AK Gopalan vs. State of Madras Case Summary 1950 SC

AK Gopalan vs. State of Madras Case Summary 1950 SC

In the AK Gopalan vs. State of Madras case, the Court ruled that Article 21 of the Constitution did not require Indian Court’s applying a due process of law standards. Hence the Court upheld the validity of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950, excluding Section 14, which provided that the grounds of detention communicated to the detainee or any representation made by him against the grounds cannot be disclosed in the court of law.


The bench of judges which were involved in providing suitable judgment in this matter comprising the following judges:-

  • Harilal Kania (Chief Justice),
  • S. Fazl Ali, M.
  • Patanjali Sastri,
  • Mehr Chand Mahajan,
  • B.K. Mukherjea,
  • Sudhi Ranjan Das

However, the final judgment was passed by Harilal Kania (Chief Justice).


  • A. K. Gopalan a communist leader had been under detention since December 1947, under ordinary criminal law.
  • The convictions were set aside. While he was in Madras Jail, dated March 1, 1950, he was served with an order under Section 3(1) of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950.
  • The provision enabled the Central Government or the State Government to detain someone in order to avoid them from acting in any manner that challenges or violates the national defence, foreign relations, national security, state security, public order, or the maintenance of essential supplies and services.
  • In the matter of A K Gopalan vs. State of Madras, AIR SC 27, the petition was made by AK Gopalan under Article 32(1) of the Constitution of India. A writ of habeas corpus was filed against his detention under the Preventive Detention Act, 1950.
  • AK Gopalan was a communist leader and under detention since December 1947, as imprisonment under ordinary criminal law, he was convicted and sentenced.
  •  However, these convictions were overruled by the Court, and hence when A. K. Gopalan was served upon an order by the State or Central Government, made under Section 3 (1) of the particular act, which gave upon the State & Central Government.
  • Later he challenged the legitimacy of the order under the Act on the grounds that the Act violates the Fundamental Rights as the provisions contradict Article 13, 19 &21, and the Provisions Act 4 of 1950 does not comply of Article 22 of the Indian Constitution.
  • AK Gopalan also stated they the order issued was mala fide.


  • Whether Article 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution contradict the detention Act of the Madras State Government?
  • Whether the State’s detention Act, 1950 provisions under Article 22 of the Indian Constitution?


  • Article 21 of India’s Constitution says: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
  • The genuine and original debate starts with the words “procedure according to law”. In the first prime Article 21 case A. K. Gopalan v.  The State of Madras, Gopalan was detained under the Preventive Detention Law.
  • However, AK Gopalan moved the Court that his detention was unlawful to practice as it contradicted the right to personal liberty. The Court held the term used in Article 21 was meant to just describe the procedural due process and since the Preventive Detention Law under which A K Gopalan was detained was a genuinely valid and reasonable law.
  • A.K Gopalan’s detention was lawful even though the said law would have contradicted and violated some other of his Fundamental Rights some of which were the Right to Freedom of Movement under Article 19, or the detention was arbitrary under Article 14.
  • The conclusion that came out was that the Fundamental Rights were silos in themselves and are not interconnected, and constituted independent articles. The doctrine is commonly known as “procedural due process”.


  • AK Gopalan judgement was contended by a bench of six judges where the major and primary opinion in the matter was that Article21 which covered procedure established by law would simply mean to established by the state.
  • The term Law is intended upon, and it is confined to hold that it would provide a wide understanding of reading it within rules prescribed of natural justice as the implication of natural justice leaving them formerly undefined. This verdict moves forward from the notion of law and morals which are unclear.
  • Professor Hart said that there is a bond between law and morals but there is no interdependence among them. The court in the matter overemphasized this notion via interpretation that there is a specific standard set for law which is the formulation through legislation and legitimizes it.
  • The court well quoted that law was meant to be “jus” that is, a law in the abstract sense of principles of natural justice, and not as “rex” that is, enacted law. The true form of legitimacy for any law is the recognition of the principles of natural justice. Though all six judges gave a different understanding of the same.
  • However, the vast majority held that Section 14 of the Act, which restrained disclosure of the grounds of detention, was unconstitutional. Justice Fazal Ali wrote a dissenting judgement.


  • In the case of Menaka Gandhi vs. Union of India, the apex court held that the procedure for Article 21 has to be just, fair and reasonable and also should agree with the principles of equality and freedom under Articles 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution, thus fundamental rights were established to be read together.
  • The Fundamental Rights via the validated reasoning of procedural by the due process are now read independently as interpreted in the Gopalan’s case, which was denounced, and the understanding of the substantive due process which was brought in for the upcoming cases.

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