Table of Contents
The fundamental rights were included in the constitution because they were considered essential basic rights for the development of the personality of every individual and to preserve human dignity.
Part III is also described as the Magna Carta of India. It carries a very comprehensive and long list of ‘justiciable’ Fundamental Rights. All people, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex, have been given the right to move the Supreme Court and the High Courts of India for the enforcement of their fundamental rights in case it is violated by the state and its several authorities.
There are six categories of Fundamental Rights (FR) which are covered from Articles 12-35.
In the applications/implementation of the provisions of Fundamental Rights for Indian Citizens, the term ‘State’ has been used in a wide sense. To provide clarity to the term, Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines it.
“the State” includes the Governmental and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.
Article 12 defines ‘State’ as:
- Legislative and Executive Organs of the Union Government:
- Indian Government
- Indian Parliament – Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha
- Legislative and Executive organs of the State Government:
- State Governments
- State Legislature – Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council of State
- All local authorities
- Municipalities – Municipal Corporations, Nagar Palika, Nagar Panchayats
- Panchayats – Zila Panchayats, Mandal Panchayats, Gram Panchayats
- District Boards
- Improvement Trusts, etc.
- Statutory and Non-Statutory Authorities
- Statutory Authorities such as:
- National Human Rights Commission
- National Commission for Women
- National Law Commission
- National Green Tribunal
- National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
- Armed Forces Tribunal
- Non Statutory Authorities such as:
- Central Bureau of Investigation
- Central Vigilance Commission
- Lokpal and Lokayuktas
- Statutory Authorities such as:
The parliament and state legislatures are not allowed and are restricted from making such laws that may infringe or take away the fundamental rights that are being guaranteed by the Indian constitution itself.
It is a duty of the Indian State to respect and implement the fundamental right. And at the same time, it confers a power on the courts to declare a law or an act void if it infringes the fundamental rights.
Article 13 declares any pre constitutional law which is inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights as void to the extent of its inconsistency. It thus helps to review the pre constitutional law as well as the existing laws, thereby paving the way for judicial review by the supreme court and the high courts.
It must be noted that in case of a certain provision of the Act being inconsistent with the fundamental rights, then that particular provision can be declared void only and not the entire law.
1. Right to Equality (Articles 14 – 18)
Right to equality guarantees equal rights for everyone, irrespective of religion, gender, caste, race or place of birth. It ensures equal employment opportunities in the government and it also ensure that there should not be any discrimination by the State in matters of employment on the basis of caste, religion, etc. This right also includes the abolition of titles as well as untouchability.
Article 14 treats all people equally in the eyes of the law
- This provision states that all citizens will be treated equally before the law. The law of the country protects everybody equally.
- Under the same circumstances, the law will treat people in the same manner.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination in any manner
- No citizen shall, on grounds only of race, religion, caste, place of birth, sex or any of them, be subject to any liability, disability, restriction or condition with respect to:
- Access to public places
- Use of tanks, wells, ghats, etc. that are maintained by the State or that are meant for the general public
- The article also mentions that special provision can be made for women, children and the backward classes in spite of this article.
Article 16 provides equal employment opportunities in State service for all citizens
- No citizen shall be discriminated against in matters of public employment or appointment on the grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, place of birth, descent or residence.
- Exceptions to this can be made for providing special provisions for the backward classes.
Article 17 prohibits the practice of untouchability. Untouchability is abolished in all forms.
Article 18 abolishes titles
- The State shall not confer any titles except those which are academic or military titles.
- The article also prohibits citizens of India from accepting any titles from a foreign State.
- The article abolishes the titles that were awarded by the British Empire such as Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadur, etc.
- Awards like Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Bharat Ratna and military honours like Ashok Chakra, Param Vir Chakra do not belong to this category.
2. Right to Freedom (Articles 19 – 22)
The right to freedom gives citizens basic freedom with respect to speech and expression, form associations, freedom of personal liberty, freedom to live a life of dignity, etc.
The right to freedom guarantees freedom for citizens to live a life of dignity among other things. These are given in Articles 19, 20, 21A and 22 of the Indian Constitution.
Article 19 guarantees six freedoms.
- Freedom of speech and expression: The State guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every person of India. However, the State can impose restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country, friendly relations with foreign nations, for public order, with respect to defamation, incitement to offence or contempt of court.
- Freedom to assemble: The State guarantees every person the freedom to assemble peacefully without arms. However, reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the country and public order.
- Freedom to form associations/unions/cooperative societies: This freedom gives workers the right to form trade unions, which is thus a fundamental right. However, reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the country and public order.
- Freedom to move freely: A citizen of India can move freely throughout the territory of India. But this right can also be restricted on the grounds of security, public order or for protecting the interests of the Scheduled Tribes.
- Freedom of residence: Citizens of India have the right to reside in any part of the country. Although restrictions can be imposed on the grounds of security, public order or for protecting the interests of the Scheduled Tribes.
- Freedom of profession: All citizens have the right to carry on any trade or profession/occupation, provided the trade or occupation is not illegal or immoral.
Article 20 deals with the protection of citizens in respect of conviction for offences. This provides for three types of protection of the individual against the State.
- a person cannot be convicted for an act that was committed at a time when the act had not been declared by law as an offence.
- Double jeopardy: This indicates that a person cannot be convicted for the same offence more than once.
