FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS – THE ESSENCE OF DEMOCRACY

” Children of migrants and migrating children remain invisible and are most vulnerable and are denied access to health and proper nutrition, quality education and skills and knowledge they need to thrive and spend their lives in makeshift, unfriendly, unhygienic and testing conditions.” – The Times of India

 

“Illegal parking on footways or public streets will amount to violation of fundamental rights under Article 21” : Karnataka High court.

 

We come across such news headlines on a daily basis in our lives but when it comes to filing a complaint against our fundamental rights being violated we take a step back. From facing discrimination from rent owners to having troubles in neighbourhood dealing with drainage system or improper garbage segregation. All these violate our fundamental rights. A worker working in factory getting wages less than his minimal wage, a person being treated unfairly just because of his/her caste, race, religion or gender, women facing trouble working among the male members etc. all these are live instances of people facing violation of their fundamental rights. 

 

In these pandemic days we find similar examples of such instances- People not wearing masks are violating other citizens’ fundamental right to life. Hospitals not admitting patients violate their right to life. Insufficient availability of medical equipments like ventilators, ICU beds and oxygen cylinders violate fundamental rights. All these instances highlight the importance fundamental rights play in our lives.

 

Backdrop-

India’s constitution came into force on 26th January 1950 against the backdrop of horrendous violence the partition unleased on the subcontinent. Our constitution makers were fully aware of the situation prevalent in India and the aspirations of the citizens living in it. Each and every provision of the constitution was thoroughly viewed, debated and passed with public reasoning. While framing the most balanced arrangements the leaders of our constituent assembly did not hesitate to adopt provisions and guidelines which they found suitable from various others countries, without slavish imitation. 

 

Fundamental rights defined in Part III of our constitution finds its origin in United States of America. As early as 1920s there was demand for rights from British government. It was therefore natural that independent India would be provided with these rights and hence regard them as fundamental, of utmost value. The constitution has separately listed them and made special provisions for their protection. They are so important that constitution itself ensures they are not violated by government. These rights cannot be changed by the constitution itself and hence impose rigidity on part of the constitution. 

 

Fundamental rights are contained in Article 12 to 35 of Part III of our constitution. There are six main fundamental rights that our constitution guarantees its citizens- 

 

Right to equality –

It prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, religion, caste, sex or place of birth. Equal opportunity in work places should not be denied to anyone and this rights abolishes untouchability.

 

Right to freedom-

Everyone must have freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peacefully, form associations/unions, move freely throughout the territory of India, reside in any part of India and practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business.

 

Right against exploitation-

It prohibits traffic in human beings and employment of children in hazardous jobs.

 

Right to freedom of religion-

It guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, pay taxes for promotion of particular religion, and freedom to attend religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.

 

Cultural and education rights-

It guarantees protection of language, culture of minorities and right to establish educational institutions for minorities.

 

Right to constitutional remedies-

It states that any citizen can move the court to issue direction/orders/writs for enforcement of rights.

 

How does the constitution protect us against violation of these rights  ?

Merely providing these rights is not enough, there has to be a way to defend against attack on these rights. Right to constitutional remedies is considered as the ‘heart and soul of the constitution’ by Dr. B.R Ambedkar. It gives right to a citizen to approach a High court or Supreme court to get any fundamental right restored in case of their violation. It provides 5 writs that the court can issue as special orders to guarantee the enforcement of these rights. Apart from Judiciary there are many other mechanisms for the protection of these rights- National commission on women, National commission on minorities, National commission on schedule caste, National human rights commission and many others like these are established to protect fundamental and other kinds of rights. 

 
Being a citizen we must be aware of our rights and take immediate action upon their violation. This is the most basic lesson we have learnt in our primary classes but is hardly being implemented and attended to.  

Signing off

Janhavi Thakre