The Indian Constitution gives us some rights known as Fundamental Rights. These 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. The main purpose of the Fundamental Rights is to preserve individual liberty and democratic principles based on equality of all members of society. The Fundamental Rights are embodied in Part III of the Constitution.
Why we have Fundamental Rights?
India is a Democratic Country. Democracy can not work if we, the people, do not have any rights. The Fundamental Rights prevents the government from becoming despotic (ie autocratic or tyrannical). The Rights are essential for moral and material development of the people also. People can develop their best self and personality through these rights.
Fundamental Rights are enshrined in the Constitution. These are Constitutionally protected and guaranteed to the citizens. Fundamental Rights are inviolable in ordinary situation. Only under reasonable circumstances, these rights are suspended temporarily.
What are our Fundamental Rights?
I. Right to Equality (Article 14 – Article 18)
II. Right to Freedom (Articles 19 – Article 22)
III. Right against Exploitation (Articles 23 – Article 24)
IV. Right to Religion (Articles 25 – Article 28)
V. Right to Culture and Education (Articles 29 – Article 30)
VI. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)
Right to Equality
- Article 14 guarantees equality before law as well as equal protection of the law to all persons within the territory of India.
- Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.
- Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, place of residence or any of them.
- The practice of untouchability has been declared an offence punishable by law under Article 17, and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 has been enacted by the Parliament to further this objective.
- Article 18 prohibits the State from conferring any titles other than military or academic distinctions, and the citizens of India cannot accept titles from a foreign state.
Right to Freedom
- Article 19 guarantees six freedoms in the nature of civil rights, which are available only to citizens of India. These include the
- Freedom of speech and expression
- Freedom of assembly without arms
- Freedom of association
- Freedom of movement throughout the territory of India
- Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country of India
- Freedom to practise any profession.
- Under Article 20, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
- Under Article 21, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
- Article 21A states that that state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years.
- On 2 April 2010, India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6–14 age group, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present.
- Article 22 deals with protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
Right against Exploitation
- Article 23 provides prohibits human trafficking, making it an offence punishable by law, and also prohibits forced labour or any act of compelling a person to work without wages where he was legally entitled not to work or to receive remuneration for it.
- Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories, mines and other hazardous jobs.
Right to Freedom of Religion
The State has no religion. It does not favor any religion. All religions are equal before the law.
- Article 25 guarantees all persons the freedom of conscience and the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice.
- Article 26 guarantees all religious denominations and sects, subject to public order, morality and health, to manage their own affairs in matters of religion.
- Article 27 guarantees that no person can be compelled to pay taxes for the promotion of any particular religion or religious institution.
- Article 28 deals with freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.
Right to Culture and Education
- Article 29 grants any section of citizens having a distinct language, script culture of its own, the right to conserve and develop the same, and thus safeguards the rights of minorities by preventing the State from imposing any external culture on them.
- Article 30 provides that all communities shall have the right to establish and administer educational Institutions of its choice and the state shall not discriminate against them in making grants on grounds of religion, race or language.
Right to Constitutional Remedies
- Article 32 deals with the right to move to the supreme court for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights including the Writs of (i) Habeas corpus, (ii) Mandamus, (iii) Prohibition, (iv) Certiorari and (iv) Quo warranto.
What about Article 31?
Article 31 with sub heading “Right to Property” has been omitted by the Constitution 44th Amendment Act, 1978.
The Constitution of India has made the judiciary as “the protector and guarantor of Fundamental Rights”. On the other hand, this Constitutional right is the “heart and soul” of the Constitution as it can only make Fundamental Rights effective. However the right to move the court for protection of Fundamental Rights may be suspended during an emergency except those rights provided by Article 20 and Article 21.