Fundamental Rights and Duties: Rights are the reasonable claims of a person over other fellow beings, the society and the government. The claims should be such that they can be made available to others in an equal measure. Thus, a right comes with an obligation to respect other’s rights. When the socially recognised claims (rights) are written into law in a democracy, they are called democratic rights or Fundamental rights.
Introduction to Fundamental Rights and Duties
During the period of 1947 to 1949, Indian Constitution developed and prescribed the fundamental obligations of the State to its citizens and the fundamental duties and the rights of the citizens towards the State under the following sections which constitute the important elements of the constitution.
- Fundamental Rights
- Directive Principles of State Policy
- Fundamental Duties
The Fundamental Rights | Meaning of Rights
Rights are reasonable claims of persons recognised in society and sanctioned by law. When fellow citizens or the government do not respect their rights, we call it violation of our rights. In such situations, citizen can approach courts to protect their rights.
Need of Fundamental Rights
Rights are necessary for the very sustenance of a democracy. In a democracy, every citizen has to have the Right to Vote and the Right to be Elected to government. ‘
Rights protect minorities from the oppression of majority. They ensure that majority cannot do whatever it wishes to do. Rights are like guarantees which can be used when things go wrong. Specially when some citizens may wish to take away the rights of others. In most democracies, the basic rights of the citizen are written down in the Constitution.
Rights in the Indian Constitution | Fundamental Rights and Duties
Some rights which are fundamental to our life are given a special status in Indian Constitution. They are called Fundamental Rights. These are the basic human rights, which are given to every citizen in a democracy for the development of his/her personality. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. They promise to secure for all its citizens equality, liberty and justice. Hence, they are an important basic feature of India’s Constitution.
The six Fundamental Rights recognised by the Constitution are
- Right to Equality
- Right to Freedom
- Right against Exploitation
- Right to Freedom of Religion
- Cultural and Educational Rights
- Right to Constitutional Remedies.
Directive Principles of State Policy | Fundamental Rights and Duties
These are included in Part IV of the Constitution. For the framing of certain Laws, the Government requires certain guidelines. These are included in the Directive Principles of State Policy. According to Article 37, they are not enforceable by the courts. It just lays down the fundamental principles and guidelines on which they are based are fundamental guidelines for governance that the State need to follow while designing the laws. Emphasis is on the Welfare of State Model.
The establishment of Directive Principles of State Policy is in accordance with certain articles of the Constitution of India. Let us explore more about the importance of these articles.
Article 37: Non-enforceability in court
Article 39A: Securing participation of workers in management of industries
Article 41 – 43: Mandate the state to endeavour to secure to all citizens right to work, living wage, security, maternity relief and a decent standard of living
- Promotion of industries
- Establishment of Several Boards for the promotion of Khadi and other handlooms
- Free and compulsory education to children between age group of 6-14
- After 2002 amendment childhood care age limit was shifted to below 6 years
- Raise the standard of living and improve public health
- Prohibition of consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs injurious to health
- Organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines
Article 48A: Protection of the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country
Article 49:Preservation of monuments and objects of national importance
Article 50:Separation of judiciary from the executive in public services
- International peace and security
- Implementation of Laws giving effect to International Treaties
The Fundamental Duties | Fundamental Rights and Duties
After going through the Fundamental Rights, you must have observed and realized that in return for every right, the society expects the citizens to do certain things which are collectively known as duties. Some such important duties have been incorporated in the Indian Constitution also. The original Constitution enforced on 26th January,
1950 did not mention anything about the duties of the citizen.
It was expected that the citizens of free India would perform their duties willingly. But things did not go
as expected. Therefore, ten Fundamental Duties were added in Part-IV of the Constitution under Article 51-A in the year 1976 through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment. However, whereas Fundamental Rights are justiciable, the Fundamental Duties are non-justiciable. It means that the violation of fundamental duties, i.e. the non-performance of these duties by citizens is not punishable. The following ten duties have been listed in the Constitution of India:
- to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag, National Anthem;
- to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
- to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
- to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do;
- to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
- to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
- to protect and improve the natural environments including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife;
- to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
- to safeguard public property and not to use violence; and
- to serve towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.
Besides, a new duty has been added after the passage of Right to Education Act, 2009. “A parent or guardian has to provide opportunities for the education of his child/ward between the age of six and fourteen years.
