Fundamental rights and duties in Indian Constitution


Fundamental rights:

Fundamental rights are those rights which are essential for the well being of a person. Part III of the Indian Constitution contains the list of Fundamental Rights; that guarantees civil liberties to all the citizens of India to live in peace and harmony without the fear of being suppressed by others. The Indian Judiciary has the discretion to punish those violating these fundamental rights under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. No person can be deprived these rights pertaining to basic liberty in the form of human freedoms. It is the judiciary that safeguards these rights of the citizens. In some exceptional cases, i.e. during emergencies the State can impose restrictions on the enjoyment of these fundamental rights.

The Constitution provides for the enjoyment of 6 Fundamental rights. They are:

  1. Right to Equality (under Article 14 – Article 18 )
  2. Right to Freedom (under Article 19 – Article 22 )
  3. Right against exploitation ( under Article 23 – Article 24 )
  4. Right to Freedom of Religion (under Article 25 – Article 28 )
  5. Cultural and Educational rights (under Article 29 – Article 30 )
  6. Right to Constitutional remedies (Article 32 )

The six categories of Fundamental Rights are discussed below:

I. RIGHT TO EQUALITY ((Article 14 – Article 18): It implies equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. No man is above the law of the land. Every person is subject to the ordinary law and amendable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals. Any discrimination is prohibited and equality of opportunity in matters of public employment under the state is ensured. There is no distinction between officials and private citizen and no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, religion, sex etc . But right to equality does not mean absolute equality or universal application . Some exceptions are allowed by the Indian Constitution and these limitations are as follows :
· the President or the Governor of a state shall not be answerable to any court for the power exercised or act done by him .
· no criminal proceeding shall be instituted against the President or the Governor during term of office
· exemption from taxes to certain classes of property
· imposition of taxes upon different trades and professions
· making special provisions for women and child
· making special provisions for advancement of any socially, economically and educationally backward classes like SCs and STs including special employment opportunities, which is called protective discrimination.

II. RIGHT TO FREEDOM (Article 19 – Article 22): This right is the most significant and important for the citizens. This right confers some positive rights to promote the ideal of liberty .Article-19 is the most important which guaranteed six freedom to all citizens .
These are – 19 (1) All citizens shall have the right-
(a) to freedom of speech and expression ;
(b) to assemble peacefully and without arms ;
(c) to form associations or unions ;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India ;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India ; and
(g) to practice any profession , or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
Article 20 and 21 guarantee the right to life, dignity and status. Under Article 20, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Similarly, under Article 21, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Article 22 provides some safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention.
Like the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom is not absolute. The state can impose reasonable restrictions upon these rights incorporated in Article-19 to maintain a balance between individual liberty and social control. When a proclamation of emergency is made under Article 352, provisions of Article-19 itself remain suspended (Art. 358)
III. RIGHT AGAINST EXPLOITATION (Article 23 – Article 24): Indian Constitution recognizes dignity of the individual against any form of exploitation either by the state or by the privileged section of the society. Therefore, Right against exploitation prohibited traffic in human beings and forced labour and employment of child in factories, mines or in any other ‘hazardous employment’. No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or minds or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Artcle 24)
The provisions of Article 23 and Article 24 absolute and the state is firm on restoration of dignity and status of the individual against any immoral purposes.

IV. RIGHT TO RELIGION (Article 25- Article 28): Indian Constitution has adopted secular ideology and declared India as a secular state, which observes and attitude of neutrality and impartiality towards all religion . There is no state religion in India. The state will neither establish a religion of its own nor confer any special patronage upon any particular religion . Every person is guaranteed the freedom of conscience and freedom to profess, practice and propagate his own religion subject to public order, morality and health . Every religious group has been given the freedom to manage religious affairs, own and acquire movable and immovable property and administer such property in accordance with law. Right to religion is also subject to certain limitations. The state has the right and duty to intervene if any religious activity creates public disorder, immorality and so on.

V. RIGHT TO CULTURE AND EDUCATION (Article 29 – Article 30):
The Constitution of India guarantees cultural and educational rights for all section of people irrespective of their religious, racial and cultural diversities. These rights are non-political in real sense. To reserve religious and cultural interest of each community, the Constitution of India incorporated these cultural and educational rights under Article 29 and Article 30. Article 29 guarantees to every minority or section of the people to preserve its language, script and culture notwithstanding the provisions of Article-343 under which the official language of the union shall Hindi in Devanagari script. The state shall not impose upon any minority group any culture other than the community’s own culture Article 29(1). Clause (2) of Article 29 provides that no citizen may be denied admission to State and State aided educational institutions on the grounds only of religion, race, caste or language. Article 30 provides that all communities shall have the right to establish and administer educational Institutions of its choice and the state shall not discriminate against them in making grants on grounds of religion, race or language. There is implicit in the right conferred by Article 30 (1), the right to impart instruction in their own institutions to the children of their own community in their own language.

This right has also some limitations. The State can regulate its affairs in the interest of efficiency of instruction, discipline, morality and public order.

