Written by Rajlaxmi, a grade 7 student.
A clearly worded constitution is the cornerstone of democracy. The Constitution of India, the longest written constitution in the world, is definitely the foundation of our democracy.
One thing our founding fathers were particular about was empowering citizens by guaranteeing individual rights and freedoms.
The Constitution provides and safeguards individual rights through:
Universal Adult Franchise
Part III of the Constitution contains a list of Fundamental Rights guaranteed to every citizen of India. It begins by directing the State and the legislature to protect fundamental rights by framing laws that do not infringe on these rights.
The Constitution gives six Fundamental Rights. These are:
Right to Equality
- Article 14- Equality before the law
- Article 15-Prohibition of discrimination
- Article 16-Equality of opportunity in public employment
- Article 17-Abolition of untouchability
- Article 18-Abolition of titles
Right to Freedom
- Right to freedom of speech and expression
- Right to assemble peaceably and without arms
- Right to form associations or unions or cooperative societies
- Right to move freely throughout the territory of India
- Right to reside and settle in any part of India
- Right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
Right against Exploitation
- Prohibition of human trafficking and forced labour
- Prohibition of child labour
Right to freedom of Religion
- Freedom of conscience, profession, practice and propagation
- Freedom to manage religious affairs
- Freedom from taxation for promotion of a religion
- Freedom from attending religious instruction
Cultural and Educational Rights
- Protection of interests of minorities
- Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions
Right to Constitutional Remedies
- Right to remedies for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights using five writs
- Habeas Corpus- to direct the release of a person detained unlawfully
- Mandamus- to direct a public authority to do its duty
- Quo Warranto- to direct a person to vacate an office assumed wrongfully
- Prohibition- to prohibit a lower court from proceeding on a case
- Certiorari- the power of a higher court to remove a proceeding from a lower court and bring it before itself
The Preamble to the Constitution further strengthens the rights of the citizens by declaring that the people of India give to themselves justice, liberty, equality and fraternity by constituting India into a democratic republic.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic, and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity, and to promote them all;
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and integrity of the Nation;
WE DO HEREBY GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
Universal Adult Franchise
The most important constitutional guarantee for individual rights and freedom lies in the provision of a universal adult franchise. Article 326 of the Constitution grants the right to vote to all citizens over the age of 18 irrespective of gender, class, religion, or any other form of discrimination. This means that every adult Indian has the right to participate in democracy equally.
To ensure that rights and freedoms are enjoyed by the citizens responsibly, the constitution has laid down a list of Fundamental Duties in Article 51A.
There are 11 Fundamental Duties that every citizen of India is expected to fulfil.
These Fundamental Duties are:
- To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
- To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
- To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India;
- To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
- To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
- To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
- To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures;
- To develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the 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 nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement;
- Who is a parent or guardian, to provide opportunities for education to his child, or as the case may be, ward between the age of six to fourteen years.
Although the Fundamental Duties are not enforceable by law as the fundamental Rights are, still the government and the judiciary expects that citizens will enjoy their rights keeping in mind their duties.
Since its adoption in 1950, the constitution has been amended various times. And each amendment has led to further empowerment of the citizens.
As Indians, we must ensure that the constitution remains supreme if we want to protect our rights and freedoms.