Nature of Fundamental Duties
These duties are in the nature of a code of conduct. Since they are unjusticiable, there is no legal sanction behind them. As you will find, a few of these duties are vague. For example, a common citizen may not understand what is meant by ‘composite culture’, ‘rich heritage’ ‘humanism’, or ‘excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activities’. They will realize the importance of these duties only when these terms are simplified A demand has been made from time to time to revise the present list, simplify their language and make them more realistic and meaningful and add some urgently required more realistic duties. As far as possible, they should be made justifiable.
The Relationship Between the Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties
Directive Principles have been used to uphold the Constitutional validity of legislation in case of conflict with Fundamental Rights. According to the amendment of 1971, any law that even though it deviates from the Fundamental Rights, but has been made to give effect to the Directive Principles in Article 39(b)(c) would not be deemed invalid. The Fundamental Duties will be held obligatory for all citizens subject to the State enforcing the same by means of a valid law.
Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution
Right to Equality
The Constitution says that the government shall not deny the equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws to any person in India. It means that the laws apply in the same manner to all, regardless of a person’s status. This is called the rule of law.
Right to Equality is the foundation of any democracy. It means that no person is above the law. The government shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Every citizen shall have access to public places like shops, restaurants, hotels and cinema halls. Similarly, there shall be no restrictions with regard to the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads, playgrounds and places of public resorts maintained by government or dedicated to the use of general public.
The Government of India has provided reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). But these reservations are not against the Right to Equality.
Equality does not mean giving everyone the same treatment, no matter what they need. Rather it means giving everyone an equal opportunity to achieve, whatever one is capable of. Sometimes, it is necessary to give special treatment to someone in order to ensure equal opportunity. Thus, the reservations of this kind are not a violation of the Right to Equality.
The principle of non-discrimination extends to social life as well. The Constitution directs the government to put an end to the practice of untouchability. It is the extreme form of social discrimination.
Untouchability does not mean refusal to touch people belonging to certain castes. Rather it refers to any belief or social practice which looks down upon people on account of their birth with certain caste labels.
Such practice denies their interaction with others or access to public places as equal citizens. That’s why the Constitution made untouchability a punishable offence.
Many Forms of Untouchability
In 1999, P. Sainath wrote a series of newsreports in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper describing untouchability and caste discrimination that was still being practiced against Dalits or persons belonging to Scheduled Castes.
Sainath travelled to various parts of the country and found that in many places
- Tea stalls kept two kinds of cups, one for Dalits one for others.
- Barbers refused to serve Dalit clients.
- Dalit students were made to sit separately in the classroom and drink water from separate pitcher.
- Dalit grooms were not allowed to ride a horse in the wedding procession.
- Dalits were not allowed to use common handpump or if they did, the handpump was washed to purify it.
Right to Freedom
Freedom means absence of constraint (restrictions). In practical life, it means absence of interference in our affairs by others—be it other individuals or the government. Under the Indian Constitution, all citizens have the right to
- Freedom of speech and expression
- Assembly in a peaceful manner
- Form associations, unions and cooperative societies
- Move freely throughout the country
- Reside in any part of the country
- Practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
One cannot exercise his freedom in such a manner that violates others’ Right to Freedom. A person is free to do everything which injures or harms no one else. Freedom is not unlimited license to do what one wants. The government can impose certain reasonable restrictions on our freedom in the larger interests of the society.
Freedom of Speech and Expression
It is one of the essential features of any democracy. Even if a hundred people think in one way, you should have the freedom to think differently and express your views as you wish. You may express your views through pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, paintings, poetry or songs. However, you cannot use this freedom to stimulate violence against others and excite people to rebel against government. Neither can we use it to defame others by saying false and mean things that cause damage to a person’s reputation.
Assembly in a Peaceful Manner/Form Associations
Citizens have the freedom to hold meetings, processions, rallies and demonstrations on any issue. But such meetings should be peaceful and people participating in these should not carry weapons. Citizens also can form associations to promote their interests.
Freedom to Travel/Choice of Occupations
The citizen have the freedom to travel to any part of the country and are free to reside or settle in any part of the territory of India. This right allows lakhs of people to migrate from villages to towns and from poorer regions of the country to prosperous regions and big cities.
The same freedom extends to choice of occupations. No one can force you to do or not do a certain job (especially women). Even people from deprived caste cannot be forced to keep their traditional occupations.
The Constitution says that no person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. It means that no person can be killed unless the court has ordered a death sentence. It also means that a government or police officer cannot arrest or detain any citizen unless he has proper legal justification.
Even when police arrests someone, they have to follow some procedures like
- A person who is arrested and detained in custody will have to be informed of the reasons for such arrest and detention.
