Fundamental Rights in India

20/04/2024 0 By indiafreenotes

Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution are a cornerstone of the democratic framework of the country, guaranteeing liberties and freedoms to all its citizens and serving as a bulwark against tyranny and oppression. These rights are detailed in Part III of the Constitution, from Articles 12 to 35, and are enforceable by the courts, meaning that citizens can approach the judiciary to seek redress if they believe their rights have been violated.

Historical Background and Inspiration

The inclusion of Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution was influenced by similar provisions in other democratic nations, such as the Bill of Rights in the United States and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France. During the colonial era, the absence of civil liberties under British rule highlighted the need for explicitly stated rights in the Constitution to safeguard the freedoms of the newly independent citizenry.

Categories of Fundamental Rights

  1. Right to Equality (Articles 14-18)

These articles ensure equality before the law and prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 14 establishes the general principle of equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. Articles 15 and 16 prevent discrimination by the state against any citizen, with specific emphasis on access to public places and public employment. Article 17 abolishes “untouchability” and forbids its practice in any form, a provision unique to the Indian context. Article 18 abolishes titles, preventing the state from conferring any titles apart from military or academic distinctions.

  1. Right to Freedom (Articles 19-22)

This cluster of rights includes the protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, assembly, association, movement, residence, and the right to practice any profession. Article 19 guarantees six freedoms under which there are certain reasonable restrictions. Articles 20, 21, and 22 provide protection in respect of conviction for offenses, protection of life and personal liberty, and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.

  1. Right against Exploitation (Articles 23-24)

These articles prohibit all forms of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking. Article 23 bans trafficking in human beings and begar (forced labor), and Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in factories, mines, and other hazardous employment.

  1. Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25-28)

These provisions allow all citizens to freely profess, practice, and propagate any religion, and ensure that the state does not favor any religion over others. Article 25 ensures freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion. Article 26 guarantees the freedom to manage religious affairs. Article 27 states that no person shall be compelled to pay any taxes for the promotion of any particular religion, and Article 28 stipulates that no religious instruction shall be provided in state-funded educational institutions.

  1. Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29-30)

These rights protect the interests of minorities by allowing them to preserve their languages, scripts, and cultures. Article 29 ensures protection of interests of minorities and Article 30 allows all minorities, whether based on religion or language, to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

  1. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)

This right is foundational, enabling citizens to move the Supreme Court or High Courts to seek enforcement of other fundamental rights through writs such as habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar referred to this Article as the “heart and soul” of the Constitution because it directly involves the judiciary in the enforcement of these rights.

Significance and Impact

Fundamental Rights serve several essential functions. They act as a check on the power of the legislature and the executive. They are crucial in maintaining the rule of law and ensure that there is no misuse of power by the state against any individual or group. Furthermore, these rights are essential in fostering the goal of social, economic, and political justice mentioned in the Preamble to the Constitution.

In several landmark judgments, the Supreme Court has interpreted these rights expansively, thereby enhancing their scope and efficacy. For example, the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 has been broadened to include the right to a dignified life, which encompasses a wide range of rights including the right to a clean environment, right to livelihood, right to education, right to health, and right to privacy.