Exceptions to The Fundamental Rights: Understanding The Balance Between Individual and Public Interests


The country of India had a lower than 20% literacy rate at the time the constitution went into effect. India was, in short, a mess. It was a nation that was plagued by both internal and external tensions, with people who were still not over an oppressive colonial regime and a bloody partition.

The majority of the developed world viewed democratic India as a risky experiment. The authors of our constitution made the decision to include rights that were inherent in nature in the midst of all this.

These rights were included to promote equality in society and free individuals from governmental dominance. Even these 'inalienable' rights are not unqualified, though. They are bound by a number of limitations that are stated in the constitution itself.

Exceptions to The Fundamental Rights

Article 14 Exception: Right to Equality

Article 14 discusses the right to equal protection under the law and equality before the law. This specific right is an example of the equality referred to in the preamble.

Constitutional and other exceptions to Article 14 exist. Although equality is regarded as one of the pillars of democracy and Article 14 specifically mentions equal treatment for all, it is still permissible to treat equals and unequals differently.

In other words, Article 14 permits the classification of people, things, and transactions in a reasonable manner.

Article 14 Constitutional Exceptions

  • Article 361 of the constitution grants the President of India and the Governor of a state immunity.
  • A substantially true report of proceedings in either house of parliament or the legislature of a state may be published without subjecting the author to any civil or criminal proceedings in any court (Article 361-A).
  • Members of parliament are exempt from legal action in any court based on anything they said or voted in the legislature or any parliamentary committee (Article 105).

Exception to Article 21: Protection of Personal Liberty and Life

This clause safeguards an individual's life and liberty, all of the aforementioned epithets are well-deserved. When activists and courts want to broaden the protection offered to people by fundamental rights, they turn to this rights.

New rights have been incorporated into Article 21's more comprehensive protection, as evidenced by the inclusion of the right to privacy, the right to a life of dignity, the right to a livelihood, etc.

Even a fundamental right as significant as Article 21 does not, however, apply without exception. For instance, the court ruled in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [5] that legal procedure must be right, just, and fair and not capricious, irrational, or oppressive.

This decision made it clear that any exception to Article 21 must pass a stricter test than had previously been thought necessary. The process intended to revoke someone's right to life and liberty must also adhere to the principles of natural justice.

Article 22 Exception: Protection from Arrest and Detention In Certain Circumstances

This Article is a crucial defense against the state acting arbitrarily. A state will always be afraid of dissenting opinions, whether it is democratic or not. Dissent does not support the power structure, despite being an essential component of democratic discourse.

Those in positions of authority will always try to limit any actions or words that go against them. Those in charge have always been able to imprison their critics for dubious reasons with the support of the police. Through Article 22, the constitution protects citizens from arbitrary detention and arrest.

When it comes to Article 22 of the constitution, everything is not rainbows and candies. Only India, a democratic country, has incorporated preventive detention into its constitution

Clauses (1) and (2) of Article 22's general rules are discussed in detail in Article 22(3). Therefore, in cases of preventive detention laws and when a person is an enemy alien at the time of arrest or detention, the protections mentioned in clauses (1) and (2) will not be applicable.

It is not news that enemy aliens are treated differently, but it is regrettable that colonial raj practices like preventive detention, which is an exception to how arrestees and detainees are treated in civilized countries, have constitutional validity.

Article 31A: Laws Governing the Purchase of Estates and Other Things Are Protected

It prevents five categories of laws from being contested and declared invalid on the grounds that they violate articles 14 and 19.

  • Purchase of states by the government and related rights.
  • Assuming state control over property management.
  • Combination of businesses.
  • Rights of corporate directors or shareholders being revoked or changed.
  • Cancellation or modification of a mining lease.


Q1. How are fundamental rights in India limited?

Ans: The Indian Constitution has provisions for exceptions to fundamental rights, including Article 31A and Article 31C. These exceptions are not subject to the Right to Equality and the Right to Freedom, as outlined in Articles 14 and 19. Specifically, Article 31A limits the applicability of Article 14 and 19.

Q2. What are the instances where Article 14 does not apply?

Ans: Individuals such as foreign rulers, ambassadors, and diplomats are not subject to legal action in civil and criminal courts.

Q3. How can we describe the limitations imposed on fundamental rights?

Ans: Although fundamental rights are granted, they are not without limitations. These limitations are reasonable and depend on factors like state security, public morality, decency, and maintaining amicable relations with other nations.

Q4. How can the right to equality be limited?

Ans: The right to equality ensures that no individual can face discrimination in public employment or appointments based on factors like race, religion, caste, sex, place of birth, descent, or residence. However, exceptions can be made to provide special provisions for backward classes.

Updated on: 05-May-2023


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