Maneka Gandhi Case Laws

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Maneka Gandhi Case Laws

Maneka Gandhi is an animal right activist and environmentalist. She had founded a party called Rashtriya Sanjay Manch, along with Akbar Ahmad, aimed at youth empowerment and employment. Later, she became a general secretary of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Maneka Gandhi is also a chairwoman of the Committee for Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA). There are many cases filed by her that are against injustice.

In this article, we will discuss some of the crucial cases filed by Maneka Gandha, which expanded the scope of Article 21 in the Indian Constitution.

Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union Of India 1978 AIR 597; 1978 SCR (2) 621

This landmark judgment gave a new look to the Chapter III of the Constitution of India. It stands as a security to the Right of Personal Liberty granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Facts of the case

Maneka Gandhi’s (Petitioner) passport was issued on 1st June 1976 under the Passport Act 1967. However, the Regional Passport Officer (New Delhi), on 2nd July 1977, had ordered Maneka Gandhi to surrender her passport. The External Affairs Ministry did not provide any reason for this unilateral and arbitrary decision stating that the cause was not in the public’s interest.
Therefore, the Petitioner filed a writ petition stating that the impounding of the passport by the State was a direct assault on her Right to Personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 21. The Petitioner also contended that the right to travel abroad is also covered under Article 21, as stated in Satwant Singh Sawhney Vs. Ramarathnam.

Issues before the Court

  •  Whether the right to travel abroad covered under Article 21?
  • Is it reasonable for the legislature to take away the right to life?
  • Are the provisions of Articles 14, 19, and 21 linked with each other?
  • Should the procedure established by the Passport Act of 1967 be tested for reasonability?


A seven-judge bench delivered this unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. The Court had held that the right to travel abroad, as contended in the Satwant Sigh case, is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution The Court had widened the scope of Article 21, stating that though the provision of Article 21 talks about “procedure established by the law”, such procedure should be reasonable and not arbitrary. It should be based on the principle of justice, fairness, and reasonability.

The Court had further stated that there is a special relationship between Articles 14, 19, and 21 and that every law should pass the test laid down in these provisions, overruling the decision under the A.K. Gopalan case.

Moreover, the interpretation of “personal liberty” should be construed in a broad and liberal sense and not in a narrow and strict sense.

Lastly, the provisions of the Passport Act under Section 10(3)(c) and 10(5) is an administrative order and, therefore, can be challenged on the grounds of denial of the principle of natural justice, unreasonable, ultra vires, and mala fide.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi and Anr Vs Rani Jethmalani 1979 AIR 468, 1979 SCR (2) 378

In this case, the Supreme Court upheld when the Court can exercise the power of transfer.

Facts of the case

Maneka Gandhi (Appellant), the editor of the monthly magazine named “Surya,” was charged with an offence of defamation by the Respondent (Rani Jethmalani) in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Bombay. This petition is filed to transfer the criminal case from Bombay to Delhi court.


The Court dismissed the petition and denied the transfer of the case on the following grounds:
For the dispensation of justice, the first criterion is to ensure a fair trial. Therefore, when a motion for transfer is made, the Court should consider that the motion is not made for the convenience of the party or that legal services are easily available, or for mini-grievances or is not hypersensitive.

The motion should be based on something more compelling, substantial, or imperilling from the point of view of justice, and its attendant environment should be necessary to exercise the power of transfer. The Petitioner’s ground for transfer should be tested, keeping in mind that the accused has no right to dictate the place where the case should be tried. Only the complainant has the right to decide whether the Court has jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court should ensure that the transfer of jurisdiction does not harass the justice.

Here, the contention of the Appellant that both the parties are from Delhi and even the witnesses are from Delhi will not serve the purpose, as the defamation case has a different scenario. The main witness in the present case is the one who has read the offending article and the circumstances that followed it. So, the primary witnesses are from Bombay and not from Delhi. Therefore, witnesses from Delhi cannot be substituted for Bombay witnesses, as this will hinder the proper delivery of justice.

Maneka Gandhi Vs Indira Gandhi AIR 1985 Delhi 114, 1984 (7) DRJ 238

Facts of the case

In this case, the District Judge, Delhi had directed to issue the letters of Administration to the Appellant (Maneka Gandhi) subject to certain directions stating that the estate of Sanjay Gandhi (deceased) would be divisible in three equal parts, namely one part to the Appellant, second part to the son of the deceased (Varun Gandhi) and the third part to the mother of the deceased (Indira Gandhi). However, the deceased’s mother had relinquished her share to her grandson. Therefore, the son would be entitled to receive a 2/3rd share of the property. The deceased’s estate would be devolved according to the Hindu Succession Act. The Appellant challenged the decision of the District Judge.

Issues before the Court

  • Does Section 21A of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, affect the right of succession on Respondent to the deceased’s estate?
  • Can the Appellant be entitled to get the deceased’s estate and exclude the Respondent?
  • Whether the Respondent has any share in the estate of the deceased under the provisions of the Indian Succession Act?


The Court had rejected the application and stated that the amendment under Section 21A of the Special Marriage Act provides if the marriage is solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, then the personal law will apply to the parties who claim succession. Therefore, in this case, the Hindu Succession Act’s provisions will apply. Therefore, Indira Gandhi (Respondent), Varun Gandhi, and Maneka Gandhi will be entitled to receive 1/3rd share each in the deceased’s estate as Indira Gandhi had relinquished her share to Varun Gandhi. Therefore, Varun Gandhi will get 2/3rd of the share.

