Fundamental Rights, falling under the umbrella of Civil Liberties, are a bedrock of a stable and functioning democracy. The Fundamental Rights of India are enshrined in Part III (Articles 12-35) of the Constitution of India.
The Fundamental Rights ensure that the citizens of India lead a peaceful and harmonious life.
These include individual rights, such as
Right to equality
Freedom of speech and expression
Freedom of association and peaceful assembly
Freedom to practise religion
Right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs
But one can wonder what the origin of the Fundamental Rights is. Where did the first notion of Fundamental Rights come from? All these questions will be answered, along with you will come to know more interesting facts in this article.
One can say that the origin of civil liberties is to be found in the Code of Hammurabi, composed during 1755-1750 BC, which guaranteed legal protection against any infringement of personal liberty. But the Code of Hammurabi, as the name implies, was a legal code rather than a declaration of Fundamental Rights.
However, it does imply that Fundamental Rights as a concept existed in the pre-classical antiquity era. The formal concept of civil liberties can be found in the Magna Carta, an English legal charter formulated in 1215, which was based on a pre-existing document known as the Charter of Liberties.
From there, civil liberties would take many forms before finding their way into the Indian Subcontinent through the rule of the British Empire.
The first instance of a demand for Fundamental Rights was in the form of the Constitution of India Bill, 1895, otherwise known as Swaraj Bill 1895. Written during a rise in Indian nationalism and increasingly vocal demands for self-government, it spoke of freedom of speech, right to privacy, right to freedom of expression, etc.
The Nehru Commission – composed of representatives of Indian political parties – proposed a set of constitutional reforms for India that granted universal suffrage, Fundamental Rights and representation for religious and ethnic minorities while limiting the powers of the government.
The Indian National Congress adopted resolutions that guaranteed that it committed itself to the defence of fundamental civil rights, as well as socio-economic rights, such as minimum wage and abolition of untouchability.
Taking the route of socialism in 1936, the Congress Leaders took instances from the Constitution of the Soviet Union as an example in order to instil a sense of collective responsibility for national interests.
The Fundamental Rights were included in the first three drafts of the constitution before it was enshrined in the final draft. The six Fundamental Rights, as a result, were applicable to all states and union territories of India when it came into force on 26 January 1950.
The six Fundamental Rights are listed below:
Right to equality (Article 14–18)
Right to freedom (Article 19–22)
Right against exploitation (Article 23–24)
Right to freedom of religion (Article 25–28)
Cultural and educational rights (Article 29–30)
Right to constitutional remedies (Article 32-35)
Fundamental Rights became a part of the constitution because they are necessary for the development of a good society and to protect human dignity.
Those who wrote the Constitution regarded democracy as practically useless if civil liberties, such as freedom of religion and speech, were not recognised and protected by the state.
All people, irrespective of race, religion, caste or gender, have been given the right to petition the Supreme Court or the High Court for the enforcement of their Fundamental Rights.
These Fundamental Rights help not only in protection but also in the prevention of gross violations of human rights. They emphasise the fundamental unity of India by guaranteeing all citizens access and use of the same facilities, irrespective of background.