Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution

The constitution guarantees sufficient Fundamental Rights to Indian citizens.  The fundamental rights are given by constitution of India to ensure welfare of society and so that everyone can live life with dignity. The main objective of inclusion of Fundamental Rights in the constitution is to establish “a government of law and not of a man”. These rights are vital for development of individual and promotes his/her dignity and welfare. As these rights are conferred by constitution, the government can change them only through constitutional amendments.

What is a Fundamental Right ?

Fundamental rights are basic minimum human civil rights for the citizens. Fundamental rights of Indian Constitution makes sure that state can never breach the liberty and freedom of its citizens. It ensures that every citizen can get fair and equal chance in life, profession, practicing religion and education. The state’s responsibility lies not in just providing the Fundamental Rights but to also preserve and safeguard them. All these fundamental rights of Indian Constitution are enforceable by the court of law. If a contradiction arrives between any other law with fundamental right, then fundamental right shall must prevail. If any government ruling or any act curbs or intends to curb the fundamental rights then it can be challenged in a court of law.

It is customary to note that some of the fundamental rights are applicable to person of any nationality residing in India while some fundamental rights are applicable only to Indian citizens.  Right to life, right to personal freedom, right to freedom of religion is applicable to any person of any nationality residing in India. In contrast right to freedom of expression, freedom to reside in any part of country are applicable to Indian citizens and NRIs only. Right to equality in terms of public employment can not be claimed by overseas citizens of India.

Are Fundamental Rights absolute ?

Fundamental rights of Indian constitution provides a check for the state while making policies towards its citizens. However the citizens can not claim the Fundamental rights in each and every situation. This makes Fundamental Rights not absolute in nature. Fundamental Rights are subject to certain restriction and even can be selectively curtailed by the state.  All the provisions of constitution including Fundamental Rights can be amended by parliament. However there is a key aspect that parliament can not amend the basic frame of the constitution. The amendments must be in accordance to the preamble. In the case of national emergency, the fundamental rights mentioned in article 19 : right to freedom of speech, freedom of movement and right to freedom of assembly remain suspended.

Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution

Which part of Constitution deals with Fundamental Rights ?

Fundamental Rights are enlisted in Part III of Constitution. Articles 12 to 35 in part III of constitution deals with all these mentioned Fundamental rights. Article 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 deals with right to equality. Article 14 deals with equality before law, Article 15 deals with social equality and access to public areas. Article 16 is for equality related to employment, Article 17 is for abolition of untouchability, and Article 18 is for abolition of titles. Article 19, 20, 21, 21A and 22 deals with fundamental right of freedom including freedom of speech, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom to form association, freedom to move in any part of country and reside there except J&K, freedom to practice any profession.

How many Fundamental Rights are there in Constitution ?

 Originally the constitution classified the Fundamental Rights in seven categories. But after the elimination of Right to Property from the original list of Fundamental Rights by the 44th amendment in 1979, there are now only six categories. These are –

1. Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution : Right to Equality

Every citizen is assured equality before law and equal protection of law within territory of India. It also means absence of special privileges by means of birth, creed, cast or religion in favour of any individual. The state cannot make any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any other factor. To ensure genuine equality, untouchability has been abolished and its practice in any form has been made offense, punishable in accordance to law.

2. Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution : Right to Freedom

As per Right to Freedom no person shall be punished twice for the same offense. It also ensures no person can be compelled to be a witness against himself. Citizens are assured protection against arrest and detention. A citizen arrested under any law has to be informed of the grounds of arrest and has the right to consult a legal practitioner of his choice. Each arrested person has to be produced before the court within a period of 24 hours and can’t be kept in custody beyond 24 hrs without the authority of court. Under special circumstances the state cab curb the right to freedom and detain a person under the Preventive Detention Act on grounds of anti-national activities.

The constitution guarantees six fundamental freedoms to its citizens. These include –

i ) Freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of speech guarantees the citizens that they are free to express their views, beliefs etc through writing, printing, pictures etc. However restrictions can be imposed on grounds of security and threat to the State, decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation etc.

ii) Freedom of peaceful assembly without arms

This includes right to hold public meetings and demonstrations and take out peaceful processions. State can impose restrictions on freedom of assembly in interest of sovereignty and integrity of India or Public peace and order.

iii) Freedom to form association

This guarantees the citizens to form associations, groups, unions etc. State can impose restrictions on freedom of assembly in interest of sovereignty and integrity of India or Public peace & order or on grounds of morality.

iv) Freedom of movement throughout the territory of India

This right of freedom guarantees the citizens to move anywhere inside the territory of India.

v) Freedom to reside and settle in any part of India

This right of freedom guarantees the citizens to reside and settle anywhere inside the territory of India. However the state can impose restrictions on this freedom in the interest of general public or the protection of interests of any Scheduled Tribes.

vi) Freedom to practice any profession, trade or business

The state can impose restrictions to deny a citizen the freedom to carry out trade or business in noxious, hazardous or dangerous goods, drugs and liquors or to indulge in trafficking of women and children.

The original Constitution also guaranteed the citizens freedom to acquire, hold and dispose of their property. However this freedom was dropped by the 44th amendment.

vii) Right to Information (RTI)

In year 2005 constitution approved “Right to Information” as a Fundamental Right of freedom under article 19. According to this, every citizen has right to know how the government works and what role it play in executing any official work. Except certain government bodies, all the governmemt machinery come under the purview of RTI.

3. Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution : Right against Exploitation

This right seeks to protect the weaker sections against exploitation by unscrupulous persons or even the state.

4. Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution : Right to Freedom of Religion

Every citizen is free to profess, practice, and propagate any religion. The state can neither patronize any religion nor ask for taxes for the promotion of any religion.

5. Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution : Cultural and Educational Rights

The constitution permits the minorities to conserve their language, script and culture. It also permits to establish and administer educational institutions for this purpose. The state does not discriminate about providing aid to educational institutions on ground of religion or language.

6. Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution : Right to constitutional Remedies

This right was described by Dr B R Ambedkar as “the heart and soul of the Constitution”. This right gives every citizen the right to approach to the Supreme Court for enforcement of his/her fundamental rights. The supreme court can issue writs in nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and ceritorari. Even the state High Courts can issue writs for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights.