Fundamental Rights in India

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FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IN INDIA

  • Fundamental Rights is a charter of rights contained in Part 3 of Constitution of India. It guarantees civil liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace and harmony as citizens of India.
  • Violation of these rights result in punishments as prescribed in the Indian Penal Code or other special laws, subject to discretion of the judiciary.
  • The Fundamental Rights are defined as basic human freedoms that every Indian citizen has the right to enjoy for a proper and harmonious development of personality.
  • These rights universally apply to all citizens, irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste or gender. Aliens (persons who are not citizens) are also considered in matters like equality before law.
  • They are enforceable by the courts, subject to certain restrictions. The Rights have their origins in many sources, including England’s Bill of Rights, the United States Bill of Rights and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man.

THE SIX FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS RECOGNIZED BY THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION ARE.


1. RIGHT TO EQUALITY

Right to equality is an important right provided for in Articles 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the constitution. It is the principal foundation of all other rights and liberties, and guarantees the following:

  • Equality before law: Article 14 of the constitution guarantees that all people shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State will treat people in the same circumstances alike. This article also means that individuals, whether citizens of India or otherwise shall be treated differently if the circumstances are different.
  • Social equality and equal access to public areas: Article 15 of the constitution states that no person shall be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Every person shall have equal access to public places like public parks, museums, wells, bathing ghats and temples etc. However, the State may make any special provision for women and children. Special provisions may be made for the advancements of any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes.
  • Equality in matters of public employment: Article 16 of the constitution lays down that the State cannot discriminate against anyone in the matters of employment. All citizens can apply for government jobs. There are some exceptions. The Parliament may enact a law stating that certain jobs can be filled only by applicants who are domiciled in the area. This may be meant for posts that require knowledge of the locality and language of the area. The State may also reserve posts for members of backward classes, scheduled castes or scheduled tribes which are not adequately represented in the services under the State to bring up the weaker sections of the society. Also, there a law may be passed that requires that the holder of an office of any religious institution shall also be a person professing that particular religion. According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003, this right shall not be conferred to Overseas citizens of India.
  • Abolition of untouchability: Article 17 of the constitution abolishes the practice of untouchability. Practice of untouchability is an offence and anyone doing so is punishable by law. The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (renamed to Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1976) provided penalties for preventing a person from entering a place of worship or from taking water from a tank or well.
  • Abolition of Titles: Article 18 of the constitution prohibits the State from conferring any titles. Citizens of India cannot accept titles from a foreign State. The British government had created an aristocratic class known as Rai Bahadurs and Khan Bahadurs in India, these titles were also abolished. However, Military and academic distinctions can be conferred on the citizens of India. The awards of Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan cannot be used by the recipient as a title and do not, accordingly, come within the constitutional prohibition”. The Supreme Court, on 15 December 1995, upheld the validity of such awards.

2. RIGHT TO FREEDOM

The Constitution of India contains the right to freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21, 21A and 22, with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the framers of the constitution. It is a cluster of four main laws. The right to freedom in Article 19 guarantees the following six freedoms:

  • Freedom of speech and expression, on which the State can impose reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms on which the State can impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order and the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • The Freedom to form associations or unions or co-operative societies on which the State can impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order, morality and the sovereignty and integrity of India.
    Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India though reasonable restrictions can be imposed on this right in the interest of the general public, for example, restrictions may be imposed on movement and travelling, so as to control epidemics.
  • Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, subject to reasonable restrictions by the State in the interest of the general public or for the protection of the scheduled tribes because certain safeguards as are envisaged here seem to be justified to protect indigenous and tribal peoples from exploitation and coercion. Article 370 restricts citizens from other Indian states and Kashmiri women who marry men from other states from purchasing land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business on which the State may impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of the general public. Thus, there is no right to carry on a business which is dangerous or immoral. Also, professional or technical qualifications may be prescribed for practising any profession or carrying on any trade.
  • Article 21A gives education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
  • The constitution also imposes restrictions on these rights. The government restricts these freedoms in the interest of the independence, sovereignty and integrity of India. In the interest of morality and public order, the government can also impose restrictions. However, the right to life and personal liberty cannot be suspended. The six freedoms are also automatically suspended or have restrictions imposed on them during a state of emergency.

Right To Information(RTI)

“Right To Information has been given the status of a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution in 2005. Article 19 (1) under which every citizen has freedom of speech and expression and have the right to know how the government works, what role does it play, what are its functions and so on.”


3. RIGHT AGAINST EXPLOITATION

  • The right against exploitation, given in Articles 23 and 24, provides for two provisions, namely the abolition of trafficking in human beings and Begar (forced labour), and abolition of employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like factories, mines, etc. Child labour is considered a gross violation of the spirit and provisions of the constitution. Begar, practised in the past by landlords, has been declared a crime and is punishable by law.
  • Trafficking in humans for the purpose of slave trade or prostitution is also prohibited by law. An exception is made in employment without payment for compulsory services for public purposes. Compulsory military conscription is covered by this provision.

4. RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION

  • Right to freedom of religion, covered in Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28, provides religious freedom to all citizens of India. The objective of this right is to sustain the principle of secularism in India.
  • According to the Constitution, all religions are equal before the State and no religion shall be given preference over the other. Citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice.
  • Religious communities can set up charitable institutions of their own. However, activities in such institutions that are not religious are performed according to the laws laid down by the government.
  • Establishing a charitable institution can also be restricted in the interest of public order, morality and health. No person shall be compelled to pay taxes for the promotion of a particular religion.
  • A State run institution cannot be impart education that is pro-religion. Also, nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any further law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity that may be associated with religious practice, or providing for social welfare and reform.

5. CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS

As India is a country of many languages, religions, and cultures, the Constitution provides special measures, in Articles 29 and 30, to protect the rights of the minorities. Any community that has a language and a script of its own has the right to conserve and develop it. No citizen can be discriminated against for admission in State or State aided institutions.

All minorities, or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions to preserve and develop their own culture. In granting aid to institutions, the State cannot discriminate against any institution on the basis of the fact that it is administered by a minority institution. But the right to administer does not mean that the State cannot interfere in case of maladministration. In a precedent-setting judgement in 1980, the Supreme Court held that the State can certainly take regulatory measures to promote the efficiency and excellence of educational standards. It can also issue guidelines for ensuring the security of the services of the teachers or other employees of the institution. In another landmark judgement delivered on 31 October 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that in case of aided minority institutions offering professional courses, admission could be only through a common entrance test conducted by State or a university. Even an unaided minority institution ought not to ignore the merit of the students for admission.


6. RIGHT TO CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDIES

  • Right to constitutional remedies [Article 32 to 35] empowers the citizens to move a court of law in case of any denial of the fundamental rights. For instance, in case of imprisonment, the citizen can ask the court to see if it is according to the provisions of the law of the country.
  • If the court finds that it is not, the person will have to be freed. This procedure of asking the courts to preserve or safeguard the citizens’ fundamental rights can be done in various ways. The courts can issue various kinds of writs. These writs are habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari.
  • Dr. B. R. Ambedkar rightly declared Right to constitutional remedies as “the heart and soul” of Indian constitution. When a national or state emergency is declared, this right is suspended by the central government.

AMENDMENTS

  • Changes to the fundamental rights require a constitutional amendment, which has to be passed by a special majority of both houses of Parliament. This means that an amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of the members present and voting. However, the number of members voting should not be less than the simple majority of the house whether the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
  • The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the fundamental rights under the Eighty Sixth Amendment of 2002.

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