The Constitution of India guarantees certain Fundamental Rights to the Citizens of India.
The Indian constitution contains a chapter on fundamental rights. Part III (Art. 12-35) contains fundamental rights of Indian citizens. The fundamental rights are called fundamental because they are basic to the development of human personality.
The Indian fundamental rights, contrasted with such rights contained in the U. S. bill of rights, present several peculiarities. First, the fundamental rights in India are far more elaborate than in the U. S. A. Thus, for example, the U. S. bill of rights (first ten amendments) only names some rights. The Supreme Court, through the process of judicial review decides the limitations on these rights. In India, determination of limitations on fundamental rights is not left to judicial interpretation. The constitution itself contains (clauses 2-6 in Art. 19) such limitations. The limitations contemplated by the constitution are-
In the face of these limitations, the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution cannot be said to be absolute.
However, whenever the state restricts fundamental rights by legislation, the courts have the right to examine whether the limitations imposed are “reasonable or not.” The courts are free to strike down any law imposing unreasonable restriction on the enjoyment of fundamental rights. The courts in India enjoy a limited degree of judicial review with respect to fundamental rights.
Yet, in view of these limitations, some critics argue that the Indian constitution gives fundamental rights with one hand and takes them away with the other. It should also be pointed out that provision of preventive detention under Art. 22 is a gross violation of the individual liberty under Art. 21. The power of the state to detain persons without trial is not to be found in any other democratic country like the U. S. A. Further, in case of proclamation of emergency under Art. 352, fundamental rights guaranteed under Art. 19 remain suspended by virtue of Arts 358 and 359.
Again, the Indian constitution is based on the theory of Parliamentary sovereignty and not constitutional sovereignty, as is the case in the U. S. A. Consequently, the Parliament may easily tamper with Indian fundamental rights. The capacity of the judiciary to afford protection to the fundamental rights is very limited. The Supreme Court verdict that the fundamental rights are not amendable was subsequently reversed. In the Keshavanand Bharati case, Supreme Court held that the Parliament may amend the entire constitution. It cannot only alter any basic feature of the constitution.
The processes of amendment given in Art 368 are far easier than the one given in Art 5 of the U.S. constitution. Consequently, the Union Parliament with a qualified majority may now easily amend any fundamental right contained in Part III of the constitution.
Kinds of fundamental rights
The Indian constitution originally provided 7 categories of fundamental rights. But one fundamental right, that to property was removed from the list of fundamental rights by 44th amendment. Right to property now is an ordinary legal right. Thus there are now 6 categories of fundamental rights. These are:
In this category there are five rights
(2) Rights to freedom.
(Arts. 19-22) these now include six freedoms-
Each one of these six freedoms is subject to some restrictions. For rights can never be absolute. Individual rights must be reconciled with the interests of the community. It is logical that equal rights for all must mean limited rights for any. Hence, the state may impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ upon the exercise of any of these rights.
Firstly, the state may impose restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression on eight grounds. These are:
Secondly, the freedom to assemble is subject to two restrictions. The assembly must be peaceable and the members of assembly must not bear arms. However the Sikhs are allowed to carry ‘Kirpan’ as part of their religious creed. In the U.S.A. right to bear arms is fundamental right. In India, this right is denied in the interest of public order.
Thirdly, the right to form associations or unions does not entitle persons to enter into criminal conspiracy either against individuals, groups or against the state.
Fourthly, the right to move freely or to reside and settle in any part of India, does not cover trespass into homes or restricted areas. State also may restrict this freedom to protect the aboriginal tribes.
Finally, the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business are also subject to reasonable restrictions. Thus professions or, trade or, business must not be harmful to the interest of the community. The state may also prescribe qualifications for particular profession or, technical occupation. The state may itself carry on trade or business to the exclusion of citizens.
Power of Courts to enforce freedom of citizens of India
Every Indian citizen has the power to move the High Court or the Supreme Court for protecting and securing his personal freedom. The Courts are empowered to issue writs in the nature of habeas corpus. The courts can order the presence of detained or imprisoned person and set him free in case there is no legal justification for his detainment or imprisonment.
Rights to Freedom during National Emergency
The rights to freedom under Article 19 of Indian constitution are suspended during the period of National Emergency declared by the President of India.
Further, during the period when the National emergency is in operation, the President is empowered to suspend the right of citizens to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of their personal freedom.
Each one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the constitution of India is hedged by many restrictions. They are not absolute. This led to the criticism that Indian freedom is a myth and not reality for what has been given with one hand has been taken away with the other.
This criticism is unfair. For fundamental rights can nowhere be absolute. For logically, one can be absolutely free only when all others are absolute, slaves Individual freedom to be real must be social and hence must be limited.
There is a difference in the scheme of limitations on fundamental rights in the U.S. constitution and in the constitution of India. In the U.S.A. the restrictions are not mentioned in the constitution itself. This is left to judicial interpretations. In India on the other hand, the restrictions are mentioned in the constitution itself. It is not left to the vagaries of judicial interpretation.
On the whole fundamental rights everywhere are restricted or, limited. As Mr. Justice Mukherjee observed in A. K. Gopalan vs. State of Madras case” There cannot be any such thing as absolute or uncontrolled liberty wholly freed from restraints.”
These freedoms are however not without limitations.
Include prohibition of traffic in human beings and prohibition of child labour.
Include freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Citizens are free to profess and practice any religion. These provisions make India a secular state.
Include right to protection of language, script and culture given to the minorities. The minorities are also given the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their own.
