FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS UNDER CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
The Fundamental Rights in India enshrined in the Part III of the Constitution of India guarantee civil liberties such that all Indian Citizens can lead their lives in peace and harmony. These include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs such as habeas corpus. Violations of these rights result in punishments as prescribed in the Indian Penal Code, subject to the discretion of the judiciary. The Fundamental Rights are defined as basic Human freedoms which 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, creed, color or sex. They are enforceable by the courts, subjected to certain restrictions. These 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 are
1. Right to equality
2. Right to freedom
3. Right against exploitation
4. Right to freedom of religion
5. Cultural and educational rights
6. Right to constitutional remedies
Rights literally mean those freedoms which are essential for personal good as well as the good of the community. The rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India are fundamental as they have been incorporated into the Fundamental Law of the Land and are enforceable in a court of law. However, this does not mean that they are absolute or that they are immune from Constitutional amendment.
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 citizens shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State cannot discriminate against a citizen on the basis of caste, creed, color, sex, religion or place of birth.
Social equality and equal access to public areas: Article 15 of the constitution states that no person shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, color, language etc. 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 only be filled 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, a law may be passed which 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 offense 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.
Right to freedom
The Constitution of India contains the right to freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21 and 22, with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the framers of the constitution. The right to freedom guarantees the following six freedoms
Freedom of speech and expression, which enable an individual to participate in public activities. The phrase, "freedom of press" has not been used in Article 19, but freedom of expression includes freedom of press. Reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public order, security of State, decency or morality.
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.
Freedom to form associations or unions on which the state can impose reasonable restrictions on this freedom 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 traveling, so as to control epidemics.
Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India which is also subject to reasonable restrictions by the State in the interest of the general public or for the protection of the scheduled.
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 practicing any profession or carrying on any trade.
Right to life and personal liberty, which in turn cites specific provisions in
which these rights are applied and enforced. Protection with respect to conviction for offences is guaranteed in the right to life and personal liberty.
According to Article 20, no one can be awarded punishment which is more than what the law of the land prescribes at that time. This legal axiom is based on the principle that no criminal law can be made retrospective, that is, for an act to become an offence, the essential condition is that it should have been an offence legally at the time of committing it.
Moreover, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. "Compulsion" in this article refers to what in law is called
"Duress" (injury, beating or unlawful imprisonment to make a person do something that he does not want to do). This article is known as a safeguard against self incrimination. The other principle enshrined in this article is known as the principle of double jeopardy, that is, no person can be convicted twice for the same offence, which has been derived from Anglo Saxon law. Protection of life and personal liberty is also stated under right to life and personal liberty declares that no citizen can be denied his life and liberty except by law. This means that a person's life and personal liberty can only be disputed if that person has committed a crime. However, the right to life does not include the right to die, and hence, suicide or an attempt thereof, is an offence."Personal liberty" includes all the freedoms which are not included in Article 19 (that is, the six freedoms). The right to travel abroad is also covered under "personal liberty". Rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances are laid down in the right to life and personal liberty. No one can be arrested without being told the grounds for his arrest. If arrested the person has the right to defend himself by a lawyer of his choice. Also an arrested citizen has to be brought before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours. The rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances are not available to an enemy alien. They are also not available to persons detained under the Preventive Detention Act. Under preventive detention, the government can imprison a person for a maximum of three months. It means that if the government feels that a person being at liberty can be a threat to the law and order or to the unity and integrity of the Nation, it can detain or arrest that person to prevent him from doing this possible harm. After three months such case shall be brought before an advisory board for review.
Right to Education by the 86th Constitutional amendment has been made one of the Fundamental Rights under the right to life and personal liberty.
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 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, and abolition of employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like factories and mines. Child labour is considered a gross violation of the spirit and provisions of the constitution. Begar, practiced 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.
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. However, certain practices like wearing and carrying of Kirpans in the profession of the Sikh religion, can be restricted in the interest of public order, morality and health. Religious communities can set up charitable institutions of their own. However, activities in such institutions which 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 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 which may be associated with religious practice, or providing for social welfare and reform.
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 which has a language and a script of its own has the right to conserve and develop them. No citizen can be discriminated against for admission in State or State aided institutions. All minorities, religious or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions in order to preserve and develop their own culture. In granting 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 judgment 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 judgment delivered on 31 October 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that in case of aided minority institutions offering professional courses, admission could only be 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.
Right to constitutional remedies
Right to constitutional remedies 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. When a National or State emergency is declared, this right is suspended by the Central Government.