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Mohini Jain v State of Karnataka 

 

Supreme Court of India (1992 AIR 1858)

Keywords: Civil/political rights, accessiblity, dignity and education included within the right to life, Constitutional law, India, national level.

A capitation fee was imposed on those who wished to enter a medical school which placed it beyond the reach of the poor.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution 1950 states that ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’

The preamble states that one of the aims of the Constitution is to secure to all its citizens ‘equality of status and of opportunity’.
Article 19 of the Constitution states that ‘all citizens shall have the right a) to freedom of speech and expression and ... g) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business’.
Article 14 of the Constitution affirms that ‘The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India'.

The Court held the fee to be an arbitrary and unequal action in violation of Article 21, and stated; ‘We think that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself.’

Note that the limiting clause in Article 21 is not applicable because the capitation fee was not established by law, rather by the policy of a medical school.