As Varun Gandhi was a minor, the Court had granted him estate based on certain restrictions requiring Maneka Gandhi to file property details and pay the court fees. In case of the sale of property which involves Varun’s share, the Court’s permission should be taken. The sale amount should be deposited in Varun’s bank account.

The Court had also rejected the allegation of the Appellant that the Respondent was misusing and exploiting the deceased’s son for a political reason, as it was irrelevant and baseless.

Vested rights cannot be taken away by the legislature unless a provision of the Constitution prohibits it.
Section 21A of the Special Marriage Act does not affect the rights guaranteed under the Indian Succession Act.

Buffalo Traders Welfare Association & Anr. Vs Maneka Gandhi (1996) 11 SCC 35

Facts of the case

Two petitions were filed before the High Court; one concerning 168 industries considered hazardous and noxious and should be ordered to stop their function and operation, and the other regarding Idgah Slaughter House in Delhi. Maneka Gandhi had filed a writ petition regarding the inhuman, unhygienic, and horrible conditions at the Idgah Slaughter House, Delhi. It was contended that the polluted effluents were being discharged into the open sewage and drain by slaughtering thousands of animals in unhygienic conditions against the rules and regulations. As a result, the Court ordered 168 industries to stop functioning and operating in Delhi from 30th November 1996, and the slaughterhouse closed from 31st December 1995. However, this order of the Court was challenged before the Supreme court as there was no other slaughterhouse near the area to meet the needs of the people in Delhi.

Issues before the Court

  • Workers of the industries and slaughter would become unemployed;
  • Condition of the slaughterhouse
  • Difficulty a consumer would have to face if the slaughter gets closed


The Court had directed the workers to continue to work in the industries until it is relocated. Once relocated, the workers would also shift to that place. And till the period the industries are closed and relocated to the other area, the employer will have to pay full wages for that period.

The Court also held that the consumers would not be affected as other slaughterhouses are available. And instead of bringing animals from outside, meat can be brought from other places into the city. Though Idgah Slaughter House is one of its kind, its closure would affect many people, but it has to be closed for the health and benefit of the people.

The Court had further imposed certain restrictions on the functioning of the slaughter until 30th June 1997. In addition, it directed Municipal Corporation Delhi to construct a modernized slaughterhouse on another land of the Corporation.

It has also directed the number of animals slaughtered per day and instructed it to be maintained and kept clean by the Municipal Corporation Delhi.

The Central Pollution Board shall be responsible for submitting a report every two months till 30th June 1997.

Moreover, the Deputy Commissioner of Police shall be responsible for ensuring hygiene maintenance at the entry and exit of animals from the slaughterhouse to other areas and should ensure that no animal market is placed near the slaughterhouse and heavily crowded cities.

Lastly, all other illegal slaughterhouses would be banned, and such illegal animal businesses or slaughterhouses would be liable to pay a heavy pollution fine.

Khushwant & Anr. Vs. Maneka Gandhi AIR 2002 Delhi 58

Facts of the case

Appellant (Khushwant Sigh), a well-known author, wanted to publish his autobiography in a book named “Truth, Love and a Little Malice.” The book contained a chapter on “Gandhis and Anands.” Respondent (Maneka Gandhi), a public figure, was aggrieved by the chapter’s contents. “India Today” magazine published an extract from the autobiography to give an idea about the Respondent’s relationship with the Gandhi family. The Respondent had claimed to know about the content of the said magazine. However, she was not aware of the entire content. Hence, the Respondent filed a suit for injunction and damages against the Appellant and others, including the publisher and distributor. The Respondent contended that the publication had some derogatory and defamatory content, tarnishing her and her family’s reputation, and is against the right to privacy. The Learned Single Judge had ordered an injunction. Hence, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

Issues before the Court

  • Freedom of speech and expression of an author was in conflict with the right to privacy of public figures.
  • Whether the laws of privacy different for public and private citizens?


The Court had held that three cardinal principles of balance of convenience, irreparable loss and injury, and prima facie case do not satisfy the injunction order. It is in favor of the Appellant’s right of publication. If the Respondent can establish defamation, then she can claim damages and not otherwise.

With regard to the right to privacy, the Court reiterated the principle laid down under the R. Rajagopal case, the private life of public figures cannot be segregated from the public life. Public scrutiny of public figures by the media cannot be avoided. However, the media should ensure that it should not harass public figures or their family members.

The Court further held that the statements made by the Appellant were already in the public domain and were publicized by the media; therefore, the Appellant cannot be prevented from publication.

The Court observed that the book was an autobiography of the author, which contained his lifetime experiences and interactions with people. It is the author’s way of conveying his thoughts to the readers. Therefore, the author cannot be restricted or directed regarding what to write and what should not be written.

The Supreme Court had allowed the appeal of the Appellant and dismissed the injunction order of the learned Single Judge. However, the Court allowed the Appellant to publish his autobiography. Accordingly, it will be entitled to receive a cost of Rs.10,000/- as damages from the Respondent.


To sum up, these are the cases filed by Maneka Gandhi relating to the environment, the right to privacy and publication, the right to personal liberty, and the power of the Court to transfer cases.


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