The Supreme Court of India on 19 June 2013 in its decision established that right to life and liberty, enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution, is available to foreign nationals also. The Supreme Court quashed the FIR registered by the Government of Maharashtra against three citizens of Uganda including an Advisor to the President of Uganda, based on the complaint given by Videocon.
The state government of Maharashtra filed a criminal case of cheating against the three Ugandan citizens based on the complaint by Videocon.
The Vacation Bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Ranjan Gogoi slammed the State government ordered Mumbai Police to release the passports of the trio with immediate effect. The bench in its direction stated that the police action of registering the FIR bought a bad name for India.
Supreme Court Verdict in Videocon case against three Ugandan citizens: “Article 21 of the Constitution [right to life and liberty] applies to all citizens, whether Indian or foreign nationals. Their right to liberty could not be restrained by the police due to a business dispute. Our country gets a bad name because of acts of a few police officers and it is unfortunate that the Mumbai police, instead of protecting the rights of these foreign nationals, filed an FIR against them and the charges are baseless.”
About the Case: Mumbai Police registered a case of extortion against Isacc Isanga Musumba, lawyer and senior Advisor to the President of Uganda (equivalent to the post of a Minister), Mawanda Michael Maranga, Member of Parliament and Magoola Mathias, a businessman from Uganda on the complaint received by Videocon officials. Following the complaint, police seized the passports of the three Ugandans. The Counsel of the Ugandans informed the Supreme Court that the petitioners came to India to settle the business dispute with Videocon in April 2013.
Content of Submitted Petition: The Ugandan nationals in their petition submitted that the police barred them from leaving the country without any formal order of arrest on 19 April 2013.
Article 21 of Constitution of India
As per Constitution of India Article 21 mentions Right to Protection of life and personal liberty. “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
Procedure established by Law in Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) has been judicially constructed as meaning a procedure which is reasonable, fair and just. Article 21, when supported by Article 39A (Directive Principles of State Policy) implies legal aid to be made available to the indigent accused and a prisoner.
Article 39A mentions Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid. “The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.”