Monday, 19 December 2011


Fundamental rights in India

1.      Right to Equality
2.      Right to Freedom
3.      Right against Exploitation
4.      Right to Freedom of Religion
5.      Cultural and Educational Rights
6.      Right to Constitutional Remedies
7.      Right to property
8.      Right To Education

 Part III - Fundamental Rights is a charter of rights contained in the Constitution of India. It guarantees civil liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace and harmony as citizens of India. These include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs such as habeas corpus. Violations of these rights result in punishments as prescribed in the Indian Penal Code, subject to discretion of the judiciary. The Fundamental Rights are defined as basic human freedoms which 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, creed, color or Gender. They are enforceable by the courts, subject to certain restrictions. The Rights have their origins in many sources, including England's Bill of Rights, the United States Bill of Rights and France's Declaration of the Rights of Man.
The six fundamental rights recognised by the constitution are:
1) Right to equality, including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment
2) Right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality)
3) Right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic in human beings;
4) Right to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion;
5) Right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; and
6) Right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
1. Right to Equality
The Right to Equality is one of the chief guarantees of the Constitution. It is embodied in Articles 14–16, which collectively encompass the general principles of equality before law and non-discrimination, and Articles 17–18 which collectively further the philosophy of social equality. Article 14 guarantees equality before law as well as equal protection of the law to all persons within the territory of India. This includes the equal subjection of all persons to the authority of law, as well as equal treatment of persons in similar circumstances. The latter permits the State to classify persons for legitimate purposes, provided there is a reasonable basis for the same, meaning that the classification is required to be non-arbitrary, based on a method of intelligible differentiation among those sought to be classified, as well as have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the classification.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them. This right can be enforced against the State as well as private individuals, with regard to free access to places of public entertainment or places of public resort maintained partly or wholly out of State funds. However, the State is not precluded from making special provisions for women and children or any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This exception has been provided since the classes of people mentioned therein are considered deprived and in need of special protection. 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. It creates exceptions for the implementation of measures of affirmative action for the benefit of any backward class of citizens in order to ensure adequate representation in public service, as well as reservation of an office of any religious institution for a person professing that particular religion.
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. Thus, Indian aristocratic titles and titles of nobility conferred by the British have been abolished. However, awards such as the Bharat Ratna have been held to be valid by the Supreme Court on the ground that they are merely decorations and cannot be used by the recipient as a title.