VI. RIGHT TO CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDIES (Article 32): A right without remedy is a meaningless formality. Indian Constitution enumerates various rights to its citizen and in order to make these rights effective, it includes some means or remedies in the form of the Right to Constitutional Remedies under Article 32. Article 32 guarantees to every citizen the right to move the Supreme Court or High Courts for enforcement of Fundamental Rights by Constitutional means. Both the Supreme Court under Article 32 and the High Courts under Article 226 can issue necessary writs for the purpose. When a citizen feels that his Fundamental Rights have been violated, he can move the court for redressal. The Supreme Court under Article 32, Section 2) and High court under Article 226 may issue to safeguard the Fundamental Rights in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo-warranto and certiorari. These are some instruments and means to make Fundamental Rights more effective. The courts have the power to enforce Fundamental Rights by issuing these writs against any authority of the State. The Indian Constitution lays down that any act of the executive or of the legislature which violates Fundamental Rights shall be void and the courts are empowered to declare it as void (Art. 13). Thus, the Constitution of India has made the judiciary as “the protector and guarantor of Fundamental Rights”. On the other hand, this Constitutional right is the “heart and soul” of the Constitution as it can only make Fundamental Rights effective.
However the right to move the court for protection of Fundamental Rights may be suspended during an emergency except those rights provided by Article 20 and Article 21.

Restrictions on Fundamental Rights

Though the Constitution of India guarantees all these Fundamental rights for the citizen, yet there are some limitation and exceptions of these rights also. A citizen can not enjoy Fundamental Rights absolutely or at will. Within some Constitutional limitation citizen can enjoy their Rights. The Constitution of India imposes some reasonable restrictions upon enjoyment of these Rights so, that public order, morality and health remain intact . The Constitution always aims at restoration of collective interest along with individual interest .For example, right to religion is subject to restrictions imposed by the state in the interest of public order, morality and health so, that the freedom of religion may not be abused to committee crimes or anti-social activities . Similarly Rights guaranteed by article-19 does not mean absolute liberty . Absolute individual rights can not be guaranteed by any modern state . There fore our Constitution also empowered the state to impose reasonable restrictions as may be necessary in the larger interest of the community . our Constitution always attempts “ to strike a balance between individual liberty and social control .” and to establish a welfare state where collective interest got prominence over individual interest .Freedom of speech and expression (Art.19-1-A) is also subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the state relating to defamation, contempt of court, decency or morality, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states , incitement to an offence, public order, maintenance of the sovereignty and integrity of India . Freedom of assembly (Art.19-1-B) is also subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the state that the assembly must be peaceful and without arms in the interest of public order. Freedom of press which is included in the wider freedom of expression is also subject to reasonable limitations and the state can impose restriction upon freedom of press in the larger interest of the state or for the prevention of contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence

Fundamental duties:

Fundamental Duties are the ones that are recognized as moral obligations the citizens are expected to perform. Article 51A under Part IV A of the Constitution of India speaks of the Fundamental duties. One cannot enforce these fundamental duties legally. It was through the 42nd Amendment that these duties were introduced in the Constitution.

There are 10 Fundamental duties that the citizens are expected to discharge. They are:

  1. The citizens of India are expected to be abide by the Constitution and respect all its ideals. Likewise, the citizens are expected to respect the National Flag and the National Anthem.
  2. The noble ideals that inspired our freedom struggle have to be cherished and followed.
  3. The sovereignty, unity and integrity of India needs to be upheld and protected.
  4. Citizens should be ready to defend and render national service towards India.
  5. The spirits of common brotherhood and harmony have to be promoted by all the citizens wherein they need to transcend all forms of diversities pertaining to religion, language and region. All the practices that are derogatory to the dignity of women have to be renounced.
  6. India has a rich, varied and composite culture and one needs to preserve it.
  7. Natural environment including the forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife are expected to be preserved by the citizens.
  8. People of India are expected to develop within themselves humanism, scientific temperament, and spirits of inquiry and reform.
  9. Public property is expected to be safeguarded and violence needs to be avoided.
  10. People are expected to strive for the excellence of all the individuals and collective activities to help in the development of the country.

Fundamental Duties are like some noble advice of which some are civic duties and others are moral duties. They are not legally binding upon the citizens and even the courts can not enforce them. So, Fundamental Duties are not enforceable by the courts of our country. No one can be punished if he/she does not perform his/her duties. Though there is no legal force behind these duties, yet they are integral part to the Constitution of India. These duties have moral impact and educative value upon the citizens. Therefore people obey these duties on moral obligation for welfare of the people. After all inclusion of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution is considered necessary towards progress, peace and prosperity of the country.

Though there is no provision in the Constitution for direct enforcement of any of these duties nor for any sanction to prevent their violation, yet some Fundamental Duties are enforceable by the courts of the country. Duties like abide by the Constitution, respect the National Flag and the National Anthem, to defend the country and render National service when called upon to do so and safeguard public property etc. fall in this category and the courts can enforce them if it find reasonable relation with laws of the country. But there are some inherent draw backs of these Fundamental Duties. Actually Fundamental Duties are not binding upon the citizen. Duties inscribed in the Constitution are not exhaustive, while some duties are ambiguous. So, common people could not understand them. Yet these duties are important for National interest of our country. These duties have sanctity of its own. Besides these duties have moral and educative value upon citizen of our country. People fells that for proper enjoyment of rights, duties must be performed in a well manner. Because rights and duties are related to each other. Every right implies a corresponding duty towards individual and social welfare. Rights can not be separated from duties and vice-versa . Therefore, both rights and duties are important for the prosperity of the country in a similar manner.