One often thinks what are the privileges of being a citizen of a nation, well the most important privilege is that the person gets its identity from his citizenship at global level depending on which nation he/she is representing. But it should be noted that not all people who reside in the nation are the citizens of that nation. A citizen can be known as individual who is identified under the law as the legal member of the particular sovereign nation or commits loyalty to a government in return for his security. Citizens are the main pillar of every country.
Every citizen gets set of rights as well as responsibilities which is granted to them by their constitution and the citizens are expected to adhere to rules and regulation of the State and be truthful towards their duties as well. Every citizen has rights and duties towards their country, community and its people. The citizen should exercise their rights and responsibilities diligently and some of the significant duties of citizen are to choose their government via voting, pay taxes and protect the country from foreign rule.
It is the duty of the State or country to provide their people with certain rights as well duties. Some of the essential rights which are fundamental for leading a productive life are civil rights, personal rights, religious rights, social rights, economic right, political rights and moral rights. Every nation has different set of rights, but some of the them are common and vital for living as right is liberty given to the citizens which is protected by State and any violation of such right shall be liable for punishment granted by judicial system.
Rights are given to ensure the overall development of human being, safeguard its personal and social growth, build moral values and develop their personality. But rights don’t come alone, people need to fulfil certain obligations also, towards their country and people, known as “duty”. Some of the common moral duties are preserving culture and heritage, allegiance to your nation etc. Voting is considered to be both, a right as well as duty.
Rights and duties are two sides of the same coin, and they go hand in hand together. People should maintain a balance between them and function accordingly. India is a democratic country and thus, it is important to ensure rights as well as fulfill the duties or else the democracy shall collapse, if people don’t exercise either of them properly, as democracy depends on people of the country. The concept itself celebrates freedom of citizens and assures rights to its citizens. Even the Indian Constitution has enshrined Fundamental Rights and Fundamental duties for its people, excluding some of the rights exclusively for its citizens. These fundamental rights and duty form an integral part of the Indian Constitution and people have the right to approach the High Court or Supreme Court directly in case any of their fundamental rights is infringed.
Although, these rights are enforceable in the Court of law, they are not absolute in nature and the rights are subject to reasonable restrictions which is important to secure the larger public interest or else, it might get difficult for the government to keep the country in order. The rights are restrictive for another reason in order to avoid the government from being dictatorial and oppressive and thus, the judiciary is kept independent to maintain the law and order and keep an eye on the executive and legislative bodies. Let’s have run through of fundamental rights and duties of citizen of India.
Fundamental Rights and its Salient Features –
Fundamental rights as discussed above are essential for every human being as they are the basic human rights that every human being should be entitled to. Indian Constitution enshrines and guarantees six fundamental rights to its citizens and they are available for all, without any discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste etc. These fundamental rights are enforceable in nature and violation of fundamental rights is punishable by court of law.
These rights are called fundamental as they are essential for the overall growth of every person as without them people will not understand the value of living and would be just leading a meaningless life with no purpose. Fundamental rights give these people a reason to hold onto their culture, preserve it, have access to basic education to lead better life and much more. The most significant feature of these rights is that they are enforceable in the court of law and everyone is guaranteed these 6 fundamental rights as it enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
As per Article 13 of the Constitution, any law or legislation made in violation of fundamental rights shall be declared void and there is also an explicit provision for judicial review, where the High Courts and Supreme Court have the authority to declare any provision or law unconstitutional on the grounds if it is found to be violative of fundamental rights. Article 13 doesn’t restrict itself to just laws but also includes orders, regulations, ordinances, notifications etc. Some of the essential features of Fundamental Rights are-
- Fundamental rights have more weightage as compared to any other legal rights, as in case of infringement of any fundamental right, the aggrieved party can approach the High Court or Supreme Court directly skipping the lower courts, but in case of other violations, the aggrieved party needs to approach the lower courts first.
- Not all fundamental rights are available to everyone, some rights are exclusively for the citizens only.
- Fundamental rights are not absolute in nature, they have certain restrictions which are subject to the state’s security, relations with other countries and public morality. It also avoids the government from getting tyrannical.