- Such as person shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of arrest.
- Such a person has the right to consult a lawyer or ‘ engage a lawyer for his own defence.
Right Against Exploitation
Once the Right to Liberty and Equality is granted, it follows that every citizen has a right not to be exploited. Still the Constitution makers thought it is necessary to write down certain clear provisions to prevent exploitation of the weaker sections of the society. The Constitution mentions three specific evils and declares these illegal.
- First, the Constitution prohibits ‘traffic’ in human beings. Traffic here means selling and buying of human beings, usually, women or children, for immoral purposes.
- Second, our Constitution also prohibits forced labour or Begar in any form. Begar is a practice where the worker is forced to render service to the master free of charge or at a nominal remuneration. When this practice takes place on a life long basis, it is called the practice of bonded labour.
- Finally, the Constitution prohibits child labour. No one can employ a child below the age of 14 to work in any factory or mine or any other hazardous work, such as railways and ports. Using child labour as a basis, many laws have been made to prohibit children from working in industries such as beedi making, fire crackers and matches, printing and dyeing, etc.
Begar: It is a practice where the worker is forced to render service to the ‘master’ free of charge or at a nominal remuneration.
Right to Freedom of Religion | Fundamental Rights and Duties
Every person has a right to profess, practice and propagate the religion he or she believes in. Every religious group or sect is free to manage its religious affairs. Freedom to propagate one’s religion, does not mean that a person has right to compel another person to convert into his religion by means of force, fraud, inducement or allurement. However, a person is free to change religion on his or her own will. Freedom to practice religion does not mean that a person can do whatever he wants in the name of religion. For example, one cannot sacrifice animals or human beings as offerings to supernatural forces or Gods.
It is based on the idea that the country is concerned only with relations among human beings. India is a secular state. A secular state is one that does not establish any one religion as official religion. In India no privilege or favour is provided to any particular religion.
The government cannot compel any person to pay any tax for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institution. There shall be no religious instruction in the government educational institutions. In educational institutions managed by private bodies, no person can be compelled to take part in any religious instruction or to attend any religious worship.
Cultural and Educational Rights
The working of democracy gives power to majority. Thus, it is the language, culture and religion of minorities that needs special protection. Otherwise, they may get neglected or undermined under the impact of the language, religion and culture of the majority.
The following cultural and educational rights for minorities are specified by our Constitution
- Any section of citizens with a distinct language or culture have a right to conserve it.
- Admission to any educational institution maintained by government or receiving government aid cannot be denied to any citizen on the grounds of religion or language.
- All minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Minority is a smaller member or part of bigger number of people (less than the half).
Minority does not mean that there is only religious minority at the national level. In some places people speaking a particular language are in majority; people speaking a different language are in a minority.
For example, Telugu speaking people form a majority in Andhra Pradesh. But they are a minority in the neighboring state of Karnataka.
Right to Constitutional Remedies
The Fundamental Rights in the Constitution are important because they are enforceable. We have a right to seek the enforcement of these mentioned rights. This is called the Right to Constitutional Remedies. This right . makes other rights effective. When any of the Fundamental Rights are violated, then citizens can directly approach the Supreme Court or the High Court. Both courts have the power to writs (Habeas corpus, Mandamus, prohibition, Quo warranto and Certiorari) for the enforcement of the rights. That’s why Dr Ambedkar called the Right to Constitutional Remedies ‘the heart and soul ’ of our Constitution.
Right to Property
The Constitution originally provided for the Right to Property under Articles 19 and 31. But the 44th Amendment Act of 1978 abolished this right from the list of Fundamental Rights. The Amendment made it a legal right under Article 300-A in the Constitution . This right states that no person shall be deprived of his property.
Under Article 21-A, India joined a group of few countries in the world to make education a Fundamental Right of every child. It came into force on 1st April, 2010. The Article 21-A says that state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years. Thus, this provision makes elementary education a Fundamental Right.
Life Without Fundamental Rights
The importance of rights can be judged by the one whose life has absence of rights. The following three examples state what it means to live in the absence of rights
Prison in Guantanamo Bay
About 600 people were secretly picked up by the US forces from all over the world and put in a prison in Guantanamo Bay, near Cuba. According to the American Government, they were enemies of the US and linked to the attack on New York on 11th September, 2001. As a result, there was no trial before any magistrate in the US, nor could these prisoners approach courts in their own country.
Protest Regarding the Imprisonment
Amnesty International, an International Human Rights Organisation reported that the prisoners were being tortured in ways that violated the US laws. Despite the provisions of international treaties, prisoners were being denied the treatment.
