- 1 Life Without Rights
- 2 Citizens Rights in Saudi Arabia
- 3 Ethnic Massacre in Kosovo
- 4 Rights in a Democracy
- 5 Why do We Need Rights in a Democracy?
- 6 Rights in the Indian Constitution
- 7 Right to Equality
- 8 Right to Freedom
- 9 Freedom of Speech and Expression
- 10 Freedom to Assemble in a Peaceful Manner
- 11 Freedom to Travel to Any Part of the Country
- 12 Right against Exploitation
- 13 Right to Freedom of Religion
- 14 Cultural and Educational Rights
- 15 Right to Constitutional Remedies
- 16 Expanding Scope of Rights
- 17 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Life Without Rights
(i) About 600 people were secretly picked by the US forces from all over the world and put in Guantanamo Bay near Cuba, an area controlled by the American Navy.
(ii) The American Government said that they were enemies of the US and linked to the attack on New York on 11th September, 2001.
(iii) The governments of their countries were not asked or even informed about their imprisonment.
(iv) Families of prisoners, media or even UN representatives were not allowed to meet them.
(v) There was no trial before any magistrate in the US. Nor could these prisoners approach courts in their own country.
(vi) Amnesty International, an international human rights organisation, collected information on the condition of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and reported that the prisoners were being tortured in ways that violated US laws.
(vii) They were being denied the treatment that even prisoners of war must get as per international treaties.
(viii) Prisoners were not released even after they were officially declared not guilty.
(1x) An independent inquiry of the UN supported these findings.
(x) The UN Secretary General said that the prison in Guantanamo Bay should be closed down.
(xi) The US Government refused to accept these pleas.
(xii) This case is an exception of denial of rights, as it involves the government of one country rights to citizens of other countries.
Citizens Rights in Saudi Arabia
(i) In Saudi Arabia rights have been restricted by their own government.
(ii) The country is ruled by a hereditary king and the people have no role in electing or changing their rulers.
(iii) The king selects the legislature as well as the executive. He appoints the judges and can change any of their decisions
(iv) Citizens cannot form political parties or any political organisations.
(v) Media cannot report anything that the monarch does not like.
(vi) There is no freedom of religion. Every citizen is required to be Muslim. Non-Muslim residents can follow their religion in private, but not in public.
(vii) Women are subjected to many public restrictions. The testimony of one man is considered equal to that of two women.
(viii) This is true not just of Saudi Arabia; there are many countries where several of these conditions exist.
Ethnic Massacre in Kosovo
(i) Kosovo was a province of Yugoslavia before its split. In this province, the population was overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian.
(ii) But in the entire country, Serbs were in majority.
(iii) A narrow minded Serb Nationalist Milosevic had won the election. He was very hostile to the Albanians in Kosovo.
(iv) He wanted the Serbs to dominate the country. Many Serb leaders thought that the ethnic minorities like Albanians should either leave the country or accept the dominance of the Serbs.
(v) The Serbs killed thousands of Albanians, burnt their houses and took their possessions.
(vi) This massacre was being carried out by the army of their own country under the directions of the leader who came to power through democratic elections.
(vii) Finally, several other countries intervened to stop this massacre.
(viii) Milosevie lost power and was tried by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.
(ix) Each of the three cases, Guantananmo Bay, Saudi Arabia and Kosovo are examples of life without rights.
Rights in a Democracy
(i) Rights are claims of a person over other fellow beings, over the society and over the government.
(ii) Rights are reasonable claims of persons recognised by society and sanctioned by law.
(iii) You cannot have a right that harms or hurts others.
(iv) A right comes with an obligation to respect others’ rights.
(v) When socially recognised claims are written into law they acquire real force. Otherwise they remain merely as natural and moral rights.
Why do We Need Rights in a Democracy?
(i) Rights are necessary for the very substance of a democracy.
(ii) In a democracy, every citizen has the right to vote and the right to be elected to government.
(iii) For democratic elections to take place it is necessary that citizens should have the right to express their opinion, form political parties and take part in political activities.
(iv) Rights also perform a very special role in a democracy.
(v) Rights protect minorities from the oppression of the majority.
(vi) They ensure that the majority cannot do whatever it likes.
(vii) Rights are guarantees which can be used when things go wrong.
(viii) This usually happens when those in majority want to dominate those in minority.
(ix) The government should protect the citizens’ rights in such a situation.
(x) But sometimes elected governments may not protect or may even attack the rights of their own citizens.
(xi) That’s why rights need to be placed higher than the government, so that the government cannot violate these.
(xii) In most democracies, the basic rights of the citizens are written down in the Constitution.
Rights in the Indian Constitution
(i) Some rights which are fundamental to our life are given a special status. They are called Fundamental Rights.
(ii) The Constitution of India provides for six Fundamental Rights. These are
(a) Right to Equality
(b) Right to Freedom
(c) Right against Exploitation
(d) Right to Freedom of Religion
(e) Cultural and Educational Rights
(f) Right to Constitutional Remedies
Right to Equality
(i) The Constitution says that the government shall not deny to any person in India equality before the law.
