Studying democratic rights is essential as it enables us to understand our freedoms and responsibilities as citizens. It promotes informed decision-making during elections and fosters civic engagement. Additionally, it encourages respect for diversity and upholds the principles of justice and equality, which are the foundations of a healthy democratic society.
Life Without Rights
Let's take a look that how was the life without rights with help of various incidents happened in past
a) Prison in Guantanamo Bay:
- Guantanamo Bay is a naval base near Cuba, controlled by the American Navy.
- The U.S. Forces secretly abducted about 600 people suspected of involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and imprisoned them at Guantanamo Bay.
- In many cases, the governments of the prisoners' home countries were not asked or informed about their imprisonment.
- Families of the prisoners, media, and UN representatives have not been allowed to meet with the prisoners.
- There has been no trial for the prisoners in the USA or their home countries.
- Amnesty International reported that prisoners were being tortured in violation of U.S. laws and international treaties.
- Some prisoners were not released even after being declared not guilty.
- The UN Secretary General called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison.
- The U.S. government refused to accept these pleas and the prison remains operational.
b) Citizens’ Rights in Saudi Arabia:
- The country is an absolute monarchy with a hereditary king.
- The king has full control over the government, selecting the legislature and executive.
- The king also appoints judges and can overturn their decisions.
- Citizens are not allowed to form political parties or organizations.
- The media is heavily censored, only reporting approved content.
- Religious freedom is restricted, with Islam as the mandatory state religion.
- Non-Muslims can only practice their religion privately.
- Women face significant public restrictions and discrimination.
- The legal system values the testimony of men over women (one man's testimony is equal to that of two women).
c) Ethnic Massacre in Kosovo:
- Albanians were the majority population in Kosovo, while Serbs were the majority in other parts of Yugoslavia.
- Milosevic, who became the Prime Minister, wanted Serbs to dominate the country and aimed to eliminate Albanians.
- Thousands of Albanians were massacred under Milosevic's regime.
- Several countries intervened to stop the massacre of Albanians.
- Milosevic was eventually captured and tried by an international court for crimes against humanity.
Question for Chapter Notes (Part - 1) - Democratic Rights
Try yourself:What is the main purpose of the Amnesty International organization?
Rights in a Democracy
a) What are Rights?
- Rights are things that people can demand from others, society, and the government. They must be fair and not hurt anyone else. When we have a right, we also have a responsibility to respect the rights of others.
- For something to be a right, society needs to agree that it is important. Rights only matter when they are part of a community. Each society has rules that guide our actions and help us know what is right and wrong. When society agrees that something is a right, it becomes more meaningful.
- When rights are written into laws, they become much stronger. Without being part of the law, rights are just ideas or moral beliefs. Once a right is in the law, people can demand it and make sure it is respected. If someone breaks the law or ignores a right, people can go to court to protect their rights.
b) Rights are reasonable claims of persons, recognised by society and sanctioned by law.
Why do we need Rights in a Democracy?
- Fundamental Rights provide the conditions which are essential for the development of the inherent qualities in man and to secure his all round growth.
- These are necessary to preserve human dignity and promote social progress in an atmosphere of freedom.
- These provide civil liberties, without which democracy cannot be even conceived.
- These are a significant check on the arbitrary use of the government.
- Rights protect minorities from the oppression of majority.
Rights in the Indian Constitution
In India, like most other democracies in the world, these rights are mentioned in the Constitution. Some rights which are fundamental to our life are given a special status. They are called Fundamental Rights. The preamble of our Constitution talks about securing for all its citizens equality, and justice. Fundamental Rights put this promise into effect. They are an important basic feature of India’s Constitution.
a) ‘Right of Equality’
The various aspects of ‘Right of Equality’ are as follows:
- Equality before Law: The constitution guarantees that all citizens are equal, before law. These is no discrimination on the basis of race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Abolition of all titles like khan Bahadur, etc.
- People should be given equal opportunity to show their skill.
- The State cannot discriminate against anyone in the matter of employment. All citizens can apply and become employees of the State.
- Protection of Weaker Sections: the right of equality gives special provisions for women and children.
- Reservation: In legislature, educational institutions, government offices, etc, some seats are reserved for the weaker sections.
- Ban on Untouchability: Untouchability has made an offence. Anyone who practices untouchability is liable to punishment.
- No citizen can be denied access to public places such as shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment.
Two exceptions to the Right of Equality
The Right to Equality contains two exceptions as follows:
- The state has the authority to implement special provisions specifically designed for the welfare and upliftment of women, children, scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), and other backward classes (OBCs).