Many prisoners tried to protest by going on a hunger strike. They were not released even after they were declared not guilty.
Citizens’ Rights In Saudi Arabia
Many countries like Saudi Arabia, Yugoslavia denied citizens’ rights.
The position of citizens in Saudi Arabia can be understood by the following facts
- The country is ruled over by a hereditary king and the people have no role in electing or changing their rulers.
- The king selects the Legislature as well as the Executive. He appoints the judges and can change any of their decisions.
- Citizens cannot form political parties or any political organisations. Media cannot report anything that the monarch does not like.
- There is no freedom of religion. Every citizen is required to be Muslim. Non-Muslim residents can follow their religion in private, but not in public.
- Women are subjected to many public restrictions. The testimony of one man is considered equal to that of two women.
Note: There are many countries in the world where conditions like Saudi Arabia exist.
Ethnic Massacre In Kosovo
In Yugoslavia, Serbs were in majority and Albanians were in minority. A democratically elected Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic wanted to dominate the country. Serbs thought that the Albanians, (the Ethnic Minority Group) should leave the country or accept the dominance of Serbs.
A brutal massacre took place in Kosovo in which thousands of Albanians were killed. Finally, several other countries intervened to stop the massacre. Milosevic lost power and was tried by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.
As a result, Kosovo with majority population of Albanians declared independence in February 2008.
Rights in Democracy
In the discussed examples, the victims are the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, women in Saudi Arabia and Albanians in Kosovo. So, in these positions everyone would desire a system where security, dignity and fair play are assured.
Everyone wants a system where at-least a minimum assurance is guaranteed to all, whether he/she is powerful or weak, rich or poor, majority or minority. No one should be arrested without proper reason and information. If it happens then he/she should have a fair chance to defend themselves. This assurance should not only be on paper. There should be someone to enforce them and to punish those who violate them. This is real spirit behind the rights.
Check Yourself – Fundamental Rights Questions
- What becomes the basis of rights?
- Why are reservations not a violation of the Right to Equality?
- What is extreme form of social indiscrimination?
- What is issued by the Supreme or High Courts in order to enforce Fundamental Rights?
- Under which Article India joined a group of countries in the world to make education a Fundamental Right ?
- Fill in the blanks
(i) Some rights to our life are given a special status in Indian Constitution are called………
(ii) Citizens can approach…….. to protect their rights.
(iii) …….. means giving everyone an equal opportunity to achieve whatever occupation they want to follow.
Fundamental Rights Questions and Answers | Fundamental Rights and Duties
1. Which of the following is not an instance of an exercise of a Fundamental Right?
(a) Workers from Bihar go to the Punjab to work on the farms
(b) Christian missions set up a chain of missionary schools
(c) Men and women government employees get the same salary
(d) Parents’ property is inherited by their children
Ans. (d) Parents’ property is inherited by their children
2. Which of the following freedoms is not available to an Indian citizen?
(a) Freedom to criticise the government
(b) Freedom to participate in armed revolution
(c) Freedom to start a movement to change the government
(d) Freedom to oppose the central values of the Constitution
Ans. (b) Freedom to participate in armed revolution
3. Which of the following rights is available under the Indian Constitution?
(a) Right to Work
(b) Right to Adequate Livelihood
(c) Right to Protect One’s Culture
(d) Right to Privacy
Ans. (c) Right to protect one’s culture
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 4. Name the Fundamental Right under which each of the following rights falls.
(a) Freedom to propagate one’s religion
(b) Right to life
(c) Abolition of untouchability
(d) Ban on bonded labour Arts
(a) Right to Freedom of Religion
(b) Right to Freedom
(c) Right to Equality
(d) Right against Exploitation
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 5. Which of these statements about the relationship between democracy and rights is more valid? Give reasons for your preference.
(a) Every country that is a democracy gives rights to its citizens.
(b) Every country that gives rights to its citizens is a democracy.
(c) Giving rights is good, but it is not necessary for a democracy.
Ans. Statement (a) is the most valid statement, democracy is a system of government elected by the people, which works for the people and so a democracy must provide rights to the citizens.
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 6. Are these restrictions on the right to freedom
justified? Give reasons for your answer.
(a) Indian citizens need permission to visit some border areas of the country for reasons of security.
(b) Outsiders are not allowed to buy property in some areas to protect the interest of the local population.
(c) The government bans the publication of a book that can go against the ruling party in the next elections.
Ans. (a) Statement (a) is justified to protect the interests of the nation and its people.
