1. What is a Constitution?
The Constitution is the supreme law, which governs the country. It lays down the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens and establishes the three organs of the State i.e., the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary and lays down the responsibilities of each of these organs. The Constitution’s importance lies in the fact that all other laws must be in conformity with it. Otherwise, the judiciary will declare the law null and void. The state of Jammu and Kashmir as per Article 370, has its own Constitution.
The Constitution of India was adopted on 26th January, 1950. The constitution of India contains provision regarding citizen, separation of power and also guarantees fundamental rights that cannot be breached by state.
2. What are the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution?
Right to equality: Which includes equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.
For example- A and B cannot be discriminated for a government job, on the ground that A is from a certain religion while B is not.
Right to freedom: Which includes speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality), right to life and liberty, right to education, protection in respect to conviction in offences and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
Right against exploitation: Which prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic of human beings.
Right to freedom of religion: Which includes freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom from certain taxes and freedom from religious instructions in certain educational institutes. It provides every religion to propagate their religion without hurting the tenets of other religions.
Cultural and Educational rights: Preserve the right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Right to constitutional remedies: Which is present for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
Right to life: Which gives the right to live with human dignity. This includes rights such as right to education, health, shelter and basic amnesties that the state shall provide. This right is available to every person in India irrespective of the fact whether he/she is a citizen or not.
Right to education: It is the latest addition to the fundamentals rights, which provides for free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years.
3. Questions regarding fundamental rights:
a). Is free legal aid a fundamental right?
No, free legal aid is a directive principle of state policy. Article 39A of the Constitution provides that the State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
b). Can a person be compelled to be a witness against himself?
c). Can a person be punished twice for the same offense?
d). Which article of the Constitution abolishes untouchability?
e). Is the right to property a fundamental right?
No. By the 44th amendment of the constitution the Right to property was eliminated which included the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property as a fundamental right. However, in another part of the Constitution, Article 300 (A) was inserted to affirm that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. The result is that the right to property as a fundamental right is now substituted as a statutory right. The amendment expanded the power of the state to appropriate property for social welfare purposes.
f). Can constitutional rights be claimed against a private individual?
g). Is the right to move freely throughout the territory of India a fundamental right?
Yes. Under Article 19 (1) (d)
h). State the age group, which can claim right to education as their fundamental right.
Age six to fourteen. (Provided under Article 21A)
i). A 14 year old child is admitted to class 7. Will she no longer be entitled to free education in a government school when she turns 15?
No. She remains entitled to free education until she completes her class 8.
j). Is freedom of the press expressly included in the constitution? If, yes, state the article under which it is included
k). State the fundamental right that is available to citizens as well as non-citizens.
Article 21: “Protection of life and personal liberty�?.
l). Can a notification violating the fundamental rights by the government challenged in a court under article 32?
Yes, as notification by the government is ‘law’ as under Article 13 of the constitution.
4. How are fundamental rights enforced?
Fundamental rights are enforceable only against the State. Writs are a means for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens of the country. The process of doing the same is by way of filing a writ petition in the High court of the state where the person resides or the violation of the right took place or the Supreme Court of India. There are 5 type of writs – Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Certiorari, Prohibition and Quo Warranto.
5. What is Public Interest Litigation?
Public-Interest Litigation is litigation for the protection of the public interest. A PIL may be introduced in a court of law by the court itself (suo motu), rather than the aggrieved party or another third party. For the exercise of the court’s jurisdiction, it is not necessary for the victim of the violation of his or her rights to personally approach the court. Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer were among the first judges to admit PILs in court.