Fundamental Rights in the India Constitution
As the name suggests, fundamental rights are rights granted to all citizens of the country which are specially protected by the constitution.
Fundamental rights are guaranteed by the constitution. These rights cannot be changed by the processes of ordinary law making.
No organ of the government can act in a manner which violates these rights.
The primary responsibility of the judiciary is to protect these rights and actions of the executive and the legislature can be declared illegal if they violate these rights.
There are 6 fundamental rights protected by the Constitution. They are:
- Right to equality
- Right to freedom of religion
- Right against exploitation
- Right to liberty and personal freedoms
- Cultural and educational rights of minority groups
- Right to constitutional remedies
Right to Equality (Article 14-18)
Right to equality aims to do away with discrimination and provide equal access of public places to people. The constitution strongly condemns discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, color, sex, gender, place of birth and religion.
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution concerns equality before the law. According to this article, every citizen of our country is equal in the eyes of the law irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, etc. All courts of our nation are equally accessible to all citizens.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, etc.
Article 16 ensures that all citizens have equal opportunity in matters of public employment. Article 16(4) lays down the provision for reservation towards backward classes which aims at promoting equality by giving equal representation to people from all walks of life.
Article 17 abolishes untouchability in our nation.
Article 18 abolishes the use of titles which create a distinction in the social status of a person.
Right to Freedom (Article 19-22)
The right to freedom gives people the freedom of thought, expression and action provided it doesn’t threaten the freedom of others and doesn’t endanger the law.
- Right to life and personal liberty: mentioned under article 21 of the constitution, this is the foremost right which says that no citizen can be denied their life and personal liberty unless stated by law. This right encompasses the right to live with dignity and free from exploitation. Article 21-A of the constitution was enacted on 4th august 2009 under the 86th amendment which calls for free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6-14.
- Article 22 of the Indian constitution ensures that no person can be detained in custody without being informed the reason for his arrest. The person arrested has the right to choose a lawyer of their choice and the person needs to be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of detention. These rights are however not available to foreigners and people arrested under preventive detention.
- Preventive detention: the provision in the constitution through which a person can arrested an individual for 3 months on the apprehension that he or she is likely to engage in unlawful activity is called preventive detention. This provision is however believed to be widely misused by the government.
- Right to freedom of speech and expression: Article 19 of the constitution allows people to speak and express themselves freely provided peace, public order and morality is maintained.
- Article 19 also gives individuals the freedom to assemble peacefully without arms, form associations, move freely across the country, reside wherever they want in the country and practice any profession, trade and business.
- Rights of the accused: Article 20 of our constitution ensures that those who are accused of a crime get a fair protection from the law. To ensure this:
- No person can be arrested for the same offence more than once
- No law can declare any action illegal from a backdate
- No person can be asked to give evidence against himself
Read more: Peasant Revolts of Indigo, Pabna and Deccan
Right against exploitation (Articles 23-24)
In a country where a lot of people are underprivileged and deprived of resources, practices like human trafficking, forced labor, child labor, etc. are common. Right against exploitation is hence a very essential right to protect underprivileged people from exploitation.
Right to freedom of religion (Article 25-28)
Our constitution gives the citizens of our country the right to profess, practice and propagate any religion. However, the government is allowed to actively engage in rooting out practices and social evils of the society. The government also views all religions as equal and India does not have an official religion.
Cultural and educational rights (Article 29-30)
Since India is an extremely diverse country with people of multiple ethnicities residing together, the constitution ensures that the religious, cultural and linguistic minorities of our country are protected.
All minorities are allowed to set up their own educational institutions and develop their own culture.
Right to Constitutional remedies (Article 32)
The right to constitutional remedies aims to legally bind and enforce all the fundamental rights. If a person feels that his/her fundamental right is violated, he/she can approach the High Court or the Supreme Court directly to seek justice.
The judiciary ensures the enforcement of the same through writs.
Dr.B.R Ambedkar calls this right the’ heart and soul of the constitution’.
The Swaran Singh Committee recommended under the 42nd amendment to add a set of duties for the citizens for our country.
The concept of fundamental duties is taken from the constitution of the Soviet Union.
They are listed under article 51A of our constitution and are not legally binding but the citizens of our country are expected to comply with them.
- To abide by the constitution and respect the national flag and our national anthem
- To follow the noble ideas that inspired our freedom struggle
- To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of our nation.
- To defend the country and render national services when required.
- To promote harmony amongst people that transcends religious, linguistic regional and gender diversity.
- To value and preserve the heritage of our culture.
- To protect the natural environment in our country.
- To develop a scientific temper and embrace the spirit of enquiry and reform.
- To safeguard public property and protect our monuments.
- To strive for excellence in all spheres so that the nation benefits collectively.
- To promote and provide education to children.
Directive principles of State Policy
Laid out under part-4 from article 36-51, they are also known as the novel features of the constitution.
Directive principles of state policy states the ideals that a state should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws.
Along with the fundamental rights, they are termed as the conscience of our constitution.
These principles are not legally binding which means that we cannot approach the court if we feel that these principles are being violated in state policies.
They are inspired from the Irish constitution
The directive principles of state policies are as follows:
Article 38– To promote the welfare of the people in all spheres and minimize inequality in our country.
Article 39– to secure the right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens, ensure equitable distribution of resources, prevent the concentration of wealth, ensure equal pay for all genders, preserve the health and strength of all workers and promote healthy development of children.
42nd amendment was aimed at promoting equal justice and providing free legal aid to the poor.
Article 40 – To organize village panchayats and grant them powers to function as state units.
Article 41- Secure the right to work and education and provide assistance to the unemployed, old and sick.
Article 42– To ensure humane work environment and provide maternity relief.
Article 43 – To promote cottage industries in rural areas
Article 44– To ensure a uniform civil code across the country
Article 45– Aims to promote elementary education which was amended under the 86th act to make right to education a fundamental right under article 21-A.
Article 47 – Aims to prohibit the consumption of intoxicating substances such as alcohol and drugs.
Article 48– Aims to prevent the slaughter of cows, calves and other cattle to improve their breed.
Article 50 – Aims to separate the executive from the judiciary
Article 51– Aims to promote international peace and security and foster respect for international law.
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