(b) Statement (b) is justified because it protects the interest of local people and help to maintain ecological balance.
(c) Statement (c) is not justified because it violates the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression of citizens.
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 7. Manoj went to a college to apply for admission into an MBA course. The clerk refused to take his application and said “You, the son of a sweeper, wish to be a manager! has anyone done this job in your community? Go to the municipality office and apply for a sweeper’s position”. Which of Manoj’s fundamental rights are being violated in this instance? Spell these out in a letter from Manoj to the District Collector.
Ans. ‘Right to Equality’ and ‘Right to Freedom’ are being violated in Manoj’s case.
The District Collector,
Sub: Redressal required of violation of my Right to Equality for admission in a College
I wish to inform you that my admission for pursuing a course leading to the MBA degree in ABC college in your district has been refused because the clerk of the college said, “You are the son of a sweeper. Nobody from your community has done such a course,” This is totally unjust and a violation of my Right to Equality.
I am fully qualified to apply for the course, having already completed my graduation.
You are requested to look into this problem and talk to the authorities of the concerned college to accept my application.
Thank you Sincerely yours (Manoj)
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 8. When Madhurima went to the property registration office, the Registrar told her ‘You can’t write your name as Madhurima Banneijee d/o AK Banneijee’. You are married, so, you must give your husband’s name.
Your husband’s surname is Rao. So, your name should be changed to Madhurima Rao. She did not agree. She said If my husband’s name has not changed after marriage, why should mine?’ In your opinion, who is right in this dispute? and why?
Ans. Madhurima is right. She has the right to use her either maiden surname or her husband’s surname. She cannot be forced to change her name. It will violate her Fundamental Right, Right to Equality.
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 9. Thousands of tribals and other forest dwellers gathered at Piparia in Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh to protest against their proposed displacement from the Satpura National Park and Bori Wildlife Sanctuary.
They argue that such a displacement is an attack on their livelihood and beliefs. Government claims that their displacement is essential for the development of the area and for protection of wildlife. Write a petition on behalf of the forest dwellers to the NHRC, a response from the government and a report of the NHRC on this matter.
- The Petition should be as follows
We, the tribal and the forest people have been living in and near the forests for hundreds of years and have earned our livelihood from the forests. The forests are our home and place of work.
It is wrong to displace us from our traditional homes. By doing so, you are taking away our livelihood and traditions because we know no other work. We request the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) to take up our cause and prevent our displacement from the forest due to the setting up of the wildlife sanctuaries.
- The Response of the Government The government, in order to protect the wildlife which is nearing extinction, has decided to set up wildlife parks and wildlife sanctuaries and provide natural habitats to the endangered species and other animals. For doing this, human interference has to be stopped and so the tribals and forest dwellers are to be displaced from these areas. However, keeping in mind the welfare of the tribals and ensuring a future for them, tribals will be rehabilitated in some other suitable place.
- NHRC Report The National Human Rights Commission gave its report on the proposed displacement of the tribals and the forest dwellers from the wildlife parks and sanctuaries like the Satpura National Park, Bori Wildlife Sanctuary and Panchmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary. NHRC said that the tribals and the forest dwellers have since ages lived in the forests and also earned their livelihood from the forests.
However, realising the importance of the forests in their lives they have taken care not to harm it or damage it in any manner. They have co-existed in the forests with all the flora and fauna and they have many beliefs and traditions, which infact protect the forests and the animals. Finally, they are not a threat to the flora and the fauna and they can help to protect, preserve and conserve the forest flora and fauna, so they should be allowed to live in the forests as a part of the forest.
Fundamental Rights and Duties Q 10. Draw a web interconnecting different rights discussed in this chapter i.e. right to freedom of movement is connected to the freedom of occupation. One reason for this is that freedom of movement enables a person to go to place of work within one’s village or city or to another village, city or state.
Similarly, this right can be used for pilgrimage, connected with freedom to follow one’s religion. Draw a circle for each right and mark arrows that show connection between or among different rights. For each arrow, give an example that shows the linkage.
Ans. The arrow labels details are given below
- In case, somebody is not allowed to work in a particular job even though selected, he can approach the court for restoring this right.
- If somebody is not allowed access to a public place because of his caste, he can approach the court for restoring this right.
- If a person is accused for a crime, he can engage a lawyer to defend him.
- Freedom to work anywhere in the country.
- Establishing an educational institution for a minority community.
- Somebody going for a pilgrimage.
- We can conduct a peaceful demonstration in a group against some government policies, which affect us adversely.