The rights, which are enshrined in the Constitution, are called ‘Fundamental Rights’. These rights ensure the fullest physical, mental and moral development of every citizen. They include those basic freedoms and conditions which alone can make life worth living. Fundamental Rights generate a feeling of security amongst the minorities in the country. They establish the framework of ‘democratic legitimacy’ for the rule of the majority. No democracy can function in the absence of basic rights such as freedom of speech and expression.
Fundamental Rights provide standards of conduct, citizenship, justice and fair play. They serve as a check on the government. Various social, religious, economic and political problems in our country make Fundamental Rights important. In our Constitution, Fundamental Rights are enumerated in Part III from Article 14 to 32. These rights are justiciable.
Justiciable means that if these rights are violated by the government or anyone else, the individual has the right to approach the Supreme Court or High Courts for the protection of his/her Fundamental Rights.
Our Constitution does not permit the legislature and the executive to curb these rights either by law or by an executive order. The Supreme Court or the High Courts can set aside any law that is found to be infringing or abridging the Fundamental Rights. You will read about it in detail in the lesson on ‘Judiciary’. Some of the Fundamental Rights are also enjoyed by foreigners, for example, the Right to Equality before Law and Right to Freedom of Religion are enjoyed by both i.e. citizens as well as foreigners. The Fundamental Rights though justiciable are not absolute. The Constitution empowers the government to impose certain restrictions on the enjoyment of our rights in the interest of public good.
Seven Fundamental Rights were enshrined in the Constitution of India. However the Right to Property was removed from the list of Fundamental Rights by the 44th Amendment Act of the Constitution in the year 1976. Since then, it has been made a legal right. There are now six Fundamental Rights.
The Fundamental Rights are:
- Right to Equality
- Right to Freedom
- Freedom of speech and expression.
- Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms.
- Freedom to form associations or unions.
- Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India.
- Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.
- Freedom to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
- Right against Exploitation
- Right to Freedom of Religion
- Cultural and Educational Rights, and
- Right to Constitutional Remedies.
Recently by the 86th Amendment Act, the Right to Education has been included in the list of Fundamental Rights as part of the Right to Freedom by adding Article 21(A).