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Fundamental Rights under Indian Law

by gaurav gupta

The Indian Constitution, adopted in 1950, provides a robust framework for safeguarding the rights and liberties of its citizens. Among its most significant provisions are the Fundamental Rights, enshrined in Part III (Articles 12 to 35). These rights are integral to the Constitution, ensuring that every citizen can live with dignity, equality, and freedom. Here’s an exploration of the Fundamental Rights under Indian law.

Historical Context

The concept of Fundamental Rights in India draws inspiration from various sources, including the Bill of Rights in the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Irish Constitution. The framers of the Indian Constitution aimed to establish a set of rights that would not only protect individuals from state actions but also promote social justice and equality.

Classification of Fundamental Rights

The Fundamental Rights are broadly classified into six categories:

  1. Right to Equality (Articles 14-18)
  2. Right to Freedom (Articles 19-22)
  3. Right against Exploitation (Articles 23-24)
  4. Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25-28)
  5. Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29-30)
  6. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)

Right to Equality

Article 14: Equality before Law and Equal Protection of Laws Article 14 ensures that all individuals are treated equally before the law and guarantees equal protection of laws within the territory of India. It prohibits any discrimination by the state.

Article 15: Prohibition of Discrimination Article 15 forbids discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. It also allows the state to make special provisions for women, children, and socially and educationally backward classes.

Article 16: Equality of Opportunity in Public Employment Article 16 ensures equal opportunities in matters of public employment and prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, or residence.

Article 17: Abolition of Untouchability Article 17 abolishes ‘untouchability’ and forbids its practice in any form. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability is an offense.

Article 18: Abolition of Titles Article 18 prohibits the state from conferring any titles except military or academic distinctions. It also forbids Indian citizens from accepting titles from a foreign state.

Right to Freedom

Article 19: Protection of Certain Rights Regarding Freedom of Speech, etc. Article 19 guarantees six freedoms: speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, and profession. These freedoms are subject to reasonable restrictions for the protection of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, morality, and other state interests.

Article 20: Protection in Respect of Conviction for Offenses Article 20 protects against arbitrary and excessive punishment. It includes provisions such as protection against ex-post facto laws, double jeopardy, and self-incrimination.

Article 21: Protection of Life and Personal Liberty Article 21 declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. This right has been expansively interpreted to include various derivative rights such as the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, the right to a clean environment, and the right to health.

Article 21A: Right to Education Article 21A mandates the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years.

Article 22: Protection Against Arrest and Detention Article 22 protects against arbitrary arrest and detention. It includes rights such as being informed of the grounds of arrest, the right to consult a legal practitioner, and the right to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest.

Right against Exploitation

Article 23: Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labor Article 23 prohibits human trafficking, begar (forced labor), and other similar forms of forced labor. Violation of this provision is punishable by law.

Article 24: Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc. Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory, mine, or other hazardous employment.

Right to Freedom of Religion

Article 25: Freedom of Conscience and Free Profession, Practice, and Propagation of Religion Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality, and health.

Article 26: Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs Article 26 grants every religious denomination the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, own and acquire property, and administer such property by the law.

Article 27: Freedom as to Payment of Taxes for Promotion of Any Particular Religion Article 27 ensures that no person shall be compelled to pay taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

Article 28: Freedom as to Attendance at Religious Instruction or Religious Worship in Certain Educational Institutions Article 28 allows educational institutions maintained wholly or partly out of state funds to provide religious instruction, but makes attendance at such instruction or worship voluntary.

Cultural and Educational Rights

Article 29: Protection of Interests of Minorities Article 29 ensures that any section of citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script, or culture has the right to conserve the same.

Article 30: Right of Minorities to Establish and Administer Educational Institutions Article 30 provides minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. It also prohibits discrimination in granting aid to institutions based on religion or language.

Right to Constitutional Remedies

Article 32: Remedies for Enforcement of Rights Conferred by Part III Article 32 provides the right to constitutional remedies for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. It empowers individuals to approach the Supreme Court directly if they believe their Fundamental Rights have been violated. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described Article 32 as the “heart and soul” of the Constitution.

Conclusion

Fundamental Rights are crucial to the democratic framework of India, offering a safeguard against state excesses and ensuring the dignity and liberty of individuals. They are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions, but they form the bedrock of civil liberties in India. Over the years, the Indian judiciary has played a pivotal role in interpreting and expanding these rights, ensuring their relevance in a changing society. Understanding and protecting these rights is essential for the continued flourishing of democracy and rule of law in India.

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