Why are Articles 20 and 21 not Suspended During an Emergency?

By Devyani Singh|Updated : November 15th, 2022

Articles 20 and 21 aren’t suspended during an emergency because they are deemed to be non-derogable rights. According to a Supreme Court decision, even if a national emergency is declared, articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended in any situation. They are inalienable rights that are necessary for humanity. They are not irrevocable constitutional gifts.

Suspension of Articles 20 and 21 during Emergency

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to life and personal freedom is a fundamental right that cannot be violated. The Court agreed that no circumstance should allow for the removal of a person's right to life and personal liberty after the 44th Amendment Act stripped the right to property of its fundamental status.

This immunity cushion makes articles 20 and 21 valid even under national emergencies. Our constitution gives all its citizens fundamental rights. However, these rights may be suspended in situations of national emergency. The only two fundamental rights that cannot be rescinded are articles 20 and 21. 

  • Article 20: This Article prohibits self-incrimination 
  • Article 21: This Article guards an individual’s right to life and personal liberty.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a nationwide state of emergency for the duration of The Emergency in India, which lasted for 21 months from 1975 to 1977. The Emergency, which was formally declared by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution in response to the then-current "internal disturbance," was in effect from June 25, 1975, until March 21, 1977, when it was officially lifted. The order gave the prime minister the power to rule by executive order, allowing elections to be called off and civil liberties to be suspended.

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FAQs on Articles 20 and 21 Suspension during Emergency

  • Due to their status as non-derogable rights, Articles 20 and 21 are not suspended in times of emergency. A Supreme Court ruling states that even if a national emergency is declared, articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended under any circumstances.

  • The President of India can impose a national emergency. In India, a state of emergency is a period of government that the president may declare in certain emergency situations.

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