085/1962.

[23] M.P. Sharma & Ors. v. Satish Chandra and Ors., MANU/SC/0018/1954.

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