- Prohibition against self-incrimination: This implies that no person accused of an offence shall be compelled to bear witness against himself. He has the right to remain silent on the question asked to him.
Article 21 states that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty by the State except as per the procedure established by law. This article 21 has a wide scope and its interpretation has undergone many changes over the decades.
‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not merely the physical act of breathing. It does not connote mere animal existence. The Supreme Court has interpreted the right to life as the right to a dignified life. This is the most important right in one sense, because, without this right to life, all other fundamental rights would be meaningless.
It includes right to live with human dignity, Right to livelihood, Right to health, Right to pollution-free air, Right Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace etc.
Note: the constitution authorizes the president of India to suspend the right to move any court for enforcement of fundamental rights during emergency except Article 20 and 21.
This article was introduced by the 86th Constitutional Amendment in 2002. It provides that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
Article 22 deals with the protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. This article is applicable to both citizens and non-citizens. This provision acts as safeguards for individuals in case of an arrest. This provision is made to prevent arbitrary arrests and detention.
Under this article the person arrested and is in custody has the right to be informed of the reason for his arrest, he also has the right to consult an advocate and should be produced before a judicial magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest etc.
3. Right against Exploitation (Articles 23 – 24)
This right implies the prohibition of traffic in human beings, begar, and other forms of forced labour. It also implies the prohibition of children in factories, etc.
Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits human trafficking and begar (forced labour without payment) to protect the millions of underprivileged and deprived people of the country.
Article 24, the Constitution prohibits the employment of children under 14 years in hazardous conditions like factories and mines.
4. Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25 – 28)
This indicates the secular nature of the Indian state. There is equal respect given to all religions. The State has no official religion. Every person has the right to freely practice his or her faith, establish and maintain religious and charitable institutions.
Article 25 of the Constitution of India provides the freedom of conscience, to profess, to practice and to propagate any religion.
Conscience means a person may or may not choose to follow any religion.
Right to Profess means One can declare his/her religious beliefs and faith openly and freely.
Right to Practice means Performance of religious worship, rituals, ceremonies and exhibition of beliefs and ideas.
Right to Propagate means Persuading people to convert from one religion to another. However, the Constitution does not allow forcible conversions.
Note: The government can impose restrictions on the practice of freedom of religion in order to protect public order, morality and health. And the government can interfere in religious matters for rooting out certain social evils. Such as banning practices like sati, bigamy or human sacrifice. These restrictions cannot be opposed in the name of interference in the right to freedom of religion.
Article 26 of the Indian Constitution provides every religious group (or any section of it) the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes. which are subject to restrictions by the state if they are against public order, morality, and health etc.
Article 27 provides freedom not to pay taxes for religious expenses on the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion. Article 28 prohibits religious instructions in educational institutions wholly maintained by the state funds.
5. Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29 – 30)
Article 29 – Protection of Interests of Minorities
This article is intended to protect the interests of minority groups.
Article 29(1): This provides any section of the citizens residing in India having a distinct culture, language, or script, the right to conserve their culture, language and script.
Article 29(2): The State shall not deny admission into educational institutes maintained by it or those that receive aid from the state, to any person based only on race, religion, caste, language, or any of them.
Article 30 – Right of Minorities to Establish and Administer Educational Institutions
This right is given to minorities to form and govern their own educational institutions. Article 30 is also called the “Charter of Education Rights”.
Article 30(1): All religious and linguistic minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Article 30(2): The State shall not, when granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.
6. Right to Constitutional Remedies (32 – 35)
Article 32 under Part III of the Indian Constitution allows all the citizens to move to the Supreme Court in case of violation of Fundamental Rights.
During the Constituent Assembly debates in December 1948, a discussion on this fundamental right (in the draft, it is referred to as Article 25), Dr. B.R Ambedkar had said, “If I was asked to name any particular Article in this Constitution as the most important – an Article without which this Constitution would be a nullity – I could not refer to any other Article except this one. It is the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it.”
Article 32(2) says that the Supreme Court shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part.
Significance/importance of Article 32:
1- Article 32 makes the Apex Court both the guarantor and defender of Fundamental Rights.
2- It entitles the Indian citizens to move to the Supreme Court for the remedy against the breach of Fundamental Rights.
Article 33 Empowers the Parliament to restrict or abrogate the fundamental rights of the ‘Members of the Armed Forces, paramilitary forces, police forces, intelligence agencies and analogous forces. The objective of this provision is to ensure the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them.
Note: Any such law made by Parliament cannot be challenged in any court on the ground of contravention of any of the fundamental rights.
Article 34 Provides for the restrictions on fundamental rights while martial law(military rule) is in force. The martial law is imposed under extraordinary circumstances like war, invasion, insurrection, rebellion, riot or any violent resistance to law. It also empowers the Parliament to indemnify (compensate) any government servant or any other person for any act done by him in connection with the maintenance or restoration of order in any area where martial law was in force.
Note: The Act of Indemnity made by the Parliament cannot be challenged in any court on the ground of contravention of any of the fundamental rights.
Article 35 Empowers the Parliament to make laws on Fundamental Rights.
Therefore, The Fundamental Rights, despite having certain exceptions & restrictions, are a crucial part of the Constitution of India. All these rights provided under part III of the constitution are called fundamental rights because they are justiciable in nature allowing persons to move the courts for their enforcement, if and when they are violated by the state or any of its authorities.
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