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A K Gopalan vs State of Madras 1950

Case Summary


The case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950) is a landmark legal proceeding that deals with the interpretation of fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution. A.K. Gopalan, a communist leader, was detained under the Preventive Detention Act by the State of Madras on the grounds of being a threat to public order. Gopalan challenged his detention, arguing that it violated his fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution.


In its judgment delivered in 1950, the Supreme Court of India held that preventive detention laws were valid and did not violate the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. The court adopted a narrow interpretation of fundamental rights, emphasizing that Articles 19 and 21 did not apply to preventive detention. It ruled that the right to personal liberty under Article 21 was distinct from the right to freedom of movement and speech guaranteed under Article 19. Consequently, the court upheld Gopalan's detention under the Preventive Detention Act, rejecting his argument that it infringed upon his constitutional rights.


The judgment in A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras had far-reaching implications for the protection of civil liberties and the scope of fundamental rights in India. It established the principle that preventive detention laws could be enacted and enforced without violating constitutional provisions on personal liberty. The decision marked a departure from a broad interpretation of fundamental rights and affirmed the state's authority to curtail individual freedoms in the interest of public order and security. However, it also sparked debates and criticisms regarding the limitations placed on civil liberties and the need for judicial review of executive actions.

List of Linked Cases:

ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla (1976)

Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973)

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)

Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India (1980)

Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967)

Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973)