2. Right to Freedom

The Right to Freedom is covered in Articles 19–22, with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the framers of the Constitution, and these Articles also include certain restrictions that may be imposed by the State on individual liberty under specified conditions. 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, freedom of association without arms, freedom of movement throughout the territory of India,freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country of India and the freedom to practice any profession. All these freedoms are subject to reasonable restrictions that may imposed on them by the State, listed under Article 19 itself. The grounds for imposing these restrictions vary according to the freedom sought to be restricted, and include national security, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, incitement to offences, and defamation. The State is also empowered, in the interests of the general public to nationalise any trade, industry or service to the exclusion of the citizens.
The freedoms guaranteed by Article 19 are further sought to be protected by Articles 20–22. The scope of these articles, particularly with respect to the doctrine of due process, was heavily debated by the Constituent Assembly. It was argued, especially by Benegal Narsing Rau, that the incorporation of such a clause would hamper social legislation and cause procedural difficulties in maintaining order, and therefore it ought to be excluded from the Constitution altogether. The Constituent Assembly in 1948 eventually omitted the phrase "due process" in favour of "procedure established by law". As a result, Article 21, which prevents the encroachment of life or personal liberty by the State except in accordance with the procedure established by law, was, until 1978, construed narrowly as being restricted to executive action. However, in 1978, the Supreme Court in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India extended the protection of Article 21 to legislative action, holding that any law laying down a procedure must be just, fair and reasonable, and effectively reading due process into Article 21. In the same case, the Supreme Court also ruled that "life" under Article 21 meant more than a mere "animal existence"; it would include the right to live with human dignity and all other aspects which made life "meaningful, complete and worth living". Subsequent judicial interpretation has broadened the scope of Article 21 to include within it a number of rights including those to livelihood, clean environment, good health, speedy trial and humanitarian treatment while imprisoned. The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the Fundamental Rights under Article 21A by the 86th Constitutional amendment of 2002.
Article 20 provides protection from conviction for offences in certain respects, including the rights against ex post facto laws, double jeopardy and freedom from self-incrimination. Article 22 provides specific rights to arrested and detained persons, in particular the rights to be informed of the grounds of arrest, consult a lawyer of one's own choice, be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest, and the freedom not to be detained beyond that period without an order of the magistrate. The Constitution also authorises the State to make laws providing for preventive detention, subject to certain other safeguards present in Article 22. The provisions pertaining to preventive detention were discussed with skepticism and misgivings by the Constituent Assembly, and were reluctantly approved after a few amendments in 1949. Article 22 provides that when a person is detained under any law of preventive detention, the State can detain such person without trial for only three months, and any detention for a longer period must be authorised by an Advisory Board. The person being detained also has the right to be informed about the grounds of detention, and be permitted to make a representation against it, at the earliest opportunity.
3. Right against Exploitation
The Right against Exploitation, contained in Articles 23–24, lays down certain provisions to prevent exploitation of the weaker sections of the society by individuals or the State. 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. However, it permits the State to impose compulsory service for public purposes, including conscription and community service. The Bonded Labour system (Abolition) Act, 1976, has been enacted by Parliament to give effect to this Article. Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories, mines and other hazardous jobs. Parliament has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, providing regulations for the abolition of, and penalties for employing, child labour, as well as provisions for rehabilitation of former child labourers.
4. Right to Freedom of Religion
The Right to Freedom of Religion, covered in Articles 25–28, provides religious freedom to all citizens and ensures a secular State in India. According to the Constitution, there is no official State religion, and the State is required to treat all religions impartially and neutrally. Article 25 guarantees all persons the freedom of conscience and the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice. This right is, however, subject to public order, morality and health, and the power of the State to take measures for social welfare and reform. The right to propagate, however, does not include the right to convert another individual, since it would amount to an infringement of the other's right to freedom of conscience. Article 26 guarantees all religious denominations and sects, subject to public order, morality and health, to manage their own affairs in matters of religion, set up institutions of their own for charitable or religious purposes, and own, acquire and manage property in accordance with law. These provisions do not derogate from the State's power to acquire property belonging to a religious denomination. The State is also empowered to regulate any economic, political or other secular activity associated with religious practice. Article 27 guarantees that no person can be compelled to pay taxes for the promotion of any particular religion or religious institution. Article 28 prohibits religious instruction in a wholly State-funded educational institution, and educational institutions receiving aid from the State cannot compel any of their members to receive religious instruction or attend religious worship without their (or their guardian's) consent.
5. Cultural and Educational Rights
The Cultural and Educational rights, given in Articles 29 and 30, are measures to protect the rights of cultural, linguistic and religious minorities, by enabling them to conserve their heritage and protecting them against discrimination. 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. It also prohibits discrimination against any citizen for admission into any educational institutions maintained or aided by the State, on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. However, this is subject to reservation of a reasonable number of seats by the State for socially and educationally backward classes, as well as reservation of up to 50 percent of seats in any educational institution run by a minority community for citizens belonging to that community.
Article 30 confers upon all religious and linguistic minorities the right to set up and administer educational institutions of their choice in order to preserve and develop their own culture, and prohibits the State, while granting aid, from discriminating against any institution on the basis of the fact that it is administered by a religious or cultural minority. The term "minority", while not defined in the Constitution, has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to mean any community which numerically forms less than 50% of the population of the state in which it seeks to avail the right under Article 30. In order to claim the right, it is essential that the educational institution must have been established as well as administered by a religious or linguistic minority. Further, the right under Article 30 can be availed of even if the educational institution established does not confine itself to the teaching of the religion or language of the minority concerned, or a majority of students in that institution do not belong to such minority. This right is subject to the power of the State to impose reasonable regulations regarding educational standards, conditions of service of employees, fee structure, and the utilisation of any aid granted by it.
6. Right to Constitutional Remedies
The Right to Constitutional Remedies empowers citizens to approach the Supreme Court of India to seek enforcement, or protection against infringement, of their Fundamental Rights. Article 32 provides a guaranteed remedy, in the form of a Fundamental Right itself, for enforcement of all the other Fundamental Rights, and the Supreme Court is designated as the protector of these rights by the Constitution. The Supreme Court has been empowered to issue writs, namely habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo warranto, for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights, while the High Courts have been empowered under Article 226 – which is not a Fundamental Right in itself – to issue these prerogative writs even in cases not involving the violation of Fundamental Rights. The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to enforce the Fundamental Rights even against private bodies, and in case of any violation, award compensation as well to the affected individual. Exercise of jurisdiction by the Supreme Court can also be suo motu or on the basis of a public interest litigation. This right cannot be suspended, except under the provisions of Article 359 when a state of emergency is declared.
Changes to the fundamental rights require a constitutional amendment which has to be passed by a special majority of both houses of Parliament. This means that an amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of the members present and voting. However, the number of members voting should not be less than the simple majority of the house — whether the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the fundamental rights under the Eighty-Sixth Amendment of 2002.
7. Right to property
The Constitution originally provided for the right to property under Articles 19 and 31. Article 19 guaranteed to all citizens the right to acquire, hold and dispose off property. Article 31 provided that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law." It also provided that compensation would be paid to a person whose property has been taken for public purposes.
The provisions relating to the right to property were changed a number of times. The Forty-Forth Amendment of 1978 deleted the right to property from the list of fundamental rights A new provision, Article 300-A, was added to the constitution which provided that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law". Thus if a legislature makes a law depriving a person of his property, there would be no obligation on the part of the State to pay anything as compensation. The aggrieved person shall have no right to move the court under Article 32. Thus, the right to property is no longer a fundamental right, though it is still a constitutional right. If the government appears to have acted unfairly, the action can be challenged in a court of law by citizens.
The liberalisation of the economy and the government's initiative to set up special economic zones has led to many protests by farmers and have led to calls for the reinstatement of the fundamental right to private property. The Supreme Court has sent a notice to the government questioning why the right should not be brought back but in 2010 the court rejected the PIL.
As in 2007 the supreme court unanimously said that the fundamental rights are a basic structure of the constitution and cannot be removed or diluted.
8. Right To Education
On 1 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, 2009 will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the operationalisation of the Act. Children, who had either dropped out of schools or never been to any educational institution, will get elementary education as it will be binding on the part of the local and State governments to ensure that all children in the 6-14 age group get schooling. As per the Act, private educational institutions should reserve 25 per cent seats for children from the weaker sections of society. The Centre and the States have agreed to share the financial burden in the ratio of 55:45, while the Finance Commission has given Rs. 25,000 crore to the States for implementing the Act. The Centre has approved an outlay of Rs.15,000 crore for 2010-2011.
The school management committee or the local authority will identify the drop-outs or out-of-school children aged above six and admit them in classes appropriate to their age after giving special training.

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