Author: Sibani Suresh, student of Symbiosis law school


Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India is one of the most significant recent cases using Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the ‘Right to Life and Personal Liberty.’ 

Manohar Lal Sharma was the petitioner, and the respondent was the Union of India. A three-judge panel decided this case. Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice H. Kohli, and Justice S. Kant presided over the case. 

The Court was petitioned to investigate the usage and possible abuse of the Pegasus technology. The court sought to determine if the fundamental rights of Indian citizens had been violated and whether, in the given circumstances, the State could limit individual rights to preserve and ensure natural security. 


• Whether the foreign governments or agencies of the respondent are using the said software on citizens of the country without following lawful procedure. 

• Whether the fundamental right given under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is being violated and whether the government has the right to limit this right in the given circumstances to maintain national security. 


In September 2018, a document was published by Citizen Lab, a laboratory at the University of Toronto in Canada, which revealed the software capabilities of Pegasus, a spyware produced by an Israeli technology company. It is purported that zero-click vulnerabilities in the spyware allow it to infiltrate a person’s digital devices with no effort required from the software’s victim.

In 2019, the Israeli technology company NSO Group was sued by Facebook. They claimed to have used Pegasus, a malware developed by NSO, to eavesdrop on WhatsApp users on Facebook. A mobile user’s privacy could be compromised if spyware is unintentionally placed onto their device. According to reports, the program can access all stored data on a user’s smartphone, including emails, SMS, phone calls, and the camera and microphone on the device. It can even access any recorded data in real time.

The Pegasus user receives full control over the device, including the ability to turn on and off various capabilities and operate it remotely. The NSO Group claims that this extremely advanced software is only supplied to certain, unidentified governments. At least forty Indian citizens, including journalists and activists from the Dalit and Adivasi communities, were allegedly on the list of potential snooping targets during a 2019 lawsuit. This suggested that the spyware was purchased and utilized by the Indian government.

Further allegations were made public on July 18, 2021, by the ‘Pegasus Project,’ a worldwide collaboration between 17 media outlets and Amnesty Worldwide. They disclosed the phone numbers of fifty thousand people who could be the spyware’s target. A web-based news reporting service called The Wire released the Project’s results in India. The editors-in-chief of The Wire allegedly utilized devices on which malware was found to be present. The gadget of Prashant Kishor, a political strategist who was most recently employed by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, too had similar traces discovered on it. Other possible targets on this list, though unverified, included Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, and judges Ranjan Gogoi and Arun Mishra of the Supreme Court.


The Monsoon Session of Parliament was rocked by these events, which started on July 19. Members requested an answer from the administration regarding the allegations. The Minister of Information Technology, Vaishnaw, declared on July 22 that the Pegasus reports had “no factual basis” and that the government’s monitoring capabilities were sufficiently restrained and regulated. He claimed that the Information Technology Act of 2000 and the Telegraph Act of 1885 permitted spying.

In Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs. Union of India 2017 (10), the right to privacy was acknowledged as a basic right that principally arose from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. First scale. For this right to be relevant, the state needs to establish a framework for data protection that safeguards individuals’ privacy from threats to it coming from both state and non-state actors. When developing a framework for data protection, the Committee needs to keep in mind the state’s obligation.

ARGUMENT OF PETITIONER: The State violated the petitioner’s fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression, life and personal liberty, the right to travel abroad, and freedom of movement on July 4, 1977, when it issued the administrative order seizing the passport.

The clauses found in Articles 14, 19, and 21 should be interpreted in conjunction with one another and do not conflict with one another. The observance of natural justice principles and the genuine spirit of constitutionalism can only be achieved through a cumulative reading and subsequent interpretation.

Even if India hasn’t embraced the American notion of “due process of law,” the legal process should nonetheless be rational, fair, and not capricious. Insofar as it breaches Article 21, Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act is unlawful.


The petitioner was required to come before a government committee for a hearing, thus the respondent told the court that the passport was seized accordingly.

By highlighting the idea established in the A K Gopalan case, the respondent claimed that the term “law” in Article 21 cannot be interpreted as represented in the basic principles of natural justice. 

“Procedure established by law” is a phrase included in Article 21, and it need not match Articles 14 and 19 or pass the requirement of reasonability.

Our Constitution’s authors engaged in lengthy discussions about the differences between the British “procedure established by law” and the American “due process of law.” Due process of law is conspicuously absent from the clauses of the


Unquestionably, the Supreme Court has made several observations in this case that have the potential to improve the State’s legal accountability. Perhaps most importantly, these observations limit the State’s ability to get away with crimes each time the specter of “national security” is brought up. It is noteworthy because, as of late, this assertion has served as the State’s blanket defense against any judicial oversight. Furthermore, the Court correctly rejected the Government’s request that a committee be established to investigate the claims since doing so would have violated a basic legal principle that demands that justice be done as well as seen to be done. But if one looks past the voluminous eulogy and probes a little deeper, serious shortcomings in the working portion of the order become apparent. Undoubtedly, the observations are commendable; but, they do not result in true accountability, which was necessary in the circumstances and legally justified. In conclusion, the current order appears to have done justice, but it is still up for debate whether or not justice has been served… 

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