In a democracy, all the powers which the government enjoys are given by people. So, drawing some boundaries on government’s powers becomes necessary. To ensure that the government does not cross the line, citizens are given some rights. In a democracy, the government cannot trespass over these rights. Every citizen gets to live a life of dignity because of these rights. In this lesson, you will learn about the fundamental rights given by the Constitution of India. You will also learn about various conditions associated with these rights.
Rights: Rights are reasonable claims of persons and they are recognized by society and sanctioned by law. This means that an unreasonable claim of a person cannot become a right. Moreover, definition and scope of rights change from one society to another and from a period to different period.
Rights are necessary for the very existence of democracy. Every citizen has the right to participate in the democratic process. Additionally, every citizen has the right to become the part of the democratic government.
Rights protect the rights of the minorities against the majority. Things can go wrong when some citizens try to take away the rights of others.
Certain rights are fundamental to our life and hence they are given special status in the Constitution. Such rights are called Fundamental Rights. Following are the Fundamental Rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of India:
The government shall not deny the right to equality before the law to any person in India. Every Indian citizen (right from a poor landless labourer to the Prime Minister) is equal in the eyes of the law of the land. The law of the land does not discriminate between two persons on the basis of socio-economic status or power.
Every citizen has equal access to public places and public facilities, like temples, bathing ghats, road, public toilets, community well, etc.
Every person gets the equal opportunity to compete for public jobs, like Civil Services, defence services, etc. However, some provisions have been made to give special preference to people from the SCs, STs, Women and OBCs. Similarly, physically disabled are also given reservation in government jobs. The clause of reservation may appear to be against the idea of equality. But the founders of our constitution were of the opinion that people who had had suffered years of oppression need to be given special facilities in order to improve their socioeconomic condition. Hence, such people are given the facility of reservation so that they can improve their lot.
Untouchability in any form has been banned and has been made a punishable offence. The practice of untouchability is a blot on our society. Even today, people from upper caste maintain a distance even from the shadow of a dalit. Cases of partiality against the dalits can be seen in many villages even in modern times. The situation was very bad during old times.
The Right to Freedom means, we can do whatever we want to do, without interference from others, especially the government. The Right to Freedom includes the following:
No person can be deprived of his personal liberty, except under certain circumstances. Moreover, the Constitution also gives the Right to Life, which means a person's life cannot be taken until and unless a court awards death sentence to him. This also means that a person cannot be arrested by the police without proper legal sanction. In case of an arrest, the police have to follow these provisions:
This right mainly focuses on three issues which are as follows:
The constitution gives the right to freedom of religion. As per this right, a person is free to follow a religion of his or her choice. The government does not interfere in the religious matter of its citizens. Every person has the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion. Every religious group or sect is free to manage its religious affairs. But a person cannot compel another person to agree to a particular religion by any means. However, a person is free to convert to any religion of his choice. Freedom of religion does not mean doing anything in the name of religion. For example, nobody can force a widow to tonsure her head in the name of religion. Nobody can perform animal sacrifice in the name of religion. The government owned educational institutions do not promote any religion, but it cannot prevent a private institution from doing so.
Every minority group has the right to protect its unique culture and to propagate its unique culture. The meaning of minority is not referring to religion only rather it is also about the linguistic and cultural groups. For example, Telugu speaking people are in majority in Andhra Pradesh while they are in minority in Karnataka. Followers of Sikhism are in majority in Punjab but they are in minority in Delhi and Haryana. If a minority group wants to impart education in its own language, it is free to do so in order to preserve the uniqueness of that language and the related culture. The government run institutions cannot deny admission to anybody on the grounds of religion or language.
When any of the fundamental rights is violated, the affected person has the right to seek constitutional remedies. The person can go to the court where his grievances could be addressed. No government organ (like the executive, legislature or any government functionary) can violate the fundamental rights of the citizens. In case of any violation of the fundamental rights, a person can file Public Interest Litigation (PIL). PIL is an instrument which allows anybody to knock at the doors of the judiciary.
Times have changed drastically since the days when our Constitution was written. Demands for many new fundamental rights have been coming up time and again. Some of these demands have been included under the scope of fundamental rights. For example, the Right to Education has been included in the list recently. As per this right, every child has the right to get elementary education. Similarly, RTI (Right to Information) was enacted recently. Under RTI, anybody can demand information regarding the functions of a government department or official. The RTI has helped in bringing transparency in working of government departments.
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