- These marginalized groups require additional support and protection due to historical and ongoing instances of descrimination and unequal treatment in various aspects of society.
- One such provision includes the reservation of job positions in government and public sectors for individuals belonging to SCs, STs, and OBCs, to ensure equal opportunity and representation.
- These measures serve to promote social justice and work towards the eradication of inequalities faced by these disadvantaged groups in society.
Right to Freedom is actually a cluster of rights
The Right to Freedom is a Fundamental Right given to us by the Constitution and safeguarded by the government . It consists of the following rights:
- Freedom of speech and expression.
- Freedom to assemble peacefully.
- Freedom to form unions and associations.
- Freedom to move within the country.
- Freedom to live in any part of India.
- Freedom to practice any profession.
In addition, the Parliament has enacted a law giving the right to information to the citizens.
Restriction to the Right to Freedom
The restrictions can be imposed in case of following abolitions:
- National Integration: The government can restrict the rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, and association if they are deemed to be against the unity and integrity of India.
- Public Order and Morality: Restrictions can also be imposed on these rights if they are found to be disturbing public order or morality.
- Appropriate Language: While exercising the right to freedom of speech, individuals should refrain from using abusive or offensive language.
- Protection of Public Property: Citizens have the right to use public property, but they must also ensure its protection and preservation. Deliberate destruction of public property is not a valid exercise of this right.
- Balancing Rights and Duties: It is essential for citizens to balance their rights with their duties, ensuring that the exercise of their rights does not infringe upon the rights and well-being of others or compromise the integrity of the nation.
“No citizen can be denied his life and liberty.”
The Right to Freedom guarantees that no citizen can be denied his life and liberty.
- These can be denied only by law, i.e., only if a citizen has violated a law or committed a crime.
- No one can be arrested without being told why he/she is being arrested.
- And, if arrested, every citizen has the right to defend himself/herself through a lawyer of his/her own choice.
- Also, if a citizen is arrested, he/she must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours.
Recently, the Supreme Court has expanded the meaning of the right to life to include the right to food. All these rights are given to the citizens to ensure that the government cannot oppress them unjustly or take away their liberty.
If a person is seen to be a threat to law or unity and integrity of the country, the government can detain such person to prevent any damage. this is called Preventive Detention. But preventive detention can extend only for three months. The period can be extended by an advisory board. At the end of this period, the person should either be brought for trial before a Court or released.
‘ Right against Expiation’:
Right against Expiation provides for the following:
- Prohibition of traffic in human beings.
- Prohibition of forced labor or begar.
- Prohibition of employment of children in factories.
Constitutional provisions to protect the rights of children
The provisions to protect rights of children are as follows:
- The Constitution bans trading in children, i.e., buying and selling of children.
- Children under the age of 14 cannot be employed to do dangerous jobs.
- All children should be provided free and compulsory education till the age of 14.
- Right against exploitation protects them from bonded labor.
- The Constitution protects them from moral and material degradation.
Right to Freedom of Religion
Our Constitution gives the right to practice any religion to all citizens. Accordingly,
- There is no discrimination against any religion;
- Laws are not passed on the basis of religion;
- A citizen can proactive any religion which he/she wishes to;
- Religion Constitutional sects can setup charitable institutions.
Cultural and educational rights
India is a country many religion, languages and cultures. The Constitution helps them in preserving and developing their own identity.
- All sections of people having their distinct culture, language and script have full freedom to protect the same.
- All minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice
Question for Chapter Notes (Part - 1) - Democratic Rights
Try yourself:Which of the following is NOT a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution?
How can we secure these Rights?
The Constitution provides that the Courts have a duty to protect citizens ‘tights.
- Every citizen has a right to go to a Court to enforce his rights.
- He can challenge any act of the government against his rights.
- Courts can issue orders to the government.
- These Court orders are known as Writs.
- Some of the important forms of writ are: Habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto and certiorari.
Different types of writs
An order issued by a court to the government is called a writ. some of the important types of writs are as follows:
(i) Habeas Corpus: The Court can order the government to produce before it a detained person, so that it can know the reason for detention and set him free if there is no legal justification for the detention.
(ii) Mandamus: The court may issue a command to any public or quasi- public legal body which has refused to perform its legal duty.
(iii) Quo Warranto: It is issued by a Court to a public servant to inquire into the legality of his holding a public office and to remove him if his claim is not well-founded.
(iv) Prohibition: It is issued by a Higher Court to stop the proceedings in a lower Court on the ground that the Lower Court does not have the jurisdiction to deal with the case.
(v) Certiorari: It is issued by the Supreme court to a Lower Court in order to quash its order or decision.
