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Case Brief |AK Gopalan vs. State of Madras

case brief, case summary


The AK Gopalan vs. State of Madras Case is one of the most well-known and frequently cited cases in Indian history.

The case is famous because it was the first to be heard in the Supreme Court of India, in which numerous articles of the Indian Constitution were discussed, and prominence was also given to the Indian Constitution’s chapter on Fundamental Rights.

The primary focus was on various articles, including 19, 21, and 22. The judgment, in this case, established a restrictive view of fundamental rights, which was upheld for nearly 30 years before being overturned in “Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India.”

Even though this decision was later reversed, it influenced how different courts viewed citizens’ and non-citizens’ fundamental rights. In a very broad and detailed manner, without attempting to encapsulate all human rights under the heading of fundamental rights.

The judgment provided an opportunity for the Indian judiciary to extensively elaborate and interpret the Constitution’s fundamental rights. One of the primary reasons the case is so well-known and well-known among cases involving fundamental rights is because of the nonconforming judgment delivered by “Justice Fazl Ali,” one of two dissenting judges on a six-judge bench.

The 1950 judgment of Justice Fazl Ali established a precedent for personal liberty and a liberalized perspective on fundamental rights and various other human rights.


AK. Gopalan was a prominent communist leader in the Madras state. He was detained in December 1947 and imprisoned under “ordinary criminal laws,” where he was condemned and punished.

Although the court later reversed these convictions, A. K. Gopalan remained in detention. Later, on 1st March 1950, A. K. Gopalan was again detained under section 31 of the Act, which grants the state and central governments the authority to detain any person.

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However, A. K. Gopalan filed a writ of “habeas corpus” against his detention according to the provisions of the “Preventive Detention Act of 1950.” Later, A. K. Gopalan challenged the constitutionality and validity of the order authorizing his detention, claiming that it violates various provisions of the Indian Constitution’s fundamental rights and that act 4 of the Madras state acts 1950 conflicts with article 22 of the Indian Constitution.

He contested the act’s validity because it violates article 19 1’s freedom of movement and article 21’s liberty.


In the case of “A.K. Gopalan v. the State of Madras,” the greater part of judges decided that reformatory and pre-emptive confinement fell outside the scope of “Article 19” of the Indian Constitution, and thus the “Preventive Detention Act, 1950” did not disregard it.

The court also argued that mentioned provision, which stipulates security to residents who are at liberty, does not apply to residents whose opportunities are limited by regulation, and that the issue of authorizing “Article 19(1)” does not ascend.

It was argued that under “Article 21 of the US Constitution,” “procedure established by law” refers to “due process of law,” which incorporates the rule of regular equity and that because the criticized law does not meet the requirement of fair treatment of law, it is not invalid.

Different arrangements of the “Preventive Detention Act, 1950” are enclosed under “Article 22 and those which are not, are added through the parts of Article 21.”

The Apex law court held that “Section 3 of the Act” was legitimized and as it was substantial to give such optional forces to the leader, what’s more with the greater part court likewise settled upon the legitimacy of “Section 7 and 11 of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950” as under “Article 2(7)(b) the parliament has not required ability to set a base detainment period and under Article 22(5)” and 22(6) the right of portrayal which off to be received orally are excessive.

Segment 14 of the said Act has additionally announced ultra vires because it fought the court’s all in all correct to decide the legitimacy of detainment.

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Majority Judgement

The majority rejected AK Gopalan’s contentions, holding that the ‘personal liberty protected by Article 21 simply means freedom from confinement without legal authorization.

In other words, personal liberty includes independence from bodily confinement and compulsion that is not legally permitted. When used comprehensively, the phrase ‘liberty’ encompasses all the liberties listed in Article 19.

The court narrowed down the definition of ‘personal liberty under English law. Article 21 grants citizens protection from arbitrary imprisonment (which is only partial control). Only when he is a free man, not if his liberty is infringed by a legal measure. “As the Court observed, “established procedure under the law” is not equivalent to “due process of law” under the US Constitution.

Apex Court interpreted law holds that Article 21 may not mean the same thing. As previously mentioned, the Drafting Committee of the Constitution preferred the term “due process of law” to “procedure established by law.”

“Process established by law” entails a process advocated by the law of the state. The Supreme Court view of due process has been extremely imprecise. Constituent Assembly members would not have needed to do anything different to make the same protections applicable in India.

Following State enactment, the Prevention of Detention Act complied with Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution. Therefore, the event was upheld and the lawsuit was dismissed.

Minority Judgement

Justice Fazal Ali, in a concurring opinion, found that the Act was accountable for violating Article 19. He placed a high premium on the term “personal liberty,” which he defined as the possibility of development and movement. Thus, any law that denies an individual his or her liberty must satisfy the requirements of Articles 19 and 21.

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Justice Fazl Ali-

There is however no authoritative opinion available to support the view that this freedom is anything different from what is otherwise called personal liberty. The problem of construction regarding this right in the Constitution of Danzig is the same as in our Constitution. Such being a general position, 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.”


This is a watershed moment. Judgment argued by a bench of six judges in which the majority view of the situation was that article 21, which covers methodology established by legislation, would essentially mean state-created law.

The significance of the law is predicted, and it is said that examining it under the standards of common equity does not require an excessively broad grasp, as the consequences of common equity previously left them in the dark. This choice advances from the ambiguity of the law and normal ethics.

Teacher Hart stated that there is a connection between law and ethics, but there is none. The court in the instance misconstrued this concept by stating that there is a particular standard set for legislation that is defined and legitimized by enactment.


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