The Fundamental Rights and Duties as a citizen in India

Now and then, we hear our Apex court pronouncing judgments regarding the Fundamental Rights of citizens of our country. In every democratic country like India, the existence of fundamental rights of citizens is a sine qua non, which is why it is imperative for our Government to not exploit these rights. As the word, ‘fundamental’ means elementary rights that every citizen has to develop their personality and work freely in their country without any interference by the State or its institutions. 

Every country has its own set of fundamental rights for its citizens, for instance, the US has a ‘Bill of Rights, under the English Constitution these rights are called ‘Magna Carta’. 

Chapter III of our Indian Constitution defines Fundamental Rights under articles 12 to 35. It defines 6 fundamental rights enjoyed by our Indian citizens:

1. Right to Equality (Article 14 to 18)

2. Right to Freedom (Article 19 to 22)

3. Right against Exploitation (Article 23 and 24)

4. Right to profess any religion (Article 25 to 28)

5. Cultural and Educational rights (Article 29 and 30)

6. Right to Constitutional remedies (Article 32)

Let’s discuss these in detail:

1. Right to Equality: 

Article 14 (Equality before Law)- According to this article, every individual should be treated equally before the law of the country irrespective of any discriminating factors based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

Article 15 (Prohibition of Discrimination)- No individual should be discriminated against based on caste, color, race, sex, or place of birth. This article, in particular, relates to access to public property, nobody should be treated differently while entering any public property or anything open for public utility. For eg. Restricting entry of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe into any Temple also comes under the ambit of article 15.

Article 16 (Equal Opportunities in matters of Public Employment)- This states that no person should be discriminated against in matters of public employment on the grounds of caste, race, color, sex, place of birth, descent, or residence. There is an exception to this rule, certain jobs are offered to backward classes by different state governments to develop those backward communities.

Article 17 (Abolition of Untouchability)- Untouchability has been abolished long back, and any sort of discrimination based on untouchability is considered an offence. 

Article 18 (Abolition of Titles)- The State is not allowed to decorate or honor any kind of titles based on caste or community. Only titles that are considered eligible are those related to the academic or military designations. 

2. Right to Freedom

Article 19- This article assures 6 freedoms:

i. Freedom of speech and expression- The State provides freedom to citizens to express their views or voice their opinions freely, but the State also can put restrictions over this right in case of emergencies or case of integrity, sovereignty, or security of the nation.

ii. Freedom to assemble- The state gives a right to every citizen to assemble in any part of the nation peacefully but without arms. Restrictions can be put on such assemblies as well to maintain the public order or security of the country.

iii. Freedom to form an association and cooperative societies- The state gives a right to form associations or cooperative groups to the citizens. Usually those with a consensus ad idem, form groups or unions to achieve a common interest or object on behalf of all. The state has the right to put certain restrictions over these formations of societies. The law restricts police personnel and other legislative or members of the armed forces to form any sort of political union or trade union, which could cause damage to the security and integrity of the nation.

Recently, an Sc Judge has expressed his dissenting opinion related to the formation of cooperative societies and the development of hate towards different communities by not allowing entry to people from a certain background, categorizing people based on food, etc, has violated the essence of this right.

iv. Freedom to move freely- All the citizens have the right to move freely anywhere in the country, but the state can put restrictions over visiting certain tribal areas marked as the red zone, and if such person is a suspected criminal.

v. Freedom of Profession- Every citizen has the right to practice any sort of business or trade until it abides by the law. Nevertheless, the state still can formulate regulations related to business on a state-to-state basis, law does not put restrictions over the powers of state related to trade and businesses.

vi. Freedom of residence- People have the right to stay in any part of the country but a state can put restrictions based on security, public order, or preventing the interests of people of the Scheduled tribes.

Article 20 (Protection in respect of Conviction for offences)- This article defines three provisions related to the protection of individuals or foreigners from arbitrary and reckless actions by the police in respect to punishment. Those three provisions include No ex-post-facto laws which state any new law altering criminal punishment today shall not act retrospectively but can do in cases of civil or tax nature, Double Jeopardy stating no individual can be convicted of the same offense twice and Self-incrimination which means no person shall be compelled to be a witness to his case.

Article 21 (Protection of Life and Liberty)- This article has been used most reputedly in almost all cases, as every offence is linked to one or more lives of people. This states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by the law. This means that the state can when the need arises may take away your right to life and personal liberty in accordance with the law.

For instance, in the landmark case of Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, the court taking into consideration the application of the law by the US stated that Article 21 a, so includes arbitrary executive and arbitrary legislative action. And the action should be just, fair and reasonable.

Article 21A (Right to Education)- This denotes that every citizen has a right to attain primary education aged from 6 to 14 years. The state is responsible for providing free education to the respective age groups to accomplish this right.

Article 22 (Protection against arrest and detention)- This article can be applied to both citizens and non-citizens. The detention is of two types: Preventive meaning detaining a person without trial and judgment by the court and Punitive which means punishing a person after the trial and judgment by the court. 

