Before learning about Fundamental rights, recall that you must have studied the democratic form of government in your previous classes, wherein people elect their representatives who then go on to run the affairs of the country. You must have also studied two essential features of a democratic form of government like ensuring periodic, free, and fair elections by the people, proper rules and procedures to be followed by government institutions.
In this article, we will study the third and very important element of ‘Rights’ that make a government democratic.
Concept of Rights
Rights are claims of a person over other fellow beings, over the society and over the government. They are such values or capabilities that are thought to enhance human agency or protect human interests and are declared to be universal in character i.e. equally claimed for all human beings, present and future. They perform a very special role in a democracy.
They ensure that the majority cannot do whatever it likes and serve as guarantees which can be used when things go wrong. Things may go wrong when some citizens or the government itslef may wish to take away the rights of others.
Origin of the Concept of Rights
The birth of the concept of rights can be traced to ancient Greek civilization where great philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had talked about certain natural rights which a person is entitled to just by the virtue of being born a human. However, they were very narrow in scope and included only a few rights like the right to life, the right to property etc.
The scope and acceptability of rights eventually widened with the development of the concept of ‘liberty and the modern evolution of the concept of rights/human rights/ natural rights is depicted below:
Fundamental Rights in Indian Constitution
The Constituent Assembly in 1948 debated on the provision of rights to be included in the Indian Constitution and almost unanimously it was decided to include certain human rights as Fundamental Rights in Part III of the Constitution.
These rights are ‘Fundamental’ in the sense that they are considered so vital and inalienable for the existence of a human that they have been made enforceable by the Indian judiciary, i.e. a citizen can approach courts in case of violation of any of his/her fundamental rights.
Let us now have a look at what all fundamental rights have been given to Indians by the Constitution:
1. Right to Equality:
Articles 14 to 18 consist of various rights granted under Right. These are: Equality before law, prohibition of discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, abolition of untouchability, and abolition of titles.
2. Right to Freedom:
Various fundamental freedoms granted by Indian Constitution are included from Articles 19 to 22:
Protection of freedom of speech & expression, to assemble peacably & without arms, to form associations, to move freely throughout territory of India, to reside & settle in any part of Indian territory and to practice any profession or occupation, protection in respect of conviction for certain offences, and protection of life and personal liberty.
Right to Education:Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
3. Right against Exploitation: Included from articles 23-24
Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour and prohibition of employment of children in factories etc.
4. Right to Freedom of Religion:
Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propogation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion, and freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.
5. Cultural and Educational Rights:
Protection of interests of minorities and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
6. Right to Constitutional Remedies:
Remedies for enforcement of all of the above fundamental rights.
Learn about Fundamental Duties of Indian Citizen.