WHO IS A CITIZEN?
Any individual domiciled in India automatically became an Indian citizen in 1949 if they were: born in India,
born to at least one parent who themselves was born in India, or
living in India for at least five years prior to the Constitution’s commencement.
HISTORY OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
The development of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights in India was inspired by historical examples such as
- England’s Bill of Rights (1689), the United States Bill of Rights (approved on September 17, 1787, final ratification on December 15, 1791)
- France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man .
- In 1919, the Rowlatt Acts gave extensive powers to the British government and police, and allowed indefinite arrest and detention of individuals, warrant-less searches and seizures, restrictions on public gatherings, and intensive censorship of media and publications.
The Nehru Commission in 1928, proposed constitutional reforms for India that apart from calling for dominion status for India and elections under universal suffrage, would guarantee rights deemed fundamental, representation for religious and ethnic minorities, and limit the powers of the government.
In 1931, the Indian National Congress (the largest Indian political party of the time) adopted resolutions committing itself to the defense of fundamental civil rights, as well as socio-economic rights such as the abolition of untouchability.
When India obtained freedom on 15 August 1947, the task of formulating constitution for the nation was undertaken by the Constituent Assembly of India, composing of elected representatives under the presidency of Rajendra Prasad. While members of Congress composed of a large majority, Congress leaders appointed persons from diverse political backgrounds to responsibilities of developing the constitution and national laws. Notably, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar became the chairperson of the drafting committee, while Jawaharlal Nehru. United Nation called upon the state members to form their respective constitutions after adopting Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December 1948.
The Fundamental Rights were part of the Ist Draft Constitution (February 1948), the IInd Draft Constitution ( 17 October 1948) and the IIIrd and final Draft Constitution ( 26 November 1949), being prepared by the Drafting Committee.
All about Fundamental Rights
The Fundamental Rights were considered essential for the development of the personality of every individual and to preserve human dignity. According to the writers of the constitution, “democracy” is, in essence, a government by opinion and therefore, the means of formulating public opinion should be secured to the people of a democratic nation. For this purpose, the constitution guaranteed to all the citizens of India the freedom of speech and expression and various other freedoms in the form of the Fundamental Rights.
NEED OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
All citizens, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex, have been given the right to move to the Supreme Court and the High Courts for the enforcement of their Fundamental Rights. It is not necessary that the aggrieved party has to be the one to do so. Economically backward people may not have the means to do so and therefore, in the public interest, anyone can commence litigation in the court on their behalf. This is known as ” Public interest litigation”. In some cases, High Court judges have acted on their own on the basis of newspaper reports.
These Fundamental Rights help in protection and in the prevention of gross violations of human rights. They emphasize on the fundamental unity of India by guaranteeing to all citizens the access and use of the same facilities, irrespective of background. Some Fundamental Rights apply for persons of any nationality whereas others are available only to the citizens of India. The right to life and personal liberty is available to all people and so is the right to freedom of religion. On the other hand, freedoms of speech and expression and freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country are reserved to citizens alone, including non-resident Indian citizens. The right to equality in matters of public employment cannot be conferred to overseas citizens of India.
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IN INDIA
There are six fundamental rights of Indian Constitution along with the constitutional articles related to them are mentioned below:
- Right to Equality (Article 14-18)
- Right to Freedom (Article 19-22)
- Right against Exploitation (Article 23-24)
- Right to Freedom of Religion (Article 25-28)
- Cultural and Educational Rights (Article 29-30)
- Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)
Right to Equality (Articles 14 – 18)
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.
Right to Freedom (Articles 19 – 22)
Freedom is one of the most important ideals cherished by any democratic society. The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom to citizens. The freedom right includes many rights such as:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom of assembly without arms
- Freedom of association
- Freedom to practise any profession
- Freedom to reside in any part of the country.
Right against Exploitation (Articles 23 – 24)
This right implies the prohibition of traffic in human beings, beggar, and other forms of forced labour. It also implies the prohibition of children in factories, etc. The Constitution prohibits the employment of children under 14 years in hazardous conditions.
Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 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.
Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 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.
Right to Constitutional Remedies (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.
Why Right to Property is not a Fundamental Right?
There was one more fundamental right in the Constitution, i.e., the right to property. Eventually this right was removed from the list of fundamental rights by the 44rth Amendment act This was because this right proved to be a hindrance towards attaining the goal of socialism and redistributing wealth (property) equitably among the people.
Note: The right to property is now a legal right and not a fundamental right.