- These rights are enforceable by the court of law and people can directly approach the HC or SC for violation of fundamental rights.
- Fundamental rights can be amended in such a manner, so that it doesn’t affect the basic structure of the Constitution, as stated in the landmark judgment of Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala.
- These rights can be suspended in times of emergency except for the right to life given under Article 21 and right to be protected against conviction under Article 20.
- The application of fundamental rights can be restricted when the person is placed before the martial law or under military rule.
Fundamental Rights Enshrined in Constitution –
Fundamental Rights play a vital role in the lives of every citizen and thus every Indian citizen should be aware of their 6 basic fundamental rights mentioned under Indian Constitution. The rights are as follows-
- Right to Equality (Article 14 to 18)
- Article 14 (Equality before law)- The State shall ensure the idea of equality among its people. The State is responsible for maintaining equality before law and equal protection of law within the territory of India. Equality before law shall mean, that the law shall remain same for each and every person irrespective of its colour, caste, creed, gender etc, there shall be no discrimination while making laws or rendering justice.
- Article 15 (non-discrimination on grounds of race, religion, sex, caste, place of birth)- As per this article, the state shall not make any discrimination among their citizens on the basis of their caste, sex, race, place of birth and would also not subject them to any liability, restriction or condition. But in the further sub-clause of the article, it mentions that nothing shall prevent the State from making special laws for the benefit or women and children.
Further it has also been mentioned that nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause 1 of article 19 shall also prevent the State from making any special provision for the economically or socially backward classes of citizens or for Scheduled Tribe or Scheduled Caste.
- Article 16 (Equality in opportunity in public employment)- this article states that no citizen shall be discriminated on the grounds of caste, religion, race, place of birth, class, sex etc to be ineligible with regard to any employment or office under the State. The Parliament also has the power to make laws for any requirement with respect to residence within the state or UT before the employment or at time of appointment in that state or UT.
The government can also make special provision securing reservations of appointment or posts in favour of any of the backward classes of citizens.
- Article 17 (Abolition of Untouchability)- this article strictly condemns all forms of untouchability and forbids the practise of such form. Basically, this form or discrimination was prevalent since the medieval ages wherein the people who dispose the garbage and deal with the dead were considered as “untouchables”. This class was the most oppressed and poverty-stricken class and after certain period, they were discriminated solely as they were born in that family. Thus, post-independence, it was abolished with enactment of Constitution.
- Article 18 (abolition of Titles)- this article abolishes and prohibits the State from conferring any titles to anybody irrespective whether he is citizen or not. Although, the military and academicians are excluded from this group, as they still confer titles on the basis of their merit and seniority.
- Right to Freedom (Article 19-22)
- Article 19 (right to freedom)- this article ensures its citizens six fundamental freedoms. They are- freedom of speech and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, freedom to form association, freedom to reside and settle in any part within the territory of India, freedom of profession, trade, occupation or business.
- Article 20 (Protection from conviction for offences)- Under this article, any person who commits an offence can avail protection against any kind of arbitrary arrest or excessive punishment. This article is specially for the accused person and safeguards their rights. The article further states that no person shall be punished twice for the same offence (double jeopardy) and it also mentions that no accused person shall be allowed present himself as witness against his own offence (self-incrimination). This article is not suspended even in times of emergency.
- Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty)- This article is called the “heart of the constitution” as all the other articles are somewhere related or connected to Article 21. Under this, no person shall be deprived of his life or his personal liberty unless the procedure is established by law. There are many other rights which are included within the ambit of article 21 such as right to food, potable water, shelter, speedy trials, medical and health facilities play a major role in the aspect of right to life. Even some of the rights like right to breathe fresh air comes under the ambit of Article 21.
The aspect of right to personal liberty was highlighted in the pertinent case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, where the appellant was asked to surrender her passport to the passport authorities and thus, she was unable to travel abroad and no valid reason was provided by the authority for keeping her passport. Hence, it was held that right to personal liberty is governed under Article 21 and the reason given by Passport authorities was found irrelevant and arbitrary the provisions of Section 10(3)(c) and 10(5) of the Passport Act 1967 were struck down by the bench.