Provides for enforcement of fundamental rights through the judicial processed BR Ambedkar expressed it to be the heart and soul of Indian constitution.
Thus the constitution contains an elaborate scheme of fundamental rights. But the fundamental rights in India are not absolute. They are hedged by many limitations. Indeed, fundamental rights cannot be absolute anywhere in the world. Countries differ only in their degree of limitations on fundamental rights.
The Constitution of India begins with a Preamble which describes the nature of the Indian State and the objectives it is committed to secure. K.M. Munshi describes the Preamble as the political horoscope of the constitution. Thakur Dass Bhargava says Preamble is the most precious part and the soul of the constitution.
The Preamble reads:
We, the People of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic and to secure to all its citizens;
Justice, social, economic, political;
Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
Equality of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all;
Fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation;
In our Constituent Assembly this, twenty sixth day of November 1949 do hereby Adopt, Enact and Give to ourselves this Constitution.
The words ‘Socialist ‘Secular” and ‘Integrity were initially not there in the Preamble. These were added by the 42nd Amendment (1976) of the Constitution.
1.1 Popular Sovereignty:
The Preamble categorically accepts the principle of Popular Sovereignty. It begins with the words: ‘We the people of India’. These words testify to the fact that the people of India are’ the ultimate source of all authority. The Government derives its power from them.
The Preamble describes five cardinal features of the Indian state:
2.1 India is a Sovereign State:
The Preamble proclaims that India is a sovereign state. Such a proclamation denotes the end of rule over India. It testifies to the fact that India is no longer a dependency or colony or possession of British Crown. As a sovereign independent state, India is free both internally and externally to take her own decisions and implement these for her people and territories.
2.2 India is a Socialist State:
In 1976, the Preamble was amended to include the word ‘Socialism’. It is now regarded as a prime feature of the State. It reflects the fact that India is committed to secure social, economic and political justice for all its people. India stands for ending all forms of exploitation as well as for securing equitable distribution of income, resources and wealth. This has to be secured by peaceful, constitutional and democratic means. The term ‘India is a Socialist state’ really means, ‘India is a democratic socialist state.’
2.3 India is a Secular State:
By the 42nd Amendment, the term ‘Secular’ was incorporated in the Preamble. Its inclusion simply made the secular nature of the Indian Constitution more explicit. As a state India gives special status to no religion. There is no such thing as a state religion of India. India guarantees equal freedom to all religions. All religions enjoy equality of status and respect.
2.4 India is a Democratic State:
The Preamble declares India to be a Democratic State. The Constitution of India provides for a democratic system. The authority of the government rests upon the sovereignty of the people. The people enjoy equal political rights. The people freely participate in the democratic process of self-rule.
They elect their government. For all its acts, the government is responsible before the people. The people can change their government through elections. The government enjoys limited powers. It always acts under the Constitution which represents the supreme will of the people.
2.5 India is a Republic:
The Preamble declares India to be a Republic. Negatively, this means that India is not ruled by a monarch or a nominated head of state. Positively, it means that India has an elected head of state who wields power for a fixed term. President of India is the elected sovereign head of the state. He holds a tenure of 5 years. Any Indian citizen can get elected as the President of India.
The Preamble lists four cardinal objectives which are to be “secured by the state for all its citizens”.
India seeks to secure social, economic and political justice for its people.
3.1.1 Social Justice:
Social Justice means the absence of socially privileged classes in the society and no discrimination against any citizen on grounds of caste, creed, colour, religion, sex or place of birth. India stands for eliminating all forms of exploitations from the society.
3.1.2 Economic Justice:
Economic Justice means no discrimination between man and man on the basis of income, wealth and economic status. It stands for equitable distribution of wealth, economic equality, end of monopolistic control over means of production and distribution, decentralization of economic resources, and securing of adequate opportunities to all for earning their livelihoods.
3.1.3 Political Justice:
Political Justice means equal, free and fair opportunities to the people for participation in the political process. It stands for the grant of equal political rights to all the people without any discrimination. The Constitution of India provides for a liberal democracy in which all the people have the right and freedom to participate.
The Preamble declares liberty to be the second cardinal objective to be secured. It includes liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The grant of Fundamental Rights (Part III) including the right to freedom is designed to secure this objective. Liberty of faith and worship is designed to strengthen the spirit of secularism.
The Preamble declares Equality as the third objective of the Constitution. Equality means two basic things:
3.3.1 Equality of status i.e. natural equality of all persons as equal and free citizens of India enjoying equality before law.
3.3.2 Equality of opportunity i.e. adequate opportunities for all to develop. For securing the equality of status and opportunity, the Constitution of India grants and guarantees the fundamental Right to Equality.
Promotion of Fraternity among the people is the fourth objective is to promote Fraternity among all the people. Fraternity means the inculcation of a strong feeling of spiritual and psychological unity among the people. It is designed to secure dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.
In its final paragraph, the Preamble specifies the important historical fact that the Constitution was adopted on 26 November, 1949. It was on this day that the Constitution received the signatures of the President of the Constituent Assembly and was declared passed.
The Constitution of India is an adopted, enacted and self-made constitution. It was adopted and enacted by the Constituent Assembly acting as the elected representative body of the people of India. The Preamble states the philosophical foundations of the Constitution India and enumerates its objectives.
It constitutes a Key for the interpretation of the Constitution. It is a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. Through, it’s Preamble, the Constitution a commits itself to Democracy, Republicanism, Socialism, Secularism, Liberalism and Welfare State. The Preamble states the objectives which the Constitution is committed to secure for all the people of India.