(ii) It means that the laws apply in the same manner to all regardless of a person’s status. This is called the rule of law.
(iii) Rule of law is the foundation of any democracy. It means that no person is above the law.
(iv) There cannot be any distinction between a political leader, government official and an ordinary citizen.
(v) Every citizen from the Prime Minister to a small farmer in a remote village is subject to the same laws.
(vi) No person can legally claim any special treatment or privilege just because he or she happens to be an important person.
(vii) The government shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of religion, caste, ethnicity, sex or place of birth.
(viii) Every citizen shall have access to public places like shops, restaurants, hotels, cinema, halls, etc.
(ix) There shall be no restriction with regard to the use of wells, tanks bathing ghats, roads, playgrounds and public places maintained by government or dedicated to the use of the general public.
(x) All citizens have equality in employment or appointment to any position in the matters relating to government.
(xi) The Government of India has provided reservation to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
(xii) Sometimes it is necessary to give special treatment to someone in order to ensure equal opportunity e.g., SCs and STs had been denied rights and opportunities by the society of the upper castes, were poor, less educated and so could not compete openly and secure jobs. That is why reservation was made for them.
(xiii) The Constitution says that reservation of this kind is not a violation of the Right to Equality.
(xiv) The Right to Equality also means that there can be no discrimination in social life like untouchability.
(xv) The practice of untouchability has been forbidden in any form.
(xvi) Untouchability refers to any social practice that looks down upon people on account of their birth with certain caste labels.
(xvii) The Constitution made untouchability a punishable offence.
Right to Freedom
(i) Freedom means absence from constraints.
(ii) In practical life, it means absence of interference in our affairs by others be it individuals or the government.
(iii) Under the Indian Constitution all citizens have the right to
(a) Freedom of speech and expression
(b) Assemble in a peaceful manner
(c) Form associations and unions
(d) Move freely throughout the country
(e) Practice any profession or to carry on any occupation trade or business
(iv) You cannot exercise your freedom in such a way that it violates others’ rights to freedom.
(v) The government can impose reasonable restrictions on our freedom in the larger interests of the society.
Freedom of Speech and Expression
(i) Freedom of speech and expression means that a person has the freedom to express his views and ideas freely without any restriction. He can communicate with others about his ideas.
(ii) You are free to criticise the government or the activities or an association in your conversations with parents, friends and relatives.
(iii) You may publicise your views through a pamphlet magazine or newspaper.
(iv) You can do it through painting, poetry or songs.
(v) However, you cannot use this freedom to instigate violence against others.
(vi) You cannot use it to incite people to rebel against the government.
(vii) Neither can you use it to defame others by saying false and mean things that cause damage to a person’s reputation.
Freedom to Assemble in a Peaceful Manner
(i) Citizens have the freedom to hold meetings, processions, rallies and demonstrations on any issue, but in a peaceful manner.
(ii) They should not carry weapons with them to the meetings or rallies.
(iii) They can also form associations e.g., workers unions to promote their interests or to campaign against corruption and pollution.
Freedom to Travel to Any Part of the Country
(i) A person is free to travel to any part of the country.
(ii) He is also to free to settle in any part of the country.
(iii) He is also free to carry on any occupation in any part of the country.
(iv) The Constitution says that no person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
(v) It means that no person can be killed unless a court has ordered a death sentence.
(vi) It also means that government or police officers cannot arrest or detain any citizen unless he has proper legal justification. Even when they do, they have to follow a specified procedure.
(vii) A person who is arrested or detained in custody will have to be informed of the reasons for such arrest or detention.
(viii) A person who is arrested or detained shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of arrest.
(ix) Such a person has the right to consult a lawyer or engage a lawyer for his defence.
Right against Exploitation
(i) Every citizen has the right not to be exploited.
(ii) The Constitution mentions three specific evils and declares these illegal.
(iii) First, the Constitution prohibits traffic in human beings. Traffic here means selling and buying of human beings, usually girls or women for immoral purposes.
(iv) Second, our Constitution also prohibits forced labour or begar’ in any form. ‘Begar’ is a practice when the worker is forced to render services to the master free of charge or on nominal remuneration. When this practice takes place on a lifelong basis, it is called the practice of bonded labour.
(v) Finally, the Constitution also prohibits child labour. No one can employ a child below the age of 14 to work in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous work such as railways and ports.
(vi) Many laws have been made to prohibit children from working in industries such as beedi making, firecrackers and matches, printing and dyeing.
Right to Freedom of Religion
(i) Most people in India, like anywhere else in the world, follow different religions.
(ii) Some may not believe in any religion.
(iii) India is a secular state. A secular state is one that does not establish any one religion as its official religion. It keeps equal distance from all religions.
(iv) According to the Right to Freedom of Religion. Every person has the right to profess, practice and propagate any religion he or she believes in.
(v) Every religious group or sect is free to manage its religious affairs.
(v)) A right to propagate one’s religion does not mean that a person has the right to compel another person to convert to his religion by means of force, fraud, inducement or allurement.