- Article 21A (Right to Education)- This article was added under Article 21 as “Right to Education” forms one of the most essential rights of a person. Under this article, elementary education for the children between 6-14 age group was made compulsory. This right was ensuring free and compulsory education to the children aging from 6 to 14 years and who couldn’t afford to go to school. It was further specified that all those children who had dropped out of school, will get their elementary education as this was binding on local and state governments to provide basic schooling to all these children. As per the Education Act, the private schools were also directed to reserve 25% of their seats for children from the weaker sections of society.
- Article 22 (safeguard against arbitrary arrest and detention)- This article guarantees, the rights of every person who is arrested. The arrested person should be informed about the reason for his arrest, then he has the right to consult his lawyer, the person should be presented before the nearest Magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest and the arrested person can be kept in custody only after the Magistrate has given the authority. While making the arrest, the police should inform atleast one member of the family.
- Right against exploitation (Article 23 and 24)
- Article 23 (prohibition of traffic of human beings and forced labour)- This article prohibits trafficking of human beings, women, children, beggars and all forms of forced labour that are against human dignity. In the case of People’s Democratic Rights and Ors. v. Union of India (Asiad Workers Case), it was held by the Supreme Court that when a person provides services or labour for remuneration that is lower than the minimum wage, that shall come under the ambit of “forced labour” and shall be punishable.
- Article 24 (Prohibition of employment of children in factories)- This article states that no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed in any hazardous place of work such as factories, mills, cracker and bangle making factories etc. The main aim of the article is to reduce child labour in India and give them education, instead of involving them into hazardous work.
- Right to freedom of Religion (Article 25-28)
- Article 25 and 26 symbolizes the principles of religious tolerance and it concentrates on the secular nature of Indian democracy, like under Article 25, it provides freedom of conscience and every religion has the right to practise, profess and propagate their own religion in their own way. But there should be no acts of forceful conversion among any of the religions.
- Article 26 states the right to manage the religious affairs which is subject to upholding the public order and morality and health and every religion should have its own denomination.
- Article 27 provides the freedom exempting the religious communities from paying taxes for their religious expenses that is spent on the promotion or up-keep of their specific religion.
- Article 28 prohibits any particular religious instructions within the educational institutions that are solely maintained and owned by the State.
- Cultural and Educational Rights (Article 29 and 30)
- Article 29 (Protects interest of minorities)- This article safeguards the interest of minorities by making a provision that a citizen or set of citizens have the right to preserve their distinct language, script or culture by establishing an educational institute in order to preserve their culture.
- Article 30 (right to establish and administer the educational institute)- This right state that all the minorities whether based on religion or language, they have the right to establish and govern the educational institute as per their own choice.
There was one more fundamental right which was removed later on, from the list of fundamental rights i.e. Article 31- Right to Property. This right was removed by the 44th constitutional amendment as the right was interfering with the objective of attaining socialism and the idea of redistribution of wealth (property) equally among the people of India. In order to curb the difference between poor and rich, this right was removed from the list of fundamental rights.
- Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had marked this article as “Soul of the Constitution” as it provided a way to approach the Court in case any of the above listed rights was infringed, the person can directly go to the Supreme Court via this Article. The Supreme Court can issue any of the writs which in case of enforcement of the fundamental rights. The 5 writs are-
- Habeas Corpus- This writ means “bring the body” and it is issued to the official or private person who has wrongfully detained another person. The latter needs to be presented before the Court to know the reasons for detainment by the other person.
- Mandamus- This writ means “command” and it commands or directs the person to perform the said legal duty which he/she has refused to perform.
- Prohibition- This writ is issued by the Higher court to a lower court when the lower court exceeds its jurisdiction limit, so the higher court directs the lower court to exceed its jurisdiction further and it is usually issued when there is pendency of proceedings.
- Certiorari- This writ is also issued against courts and tribunals in order quash the order or decision of that court or tribunal and this writ is issued only when the final order is passed and it is against the public interest.
- Quo Warranto- It is basically a proceeding where the Court is questioning the authority of the public official, whether the official has misused or exceeded the power of the post. In this, the higher court can remove the public official form his post if he/she has acquired it by unlawful ways.
