AN ANALYSIS OF RIGHT TO LIVELIHOOD AS AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT

By Ms. A.SAJIDA MEERA RUMANA


1.INTRODUCTION Right to livelihood is a part of Article 21 and no person shall be deprived of it. However, if a person is deprived of such a right according to procedure established by law which must be fair, just and reasonable and which is in the larger interest of people, the plea of deprivation of the right to livelihood under Art. 21 is unsustainable[i]. In Chameli Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[ii], it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that when the land of a landowner was acquired by state in accordance with the procedure laid down in the relevant law of acquisition the right to livelihood of such a landowner even though adversely affected, his right to livelihood is not violated. The Court opined that the state acquires land in exercise of its power of eminent domain for a public purpose. The landowner is paid compensation in lieu of land, and therefore, the plea of deprivation of the right to livelihood under Art. 21 is unsustainable[iii].

2.JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION There is no absolute embargo on the deprivation of right to livelihood. Though the Apex Court in the Pavement dwellers Case[iv],observed that that the right to life which is conferred by Article 21[v] includes the right to livelihood but it also stated that the Constitution does not put an absolute embargo on the deprivation of life or personal liberty. Such deprivation, however, must be according to procedure established by law which must be fair, just and reasonable[vi]. The Constitution does not put an absolute embargo on the deprivation of life or personal liberty. Furthermore, it was observed in another leading case that“Liberty of an individual comes to an end where the liberty of another commences”[vii].It is far too well settled to admit of any argument that the procedure prescribed by law for the deprivation of the right conferred by Article 21 must be fair, just and reasonable[viii]. The question whether deprivation of property leading to deprivation of life or liberty or livelihood” falls within the reach of Article 21[ix] is open though where it does not result in such deprivation, article 21 does not apply[x].Displacement of land owners on acquisition of their land under the Land Acquisition Act[xi]did not violate article 21.In Butu Prasad Kumbhar v. SAIL[xii], it was held that the displaced persons would be given alternative sites for farming and one person of the family would be given job in the steel plant.

3.OBLIGATION OF THE STATE The principles contained in Articles 39(a) and 41 must be regarded as equally fundamental in the understanding and interpretation of the meaning and content of fundamental rights. If there is an obligation upon the State to secure to the citizens an adequate means of livelihood and the right to work, it would be sheer pedantry to exclude the right to livelihood from the content of the right to life. The State may not, by affirmative action, be compellable to provide adequate means of livelihood or work to the citizens. But, any person who is deprived of his right to livelihood except according to just and fair procedure established by law can challenge the deprivation as offending the right to life conferred by Article 21. In Sodan Singh v New Delhi Municipal Committee[xiii], the court held that a member of the public is entitled to legitimate use of the road other than actually passing or re-passing through it, provided that he does not create an unreasonable obstruction which may cause inconvenience to other persons having similar right to pass and does not make excessive use of the road to the prejudice of the others.In Bombay Hawkers' Union And Ors v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[xiv], was observed that no one has any right to do his or her trade or business so as to cause nuisance, annoyance or inconvenience to the other members of the public.In M.J.Sivani & Ors.v. State of Karnataka &Ors [xv], the Court held that right to life under Article 21 does protect livelihood but added a rider that its deprivation cannot be extended too far or projected or stretched to the avocation, business or trade injurious to public interest or has insidious effect on public moral or public order. It was, therefore, held that regulation of video games or prohibition of some video games of pure chance or mixed chance and skill are not violation of Article 21 nor is the procedure unreasonable, unfair, or unjust.In case of removing the encroachers from any public property, any action taken by a public authority which is invested with statutory powers has, therefore, to be tested by the application of two standards:(a) The action must be within the scope of the authority conferred by law and (b) It must be reasonable[xvi]. Public properties are intended to serve the convenience of the general public. They are not laid for private use and indeed, their use for a private purpose frustrates the very object for which they are carved out from portions of public streets. The main reason for laying out pavements is to ensure that the pedestrians are able to go about their daily affairs with a reasonable measure of safety and security. That facility, which has matured into a right of the pedestrians, cannot be set at naught by allowing encroachments to be made on the pavements[xvii],Therefore, in any case of encroachment upon public property, the court may take necessary actions in favor of the general public and the right to livelihood cannot be claimed.Every Municipal Corporation or a statutory body has a statutory duty to have the encroachments removed. It would, therefore, be inexpedient to give any direction not to remove, or to allow the encroachment, for instance, on the pavements or footpaths which is a constant source of unhygienic ecology, traffic hazards and risk prone to lives of the pedestrians[xviii]. The Court may not, as a rule, direct that the encroacher should be provided with an alternative accommodation before ejectment when they encroached public properties but each case requires examination and suitable direction appropriate to the facts requires modulation[xix]

4.CONCLUSION Deprivation of livelihood would not only denude the life of its effective content and meaningfulness but it would make life impossible to live. And yet such deprivation of life would not be in accordance with the procedure established by law, if the right to livelihood is not regarded as a part of the right to life.Now is the time to take stock of the situation for bringing down the curtain. As seen above by a catena of decisions of the Supreme Court spread over decades it is now well settled that the word ‘life’ as employed by Article 21 takes in its sweep not only the concept of mere physical existence by also all finer values of life including the right to work and right to livelihood.However, as already observed above, this right is not absolute and there is no absolute embargo on it’s deprivation.


[i]Smarika Azad, ‘Article 21: Right to Life & Livelihood’ [2013] Lawlex.org<https://lawlex.org/lex-bulletin/article-21-right-to-life-livelihood/3631>. [ii]Chameli Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (1996) 2 S.C.C. 549(India). [iii]Ibid. [iv]State of Maharashtra v. BasantibaiMohanLalKhetan 1986 S.C.R. (1) 707(India). [v]CONST, Art. 21. [vi]Supra note 4. [vii]Sodan Singh v. New Delhi Municipal Committee (1989) 4 S.C.C. 155(India). [viii]Supra note 4. [ix]CONST, Art. 21. [x]State of Maharashtra v.BasantibaiMohanLalKhetan (1986) S.C.R. (1) 707(India). [xi]Land Acquisition Act 1894. [xii]Butu Prasad Kumbhar v. SAIL (1995) S.C.C. 225(India). [xiii]Supra note 7. [xiv]Bombay Hawkers’ Union and ors v. Bombay Municipal Corpn (2017) S.C.C. Bom 1976(India). [xv]M.J.Sivani&Ors. v. State of Karnataka&Ors[1995] (3) S.C.R. 329(India). [xvi]Supra note 10. [xvii]Supra note 14. [xviii]Ibid. [xix]ChunniLal and Ors. V State of Haryana and Ors(2003) A.I.R. 2004 P.H. 59(India).

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