Question for Chapter Notes (Part - 1) - Democratic Rights
Try yourself:What is the meaning of Habeas Corpus?
Nature of Fundamental Rights in the Constitution
The nature of Fundamental Rights is as under:
(i) The government cannot make a law which violates the Fundamental Rights.
(ii) Some right are available to all, while some other rights are available only to citizens.
(iii) These rights are not absolute. These are subject to certain restrictions imposed in the interest of public order, decency or morality.
(iv) These rights are justiciable.
(v) Some of these rights can be suspended in times of emergency.
Expanding Source of Rights
While fundamental rights are the source of all rights, OUR Constitution and offers a wider range of rights. Over the years the scope of rights has expanded.
(a) Expansion in the Legal Rights
(i) Now school educational has become a right for Indian citizens. The governments are responsible for providing free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years.
(ii) Parliament has enacted a law giving the right to information to the citizens. This Act was made under the Fundamental Rights to freedom of thought and expression.
(iii) Recently the Supreme Court has expanded the meaning of the right to life to include the right to food.
(iv) Constitution provides many more rights, which may not be Fundamental Rights. For example the right to property is not a Fundamental Right but it is a constitutional right. right to vote in elections is an important constitutional right.
(b) Expansion in the Human Rights
International Covenant recognises many rights that are not directly a part of the Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution. this has not yet become an international treaty. but human right activists all over the world see this as a standard of human rights. These include:
(i) Right to work, an opportunity to everyone to earn livelihood by working.
(ii) Right to safe and healthy working conditions, fair wages that can provide decent standard of living for the workers and their families.
(iii) Right to adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing.
(iv) Right to social security and insurance.
(v) Right to health which provides medical care during illness, special care for women during childbirth and prevention of epidemics.
(vi) Right to education provides which provides free and compulsory primary education and equal access to higher education.
(c) Constitution of South Africa guarantees its citizens several kinds of new rights:(i)
Right to privacy, so that citizens or their homes cannot be searched, their phones cannot be tapped, their communication cannot be opened.(ii)
Right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.(iii)
Right to have access to adequate housing.(iv)
Right to have access to health care services, sufficient food and water; no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.
Fundamental DutiesFundamental Duties were incorporated due to the following reasons:(i)
Fundamental Duties have been added to balance the Fundamental Rights and keep them in the right perspective.(ii)
These have been added to make the citizens realize that if they are given some Fundamental Rights they have also to perform certain duties. Every right has a duty attached to it.(iii)
These have been added to develop patriotism among the citizens and to make them realize the importance of protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country and to promote harmony and to strengthen the nation.
Our Constitution states the following as Fundamental Duties of citizens:
(i) Right to work
(ii) Right to free and compulsory education
(iii) Right to equal wages
(iv) Right to an adequate livelihood
(v) Promote and develop Panchayati Raj
(vi) Promotion of SC/ST
(vii) Public health, protection of animals, ban on drinking
(viii) Promote cottage industries
(ix) Protect environment
(x) Maintain world peace.
Directive Principles of State Policy
The Directive Principles of State Policy are the directions given by the Constitution to government to establish a just society. The aim of these directions is to create proper economic and social conditions to create a good life.
1. These are right of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution.
1. These are directions given by the Constitution to The government.
2. The government must grant these right to the citizens
2. It is for the government of follow these principles or not.
3. A citizen can go to a Court to get his rights enforced.
3. These cannot be enforced by Courts.
4. These are more political in nature.
4. These are socio-economic in nature.
In the case of conflict between the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles the former enjoy precedence.
Question for Chapter Notes (Part - 1) - Democratic Rights
Try yourself:Which of the following is NOT a Fundamental Duty mentioned in the Indian Constitution?
National Human Rights Commission
National Human Right Commission (NHRC) IS an independent commission. It was setup in 1993. The NHRC performs the following functions:
(i) It can make an independent and credible inquiry into any case of violation of human rights.
(ii) It can inquiry into any case of abetment of such violation or negligence in controlling it by any government officer.
(iii) It can take any step of promote human rights in the country. The Commission has ranging powers to carry out it’s inquiry:
(iv) It can summon witnesses.
(v) It can question any government official.
(vi) It can demand any official paper.
(vii) It can visit any prison for send its own team for on-the spot inquiry.
The Commission presents its findings and recommendations to the government. It cannot by itself punish the guilty. Hon’ble justice Shri S. Rajendra Babu assumed the office of Chairperson of National Human Right Commission April 2, 2007. National Commission of Women is headed by Smt. Girija Vyas. National Commission of Minorities is headed by Mohd. Hamid Ansari.