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Fundamental Rights of India

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2014 | 2 Comments to Read

As a liberal democracy and proponent of people’s empowerment, India guarantees a set of rights considered essential to “preserve human dignity”. The Fundamental Rights, as embedded in the Indian Constitution, ensure equal and fair treatment of the citizens before the law. However, these rights are not absolute and are subject to restrictions under peculiar circumstances.

Fundamental Rights of Indian Citizens

Right to Equality

Right to equality is considered the foundation upon which the edifice of other rights and liberties is built. While Article 14 guarantees equal treatment of all people before the law, Article 15 eliminates the scope for discrimination of any individual based on religion, race, caste and sex when it comes to accessing public places.

An equally important provision is Article 16 that prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment. Practicing untouchability has been abolished and declared as an offence under article 17 of the Indian constitution. Article 18 can be summed up as a provision that abolishes titles. It prohibits the State from conferring any titles to its citizens and also prevents the recipients of civilian awards such as Bharat Ratna and Padma Bhushan from using them as titles.

Right to Freedom

Besides freedom of Speech and Expression, Article 19 of Indian Constitution gives citizens the freedom to form associations or unions and move freely throughout the country. According to Article 19, the citizens can reside and settle in any part of the Indian territory and practice any profession or carry on any occupation or business.

The ambit of Right to Freedom also includes the right to protect life and personal liberty and prevention of arrest and detention. However, restrictions are imposed on these six fundamental freedoms during a state of emergency.

Right Against Exploitation

Articles 23 and 24 abolish human trafficking and the practices such as forced labour and child labour. According to the Constitution, employing children below the age of 14 is a “gross violation of the spirit and provisions of the Constitution.” Similarly, Article 23 prohibits trafficking in humans for slave trade or prostitution. There’s only one exception to this provision. The State can impose compulsory service on the citizens for public purpose.

Right to Freedom of Religion

The idea of giving citizens the freedom to “preach, practice and propagate” any religion under Article 25 stems from the fact that India believes in the principle of secularism wherein all religions are given equal footing. Right to freedom of religion under Article 26 not only gives individuals the liberty to manage religious affairs but also allows religious communities the freedom to set up charitable institutions as per the law of the land. Article 27 forbids any community to compel an individual to pay taxes for the promotion of a particular religion.

Right to Life

The Constitution has categorically laid down provisions in order to ensure that the right to life and personal liberty is upheld. A provision to that effect is Article 20, which states that no person can be awarded punishment which is more than what’s predefined by the government. The Article also emphasises on the right to protection with respect to conviction for offences. The ‘principle of double jeopardy’ is also enshrined in this Article, which means, an offender cannot be convicted twice for the same offence.

Article 21 states that an individual’s life and personal liberty “can only be disputed if that person has committed a crime.” Irrespective of the magnitude of crime or the brutality of the offender, the Constitution gives an individual the right to know the reason why he is being arrested and defend himself by a lawyer of his choice.

It is to be understood that the right to life doesn’t include the right to die. That’s precisely the reason why suicide or an attempt to suicide is considered an offence. This is a highly debated legislation that has drawn flak from human rights activists, lawyers and constitutional experts who consider this inhuman. Recently, the Indian government has decided to scrap Section 309 of IPC and decriminalise attempt to suicide.

Cultural and Educational Rights

Taking pride in its pluralistic society, India has made the provision of protecting its pluralistic ethos through Articles 29 and 30. While Article 29 ensures protection of minorities’ interests, its subsequent Article gives religious and linguistic minorities the freedom to “preserve and develop their own culture.” The critical aspect covered by this provision is the assurance that no citizen can be discriminated against for admission in State or State-aided institutions.

Right to Constitutional Remedies

From Article 32 to 35, the enlisted provisions strongly convey a message of empowerment. These provisions give every citizen of India the right to move a court of law in case one feels that his rights are violated. It is through different writs such as habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari that the courts try to preserve or safeguard the citizens’ fundamental rights.

Latest Addition to the List of Fundamental Rights

Every change to the fundamental rights needs a constitutional amendment, which further requires the approval of two-thirds of the members of Parliament. One such amendment came into effect on 2002 when article 21 A was included to make the right to education at elementary level as one of the fundamental rights. The Act also made it mandatory for private educational institutions to reserve 25 per cent seats for children belonging to the weaker sections of society.