The Fundamental Rights — embodied in Part III of the constitution — guarantee liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace as citizens of India. The six fundamental rights are right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies.
These include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, incorporated in the fundamental law of the land and are enforceable in a court of law. Violations of these rights result in punishments as prescribed in the Indian Penal Code, subject to discretion of the judiciary. These rights are neither absolute nor immune from constitutional amendments. They have been aimed at overturning the inequalities of pre-independence social practices. Specifically, they resulted in abolishment of un-touch ability and prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. They forbid human trafficking and unfree labor. They protect cultural and educational rights of ethnic and religious minorities by allowing them to preserve their languages and administer their own educational institutions.
All people, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex, have the right to approach the High Courts or the Supreme Court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. It is not necessary that the aggrieved party has to be the one to do so. In public interest, anyone can initiate litigation in the court on their behalf. This is known as “Public interest litigation” High Court and Supreme Court judges can also act on their own on the basis of media reports.
The Fundamental Rights emphasize equality by guaranteeing to all citizens the access and use of public institutions and protections, irrespective of their background. The rights to life and personal liberty apply for persons of any nationality, while others, such as the freedom of speech and expression are applicable only to the citizens of India (including non-resident Indian citizens).The right to equality in matters of public employment cannot be conferred to overseas citizens of India.
Fundamental Rights primarily protect individuals from any arbitrary State actions, but some rights are enforceable against private individuals too. For instance, the constitution abolishes untouchability and prohibits beggar. These provisions act as a check both on State action and actions of private individuals. Fundamental Rights are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions as necessary for the protection of national interest. In state of Kerala case, the Supreme Court ruled that all provisions of the constitution, including Fundamental Rights can be amended. However, the Parliament cannot alter the basic structure of the constitution like secularism, democracy, federalism, separation of powers. Often called the “Basic structure doctrine”, this decision is widely regarded as an important part of Indian history. In the 1978 Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India case, the Supreme Court extended the doctrine’s importance as superior to any parliamentary legislation .According to the verdict, no act of parliament can be considered a law if it violated the basic structure of the constitution. This landmark guarantee of Fundamental Rights was regarded as a unique example of judicial independence in preserving the sanctity of Fundamental Rights. The Fundamental Rights can only be altered by a constitutional amendment, hence their inclusion is a check not only on the executive branch, but also on the Parliament and state legislatures The imposition of a state of emergency may lead to a temporary suspension of the rights conferred by Article 19 (including freedoms of speech, assembly and movement, etc.) to preserve national security and public order. The President can, by order, suspend the constitutional written remedies as well.
It is certainly gratifying to see Indians displaying our flag with pride again. Yet the flag is only a symbol of our nation.
It is our Constitution that we should now cling to. Let’s not be so eager to trade civil liberties for an illusion of safety.
The government cannot protect us. Under the best scenario, law enforcement, intelligence and the military might stop 99.9 percent of terrorist attacks. Even in prisons where civil liberties don’t exist, desperate, evil men find ways to cause harm. Putting the whole country under lockdown is not going to be any more effective.
Instead we should be looking to empower ordinary citizens to protect themselves and each other. Restricting our civil liberties will reduce the ability of the Indian people to respond effectively to threats. It will not be with guns.
If ever tyranny overtakes this land of the sometimes free and home of the intermittently brave, it probably won’t, contrary to the fever dreams of gun rights extremists, involve jack-booted government thugs rappelling down from black helicopters. Rather, it will involve changes to words on paper many have forgotten or never knew, changes that chip away until they strip away precious Indian freedoms.
It will involve a trade of sorts, an inducement to give up the reality of freedom for the illusion of security. Indeed, the bargain has already been struck.
But what is most troubling is that Indians are not particularly troubled by any of it. According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.
According to the Statistics nearly half — 45 percent — also approve of allowing the government to track email content and other online activity. And 62 percent feel it is more important to investigate terrorist threats than to safeguard the right to privacy. That approval is consistent across party lines.
We are at war against terror, the thinking goes, so certain liberties must be sacrificed. It’s the same thing people said when similar issues arose under the Bush regime. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that the “war” is open-ended and mostly metaphorical, meaning that we can anticipate no formal surrender point at which our rights will be restored. For what it’s worth, we’ve seen similar ambivalence toward the excess of another open-ended metaphorical conflict, the War on Drugs. It has also played havoc with basic civil rights, the courts essentially giving police free reign to stop whomever whenever without needing a warrant or a reason.
And never mind that this violates those words on paper many of us have forgotten or never knew — the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Never mind that it was designed specifically to bar government from peeking through the blinds or snatching you up on a whim. Never mind that it’s a bulwark against the unfettered power of the state.
People think tyranny will be imposed at the point of a gun. Paranoids look up in search of black helicopters. Meanwhile, the architecture of totalitarianism is put into place all around them, surveillance apparatus so intrusive as to stagger the imagination of Orwell himself.
The point is not that one has nothing to hide. The point is that whatever you have is none of the government’s business absent probable cause and a warrant. The point is that one should never repose unfettered power with the state.
We should know this, yet we fall for the same seductive con every time: We are afraid, but the state says it can make us safe. And all it will take is the surrender of a few small freedoms.
It makes you want to holler in frustration, especially since the promise is so false. Yes, the state can interdict a given terrorist plot, but even if it took every last freedom we have, it could not guarantee complete security. That is a plain truth with which we must make peace.
Submitted By :-
Sathya Murthy M Chetty
9th Semester B.B.A., LL.B
JSS Law College, Mysore