Article 21 is the soul of the Indian Constitution. Article 21 talks about equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, religious and cultural freedom, etc. Article 21 is valid for every citizen of India. It is also valid for foreign citizens. It also talks about the right to travel abroad as being linked to the right to life and liberty which is the basic principle enshrined in this section.
The right to freely roam throughout India's territory is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Indian constitution; however, the right to travel overseas is derived from Article 21's right to life and personal liberty. “No one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty unless in accordance with the method prescribed by law,” it adds.
The phrase "life and liberty" have been given enormous connotations in this article through liberal interpretations. Here, life refers not only to one's bodily existence but also to one's quality of life. Personal liberty, on the other hand, does not just refer to freedom from physical restraint or confinement, but also to a wide range of rights.
The Supreme Court of India underlined in Satish Chandra Verma vs. Union of India that the freedom to go abroad, including marriage and family, is a genuine and fundamental human right. “The right to travel abroad is an important basic human right because it nourishes independent and self-determining creative character of the individual, not only by extending his freedoms of action but also by extending the scope of his experience,” wrote a bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao and M.R. Shah in 2019.- JUDGEMENT
In this case, an IPS officer from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, filed an appeal. In his appeal, he claimed that he was the subject of a departmental inquiry and that the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) had denied him permission to visit relatives in another country on that basis. Despite the fact that Inspector General of Police Satish Chandra Verma was not facing any criminal charges, the Madras High Court affirmed the Central Administrative Tribunal's ruling that he may not travel abroad without first obtaining Vigilance clearance. The Supreme Court overturned the High Court's decision, citing the historic Supreme Court cases Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India and Kent vs. Dulles in the United States (1958)
The bench noted in its decision in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India that the right to travel abroad is an important basic human right because it fosters an individual's independent and self-determining creative character by broadening the breadth of his work experience and his freedom of action. The Supreme Court cited the decision in the latter case, which stated that "freedom to go abroad has significant societal importance and represents a fundamental human right." Along with establishing the right to travel abroad to be a basic human right, the Supreme Court also stated that this right applies to private life, such as marriage, family, and friendship.
The right to go abroad is restricted in accordance with "statutory process." Natural justice principles require equal, equitable, and rational restrictions. The criteria that justify a restriction on the freedom to go abroad are not clearly mentioned in the Constitution. However, in certain situations, the passport authorities can cancel, revoke, alter, or jail the passport or travel document, according to Section 10(3) of the Passports Act 1967. In certain circumstances, the passport was obtained by fraud or was held in the wrong hands.
The right to travel internationally is a crucial right recognised by the Supreme Court as a constitutional right. According to the court, the right to travel abroad is an important fundamental human right since it fosters an individual's autonomous and self-determining creative character. Marriage, family, and friendship are examples of human relationships that are rarely hindered by a fear of travelling overseas, demonstrating that this freedom is a valid human right. The ability to move freely throughout India's territory and outside of India is subject to reasonable restrictions that can be imposed in the public interest. For example, restrictions on movement and travel may be enforced in order to contain pandemics such as the ongoing COVID 19 worldwide disaster.
#tags: Supreme Court of India, Fundamental Rights, Right to Travel, Article 21, Article 19