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A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras, 1950

A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras, 1950

A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras, 1950 if the landmark judgment of the supreme court, and it is very important for the study and knowledge purpose. Let us see A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras, 1950 in deeply.

Facts of the landmark case named A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras

In this case, a petition was filed by the applicant AK. Gopalan, who was a Communist Leader under Article 32(1) of the Constitution of India for a writ of habeas corpus against his detention in the Madras Jail. In the petition, he has given various dates showing how he has been under detention since December 1947. He had been sentenced to imprisonment but the convictions were set aside. While he was under detention under one of the other orders of the Madras State Government, he was served with an order made under Section 3 (1) of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950.

He challenged the legality of the order and contended that the same contravenes the provisions of Articles 13,19, and 21of the Constitution of India. It was further affirmed that the provisions of this Act were not in accordance with Article 22 of the Constitution.

Art 19- speech/expression/movement/trade

Art 21 – life and personal liberty

Art 22 – detention laws

He contended that the provisions of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 transgress and thus amount to a violation of the Fundamental Rights under Articles 13, 19, 21, and 22 of the Constitution of India.

Petitioner’s arguments

The Petitioner argued in A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras that the provisions of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 violated the freedom conferred to every citizen by Article 19(1)(a) to (e) and (g), and the impugned law under the Act 4 of 1950 did not satisfy the test of Article 19(2) to Article (6). The petitioner’s right to free speech as and where he wanted was taken away.

They believed that Article 19 (1) and Article 21 should be read together as the Substantive Rights of the citizen are dealt with in Article 19 (1) and the procedural aspects of the personal liberty are dealt with in Article 21 and that deprivation of life and personal liberty of a person except the procedure established by law.

The words “procedure established by law” does not refer to or mean any form of legislation (lex) but it means nothing less than the “due process” of law (jus) that needs to be followed and is thus violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The petitioner has relied upon the Constitution of the United States of America the corresponding provision is found in the 5th and 14th Amendments where the provision.

Respondent’s arguments

The respondent argued in A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras that Sections 19 and 21 should not be read together and should be read by themselves. The article mentioned in 19 (1) (a) to (g) also should be considered separately from a different point of view of a similar right of the other citizen.

They urged that the words “procedure established by law” is adopted by the Japanese Constitution to avoid the usage of the word “due process” and thus have a different meaning of both words. It, therefore, is not violative of Article 21. The interpretation of the word “due process” of law as in the United States of America Constitution was taken up as law Including both the substantive rights and procedural rights is not required to be taken in Indian Courts and no justification to adopt will stand sufficient in the Court. The debates of the Drafting Committee were also referred to and relied upon by the respondents in respect of the wording of the clause in order to clear the doubts of ambiguity.


1. Whether the detention Act of Madras State contravene the provisions of Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution?

2. Whether the State’s detention Act, 1950 provisions in accordance with Article 22 of the Indian Constitution?

Issue 1 of A K Gopalan Versus State of Madras

Punitive and preventive detention were outside the ambit of Article 19 of the Constitution of India and hence the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 had not violated it. It was also contended by the court that the said article provides protection to citizens who are Free, therefore not the citizen whose freedom is restrained by law, and the question of enforcing Article 19(1) does not arise.

The words which are the same in two different provisions cannot be understood in the same light and considered it has that the words have the same meaning. With respect to the contention raised by the petitioner of the violation of the Fundamental Right under Article 21 and the meaning and usage of the words “procedure established by law” do not amount to mean “due process”. If the legislature would have meant that these two words have the same meaning or refer to the same thing the framers of the constitution would have expressed it clearly.

“To read the word law” as meaning rules of natural justice will land one in difficulties because the rules of natural justice, as regards procedure, are nowhere defined and in my opinion, the Constitution cannot be read as laying down a vague standard.

Issue  2 of A K Gopalan Versus State of Madras

Various provisions of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 are covered under Article 22 and those which are not, are added through the aspects of Article 21.

The Apex court held that Section 3 of the Act was justified and as it was valid to provide such discretionary powers to the executive.

It was held that none of the sections of the Preventive detention act, IV of 1950 infringed the provisions of Part III of the constitution barring S.14, restricting the disclosure of the grounds of detention. Section 14 of the act was declared Ultra Vires, nonetheless the declaration did not affect the validity of the act as a whole.

Dissenting opinion (4:2) From the 6 judges bench, 4 Judges votes in the favour of the opinion and 2 judges vote for the opposite of that opinion

Justice Fazl Ali was in stark contrast to the opinion of the majority of judges. According to him the phrase “procedure established by law” under Article 21 of the Constitution of India should be interpreted liberally. He was also of the view, unlike the majority that Fundamental Rights in Article 19 are read with Article 21 and Article 22 which discuss the procedural rights of the same.

There is however no authoritative opinion available to support the view that this Freedom is anything different from what is otherwise called personal liberty. I am confirmed in my view that the juristic conception that personal liberty and Freedom of movement connote the same thing is the correct and true conception, and the words used in Article 19(1)(d) must be construed according to this universally accepted legal conception.


“The judgment in A K Gopalan Versus State Of Madras, given by the majority judges was an attempt by them to expound the jurisprudence of a new Constitution for people who just got independent from colonial rule. They held that the law prescribing the detention was preventive in the interest of the general public and so it does not require to satisfy the test of reasonableness even if it overlapped the Fundamental Rights as provided in the Constitution of India.

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