(vii) A person is free to change his religion on his own will.
(viii) Freedom to practice religion does not mean a person can do whatever he wants in the name of religion.
(ix) One cannot sacrifice animals or human beings as offerings to supernatural forces or Gods.
(x) Religious practices which treat women as inferior or the that infringe women’s freedom are not allowed, e.g one cannot force a widowed woman to shave her head or wear white clothes.
(xi) A secular state is one which does not confer any privilege or favour on any particular religion.
(xii) There shall be no religious instruction in government educational institutions.
(xiii) In educational institutions managed by private bodies person shall be compelled to take part in any religious instruction or to attend any religious worship.
Cultural and Educational Rights
(i) Any section of citizens with a distinct language or culture have a right to conserve it.
(ii) Admission to any educational institution maintained by government or receiving government aid cannot be denied to any citizen on the grounds of religion or language.
(iii) All minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Here minority does not mean only religious minority at the national level. In some places people speaking a particular language are in majority, while other people speaking a different language are in a minority. e.g., Telugu speaking people form a majority in Andhra Pradesh, but they are a minority in the neighbouring State of Karnataka. Sikhs constitute a majority in Punjab, but they are a minority in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi.
Right to Constitutional Remedies
(i) Fundamental Rights in the Constitution are important because they are enforceable.
(ii) We have the right to seek enforcement of the above rights if they are violated or taken away from the citizens by fellow citizens, private bodies or by the government.
(iii) When any of our rights are violated we can seek remedy through courts. It is a Fundamental Right through which we can directly approach the Supreme Court or the High Court of a state. That’s why Dr Ambedkar called the Right to Constitutional Remedies, the heart and soul of our Constitution.
(iv) Fundamental Rights are guaranteed against the actions of the legislatures, the executive and any other authorities instituted by the government.
(v) There can be no law or action that violates the Fundamental Rights.
(vi) If any act of the legislature or the executive takes away or limits any of the Fundamental Rights, it will be invalid.
(vii) We can challenge in courts such laws of the Central and State Governments, the policies and actions of the government or the governmental organisations like the nationalised banks or electricity boards.
(viii) Courts also enforce the Fundamental Rights against private individuals and bodies.
The Supreme Court and High Courts have the power to issue directions, orders or writs for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
(ix) They can also award compensation to the victims and punishment to the violators.
(x) PIL: A person can go to court against the violation of a Fundamental Right, if it is of social or public interest. This is called Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
(xi) Under the PIL any citizen or group of citizens can approach the Supreme Court or a High Court for the protection of public interest against a particular law or action of the government.
(xii) One can write to the judges even on a postcard. The court will take up the matter if the judges find it in public interest.
Expanding Scope of Rights
(i) Fundamental Rights are the source of all rights, but our Constitution and law offers a wider range of rights.
(ii) Over the years the scope of rights has expended.
(iii) From time to time the courts gave judgements to expand the scope of rights.
(iv) Certain rights like freedom of the press, right to information and right to education are derived from the Fundamental Rights.
(v) Now school education has become a right for Indian citizens.
(vi) The governments are responsible for providing free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years.
(vii) Parliament has enacted a law giving the right to information to the citizens.
(viii) Under this right we have the right to seek information from government offices.
(ix) Recently, the Supreme Court has expanded the meaning of the right to life to include the right to food.
(x) Rights are not limited to Fundamental Rights as enumerated in the Constitution.
(xi) The Constitution provides many more rights, which may not be Fundamental Rights.
(xii) The right to property is not a Fundamental Right but it is a Constitutional Right.
(xiii) Right to vote in elections is an important Constitutional Right.
(xiv) Human Rights :Sometimes the expansion takes place in what is called human rights. These are universal moral claims that may or may not have been recognised by law.
(xv) With the expansion of democracy all over the world, there is greater pressure on governments to accept these claims.
(xvi) Some international covenants have also contributed to the expansion of rights.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(i) This international covenant recognises many rights that are not directly a part of the Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution.
(ii) This has not yet become an international treaty.
(iii) But human activists all over the world see this as a standard of human rights. These include
(a) Right to work means giving an opportunity to everyone to earn their livelihood by working.
(b) Right to safe and healthy working conditions as well as fair wages that can provide a decent standard of living for the workers and their families.
(c) Right to adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing.
(d) Right to social security and insurance.
(e) Right to health: medical care during illness, special care for women during childbirth and prevention of epidemics.
(f) Right to education: free and compulsory primary education, equal access to higher education.
(iv) Thus, the scope of rights has been expanding and new rights are evolving over time.
(v) New rights emerge as societies develop or Constitutions are made.
(vi) The Constitution of South Africa guarantees its citizens several kinds of new rights
(a) Right to privacy, so that citizens or their homes cannot be searched, their phones cannot be tapped, their communication cannot be opened.
(b) Right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well being.
(c) Right to have access to adequate housing.
(d) Right to have access to healthcare services, sufficient food and water: no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.
(vii) Many people think that the right to work, right to health, right to minimum livelihood and right to privacy should be made fundamental rights in India as well.