Apart from Article 32, the aggrieved person can also approach the High Court of his respective state through article 226, if any of his fundamental rights have been infringed. High Court of any state has broader scope of jurisdiction as compared to the Supreme Court of India, and the aggrieved party should be a citizen of India, a non-citizen who has not been granted that specific right under the Constitution is not permitted to seek enforcement from the court of law.
Fundamental Rights only for Citizens of India
The population of India can be broadly categorised into 2 classes when it comes to enforcing the fundamental rights as not all fundamental rights are granted to every person residing in India. Some of them are reserved only for citizens of India. A citizen shall enjoy his political as well as civil rights, whereas a non-citizen shall not get as many benefits as citizen. The list of fundamental rights that are available for citizens are-
- Prohibition of discrimination of person on the grounds of caste, class, sex, race, religion, place of birth etc is applicable for only citizens of India. (Article 15)
- Right to equal opportunities in matters of public employment is also delegated to only citizens. (article 16)
- Protection of freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom to reside and settle in any part of India and freedom of profession and trade. (article 19)
- Right to protect culture, script and language of a citizen or section of citizen. (article 29)
- Right of minorities (based on religion or language) to establish and administer education institutes. (article 30)
- Lastly, right to vote and become members of state and union legislatures is given to citizens of India only.
There are also numerous prestigious offices that can be occupied only by citizens such as the office of President (Article 58(1)(a)), Vice-President (Article 66(2)), Judges of Supreme Court (Article 124(3)) and Judges of High Court (Article 217(2)), Attorney General of India (Article 76(1)), governor of State (Article 157) and many more offices. The fundamental rights which are absolutely essential for every human being and also come under the category of human rights such as Equality before law (Article 14) and Right to life and personal liberty (Article 21) are granted to everyone residing in India.
Case Laws with respect to Fundamental Rights
- In the case of Puttuswamy v. Union of India, it was held by the nine judge bench of Apex Court that right to privacy is a fundamental right and comes under the ambit of Article 14, 19 and 21, Part III of the Constitution, the case basically focuses on individual’s right against the State for any kind of infringement of privacy of people. This judgment over-ruled the other two cases of Kharak Singh and MP Sharma, where right to privacy was not recognised as fundamental right.
The Apex Court further elaborated that right to privacy is an integral part of right to life and liberty and secures the individual from the inspection of the State with respect to their choices, movements, their reproductive choices, choice of partner etc. Thus, violation of right to privacy by State shall be subject to judicial review.
- The familiar case of “Shani Signapur”, there was temple of hindu deity lord Shani in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra where women were not allowed to enter the premise and only men were allowed. Subsequently, PIL was filed by some village people wherein, the case was dismissed stating that government cannot interfere into individual premises. The order was not appreciated and case was filed again wherein the temple was recognized as Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship Act, 1956 and it was held that no one shall be discriminated on the basis of their gender, class, creed to enter their place of worship, and if anyone prohibits person from entering the temple than he/she shall be liable for 6 months of imprisonment.
- In the case of Sheela Barse v. Union of India, it was held that right to speedy trial is also an innate fundamental right recognized under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In the case, the appellant requested for speedy trial of the accused who are physically or mentally challenged or are children, as spending longer duration behind the bar before the final verdict can hamper their further life. And every accused shall have the right to speedy trial, for better functioning of the judicial system.
- In the prominent case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Anand Kumar Yadav, the Court had struck down the amendment of Uttar Pradesh Right to Education wherein the government was regularising employment of 1.74 lakh Siksha Mitras (Contractual Workers) as the elementary school teachers and it was held that right to education under Article 21A also meant right to quality education and no compromise shall be made with the quality of education to increase the reach of education. There were many similar policies made by other states which were declared void, post this judgment.
Duties of Citizen as per Indian Constitution –
In order to enjoy these fundamental rights completely, the citizens should also be aware and of their responsibilities and fulfill them diligently. It should be known that rights and duties are inter-woven together, no citizen can avail just one of them. Fundamental duties are incorporated in the Constitution to remind the citizens that, apart from enjoying their rights, they have certain responsibilities also which need to kept in mind. The idea of Fundamental Duties was opted from USSR’s constitution.
