Like other democratic countries, the Constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights to its citizens which are enshrined in Part III of the Constitution. These rights have been described as ‘Fundamental’ because they are superior to ordinary laws and no section of the government can abridge or curtail them. These rights can be altered only through amendments to the Constitution and can be suspended/abridged only in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Constitution. These Fundamental Rights act as a limitation not only upon the powers of the Executive but also upon the powers of the legislature.
” Coming closely on the heels of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Constitution of India accorded with the contemporary democratic and humanitarian temper and constitutional practice in other nations of the world. It reflected in no small measure the anxiety of the founding fathers to incorporate and implement the basic principles enunciated in the Universal Declaration.
Also, incorporation of a charter of fundamental rights in our Constitution became necessary in view of the special problem of minorities and the need to assure them of the fullest protection of their rights. Part III of the Constitution which contains perhaps one of the most elaborate charters of human rights yet framed by any State, consistent with the aim of the unity of the nation and the interests of the public at large, has been described as the “very foundation and cornerstone of the democratic way of life ushered in this country by the Constitution” (Sajjan Singh V. State of Rajasthan, 1965). These fundamental rights substantially cover all the traditional civil and political rights enumerated in articles 2 to 21 of the Universal Declaration.
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MEANING OF A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
Since the rise of the nation-state system in modern times, this idea has been veering around that man has some particular rights, which cannot be abridged or taken away by any power including the state itself. The doctrine of ‘natural rights, as it came to be known, is based on the premise that man has some basic and inalienable rights or freedoms that cannot be taken away by the state.
An exhaustive definition of the term ‘fundamental right’, with its peculiar reference to the Indian Constitution, is thus furnished by an eminent jurist: “A legal right is an interest that is protected by law and is enforceable in the courts of law. While an ordinary legal right is protected and enforced by the ordinary law of the land, a fundamental right is one that is protected and guaranteed by the written constitution of the state. These are called fundamental, because while ordinary rights may be changed by the legislature in its ordinary process of legislation, a fundamental right, is guaranteed by the Constitution, cannot be altered by any process shorter than that required for amending the Constitution itself. Nor can it be suspended or abridged except in the manner laid down in the Constitution itself. On the other hand, the fundamental rights being guaranteed by the fundamental law of the land, no organ of the state, executive, legislative or judiciary, can act in contravention of such rights, and any act which is repugnant to such rights must be void”
- Fundamental rights are elaborately mentioned in 24 Articles spreading into eight sections,
- They are not absolute but are subject to restrictions. While some of these restrictions were outlined by the constitution, others can be imposed by the Parliament from time to time, They are placed above the ordinary laws. They are protected by special machinery.
- They are subject to the procedure established by law. The Courts had the right to investigate whether the restrictions imposed on these rights by Parliament are reasonable or not.
- They can be suspended during an emergency. The Parliament can change these rights by amending the constitution.
- While all the rights are available for all persons (citizens and non-citizens), some are meant for the citizens only.
- Some of the rights are in the nature of prohibitions because they impose constitutional restraints on the authority of the State. For example, no authority of the state can deny equal protection of laws.
The state shall not make discriminate against any citizen etc.
Fundamental Rights are mentioned in Part III of the constitution from Articles 12 to 35. Article 12 defines the term “State”, Article 13 states that all laws prevailing at the time of the commencement of the constitution, if they are inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights, are void. The remaining articles deal with seven fundamental rights namely.
- Right to Equality
- Right to Freedom
- Right against exploitation
- Right to freedom of religion
- Cultural and educational rights
- Right to property Right to constitutional remedies
Continue to learn about fundamental rights and limitations of fundamental rights.