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Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipality Corporation

Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipality Corporation

[1985] 2 Supp SCR 51 (India); (1987) LRC (Const) 351 (Supreme Court of India)

Keywords: Right to life, livelihood, civil/political rights, accessibility, national level, India, constitutional law

The State of Maharashtra and the Bombay Municipal Council in 1981 moved to evict all pavement and slum dwellers from Bombay city. The petition claimed that this was a violation of the pavement-dwellers’ right to livelihood, which is included in the right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution that no person shall be deprived of his life except according to procedure established by law.

The Court held that the right to life within the constitution includes the right to livelihood. This conclusion is supported by the directive principles referred to in Unni Krishnan (above) concerning adequate means of livelihood and work.  It was held that the authorities’ action amounted to a deprivation of the citizens’ right to livelihood as they required housing for their livelihoods in order to secure their right to life.

Right to education relevance – this case provides an example of how the right to life can be interpreted as including the right to livelihood, and perhaps therefore, as in Unni Krishnan above, the right to education.