It is important that Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) and Fundamental Duties should be read together, but one thing should be noted that DPSP and Fundamental Duties are not enforceable in the court of law, and thus any violation or non-performance of Fundamental duties will not lead to legal suit. However, even though there is no provision for enforceability or particular prohibition, the Fundamental Duties do have an intrinsic element of compulsion regarding their compliance by the citizens.
There are 10 clauses in Article 51A of the Constitution, five of them are positive duties and the remaining five are negative duties. The clauses (b), (d), (f), (h) and (j) are the most important duties that need to be performed by the citizens. It is stated that fundamental duties cannot be imposed on the citizens and thus it would be pragmatic if their performance is left to will and aspiration of the people. Although, for those who are employed in public offices, then each and all Fundamental Duties can be enforced upon those employees through specific legislation and code of conduct rules. Once, these duties are sanctioned by departmental legislation or rules, then their violation shall have certain repercussions such as delay in promotion, deduction of salary and even suspension for limited duration.
Thus, in order to enforce these duties, the citizens should be aware of them by inserting it in the education syllabus of children and giving lessons on the importance of fundamental rights and duties. Some of the cases which showcase the implication of fundamental duties are-
- In case of MC Mehta v. Union of India, the Apex Court held that as per Article 51A (g), it is the duty of the Central government to introduce the teaching lessons for atleast one hour in a week regarding protection and conservation of environment in all the educational institutes of India.
- In case of AIIMS Students Union v. AIIMS, the Supreme Court talked about the essence of fundamental duties by striking down the institutional reservation of 33% in AIIMS that was attached with 50% reservation of discipline wise as it was infringing the principles of Article 14 of the Constitution, the Court also stated that duties are equally important like the rights.
Fundamental Duties of the citizens of India are enumerated under Part IV-A Article 51A of the Indian Constitution, and these duties were adopted by the 42nd amendment of the constitution in 1976, keeping in mind the suggestions and recommendations made by the Swaran Singh Committee and to bring the Indian Constitution in acquiescence with article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The fundamental duties of every citizen of India are as follows-
- To abide by the Constitution of India and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem
- To cherish and follow the noble ideas which inspired our national strive for freedom
- To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India
- To defend the nation and render national service when called upon to do so
- To promote harmony and spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce the derogatory practises against the dignity of women
- To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture
- To protect, preserve and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures
- To develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform
- To safeguard public property and to abjure violence
- To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the country constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
- [who is parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, the child’s age should be between 6-14 years.]
Judgment with respect to Implication of Fundamental Rights
- In the case of Mohan Kumar Singhania v. Union of India, the governmental decision was to give greatest importance to the training programme of the Indian Administrative Service selected candidates was supported deriving its backing from Article 51A (i) of the Constitution, to respect the institution of the nation and be in consonance with the fundamental duties.
- In the landmark judgment of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Court had put up complete ban and closing down of the mining operation that was running in the Mussoorie hills as deriving its power and support from the fundamental duty as stated under Article 51A (g) of the Constitution. The court further remarked that protection and preservation of environment and maintaining ecological balance within the nation is important task which not only the government but the people should also take on. Thus, it was the social obligation of people as well as the government to preserve nature.
Hence, it can be concluded that fundamental rights and duties of citizen are inter-connected and two wheels of the same cart, on which our democracy is based. In order to have a balanced nation, it is important to learn the importance of both rights as well as duties, or else citizens cannot enjoy and exercise their rights unless they are truly dedicated and responsible towards their country. Indian constitution has rendered six fundamental rights to all of its citizens irrespective of its diverse culture, religion, race, etc to maintain the secularity of India. These rights are enforceable in nature, and even though there is nothing mentioned similar for fundamental duties, it doesn’t mean that duties should be taken casually, as courts do consider and punish violation of fundamental duties, if found it is detrimental for the larger group.
-This Article is authored by Rhea Banerjee, pursuing B.A.LL.B from Indore Institute of Law.