This article states that the arrested person has the right to be informed about the grounds of arrest, should be taken to the nearest Magistrate’s court within the next 24hrs, and also, he or she should be given a right to legal counsel of their own choice.

DYK: The Parliament has the power to frame laws related to preventive detention for disputes related to defense, foreign affairs, and the security of India.

3. Right against Exploitation

Article 23 (Prohibition of Human Trafficking)- This right protects individuals from this social evil existing throughout the world. This evil is considered to be a dire violation of our human rights, forcing individuals into prostitution, buying and selling of children or women like goods, etc, comes under this definition. To prevent such events from happening, the Parliament has implemented the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.

DYK: Even forced labor or forced begging or slavery comes under the ambit of human trafficking, and the States have been rigorously involved in implementing laws to prevent such crimes.

Article 24 (Prohibition of Child Labour)- Forcing children to work in factories has been a long battle being fought by the laws of our country and is still existing. According to this article, no child below the age of 14 years should be employed in any factory, mine, or any hazardous activities like construction, etc, but they are allowed to work in any harmless or innocent jobs that shall not endanger their life in any way.

In a case in 1996, the Apex court ordered the establishment of the Child Labour Rehabilitation Welfare fund in which the offender was supposed to deposit 20,000 rupees for every minor child employed. The fund was then further used to improve the health, safety, and education of such underprivileged children.

4.  Right to freedom of Religion

Article 25 (Freedom of Conscience, and Free Profession, Practice, and Propagation of Religion)- This article also confers right over citizens and non-citizens. This states that every individual has the right to profess, propagate, and freely express his views or beliefs in any religion. But, this article also states that one need not coerce others to convert their religion if found will amount to a punishable offense.

DYK: In a judgment by the SC it was held that carrying of Kirpans by Sikhs will not be included under the ambit of carrying arms but is a part of their religion.

Article 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs)- This article deals with the collective freedom of religion. This means that every religion has a right to establish and set up its institutions for religious or charitable purposes, and can also own and acquire properties under its name, further managing such property in consonance with the laws of the country.

Article 27 (Freedom from Taxation for promotion of religion)- This article was brought into place to avoid any religious biases and to halt the state from using public money collected by the way of taxes to invest in the promotion of any particular religion. Hence, no taxes can be levied over religious promotions or maintenance.

Article 28 (Freedom from attending Religious Instruction) – This article points out 4 types of educational institutions:

i. Institutions completely managed out of State funds

ii. Institutions only administered by the state but formed under any religious trust 

iii. Institutions identified by the state

iv. Institutions getting financial aid from the state 

According to this article, no religious ideologies or principles should be taught in institutes falling under (i), whereas in (b) institutions are allowed to follow a particular religion, and in (c) and (d) the students can follow such religious beliefs according to their own free will.

5. Cultural and Educational rights

Article 29 (Protection of Interests of minorities) – According to this article, every section of people who have a distinct language or culture or community have full tight to conserve the same. And should not be discriminated against on the same grounds from attaining admission in any of the educational institutions set up by the State funds. This article not only covers the minority sections but even the majority sections of the society based on religious or linguistic background.

Article 30 (Right of Minorities to establish and administer Educational Institutions) – This article is a pure example of ‘positive discrimination, where the minority sections of the society have the right to administer and set up educational institutions of their own choice with or without the aid from the State. This article was added by the 44th Amendment Act of 1978 and abrogated the ‘right to property under article 31. 

Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)

– This article is known as the ‘heart and soul of the Indian Constitution’ because this article speaks for the remedies available to the citizens in case any of their fundamental rights are violated. Under this article, any aggrieved person can reach out to any High court under article 226 and the SC under article 32 for assistance and remedy for violation of their fundamental rights. Applications filed under this article are filed in the form of ‘writ petitions’.

Fundamental Duties

Every citizen of our country enjoys certain fundamental rights as discussed above but is also obligated to abide by certain duties assigned to them by the Constitution. These duties take into consideration the responsibilities of the citizens to maintain cordial relationships among fellow citizens, take good care of the environment, promote patriotic feeling and stand against anti-national activities, promote education, etc.

These duties are defined under Article 51A of our Constitution, after the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, one more duty was added taking the count to 11. Following are the fundamental duties that every citizen should abide by:

1. Every citizen needs to abide by the Indian Constitution and respect its National flag & National song.

2. Admire and follow the ideals spread by our freedom fighters during the freedom struggle.

3. Protect and maintain the security, sovereignty, and integrity of our country.

4. Stand in solidarity with your nation and be ready to serve when called for aid.

5. We should imbibe the feeling of brotherhood among different communities or societies and come together as one.

6. Preserving the rich heritage and diverse culture of our nation.

7. Promoting afforestation, and aiding in preserving the natural environment to make the land habitable for other living creatures as well.

8. Develop scientific temper, and enhance the intellectual, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

9. Preserve the public property and abstain oneself from deteriorating public heritage. 

10. Strive for excellence in all the spheres to raise the nation to higher levels of achievement.

11. All parents must provide elementary education to their children aged 6-14 years.

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