What are human rights?

Human Rights are those minimal rights which every individual must have against the State or other public authority by virtue of his being a ‘member of the human family’, irrespective of any other consideration.

Our country was one of the original signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and therefore the framers of Indian Constitution were influenced by the concept of human right and recognize as well as guaranteed most of the human rights which were subsequently embodied in the International Covenant 1966. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution reflects the inspiring ideals with the specific mention of “dignity of the individual”.

Human rights under the constitution of India:

Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights are the modern name for what have been traditionally known as Natural Rights. The Natural Rights transformed into fundamental rights operate as a constitutional limitation or a restriction on the 4 powers of the organs set up by the Constitution or the State action. Judicial Review, Justiciability or Enforcement became an inseparable concomitant of fundamental rights.

There are six fundamental rights:

1.     Right to equality (article14-18):  includes equality before the law, the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, equality of opportunity in matters of employment, the abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.

  1. Article 14 – Right to equality guarantees equal rights for everyone irrespective of religion, gender, caste, race or place of birth. It ensures equal employment opportunities in the government and insures against discrimination by the State in matters of employment on the basis of caste, religion, etc. This right also includes the abolition of titles as well as untouchability
  2. Article 15- The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.  No citizen shall, on ground only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any  of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment.
  3. Article 16- There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
  4.  Article 17- “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of “Untouchability” shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
  5. Article 18- No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State. No citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign State. No person who is not a citizen of India shall, while he holds any office of profit or trust under the State, accept without the consent of the President any title from any foreign State.

2. Right to freedom (article 19-22):  includes freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation.

  1. Article 19-  All citizens shall have the right –
    (a) to freedom of speech and expression;
    (b) to assemble peaceably 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
    (f) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
  2. Article 20- No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, not be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.
  3. Article21- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure establishing by law. The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

d. Article 22- No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.

3. Right against exploitation (article 23-24) : This right implies the prohibition of traffic in human beings, begar, and other forms of forced labor. It also implies the prohibition of children in factories, etc. The Constitution prohibits the employment of children under 14 years in hazardous conditions

a. Article 23- Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

b. Article 24- No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

4. Right to freedom of religion (Article 25-28) – This indicates the secular nature of Indian polity. There is equal respect given to all religions. There is freedom of conscience, profession, practice and propagation of religion. The State has no official religion. Every person has the right to freely practice his or her faith, establish and maintain religious and charitable institutions.

a. Article 25- Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

b. Article 26- Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right –
(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
(d) to administer such property in accordance with the law.

c. Article 27- No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

d. Article 28- No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds. No person attending any educational institution recognize by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction.

5. Cultural and Educational rights (Article 29-30): These rights protect the rights of religious, cultural and linguistic minorities, by facilitating them to preserve their heritage and culture. Educational rights are for ensuring education for everyone without any discrimination.

a. Article 29 –  Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.

b. Article 30- All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.  The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

6. Rights to constitutional remedies ( Article 32-35) : The Constitution guarantees remedies if citizens’ fundamental rights are violated. The government cannot infringe upon or curb anyone’s rights. When these rights are violated, the aggrieved party can approach the courts. Citizens can even go directly to the supreme court which can issue writs for enforcing fundamental rights.

Fundamental rights for Indians have also been aimed at overturning the inequalities of pre-independence social practices. Specifically, they have also been used to abolish untouchability and thus prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. They also forbid trafficking of human beings and forced labor (a crime). They also protect cultural and educational rights of religious establishments.



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