ANKIT GATTANI | 22 Nov 2008

THE CONSTITUTION of India, the world's lengthiest written Constitution (with 395 Articles and 8 Schedules) was passed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. It has been in effect since January 26, 1950, which is celebrated as Republic Day in India. Adopted after some two and half years of deliberation by the Constituent Assembly that also acted as India's first legislature. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a Dalit who earned a law degree from Columbia University, chaired the drafting committee of the Constitution and shepherded it through Constituent Assembly debates.

The Fundamental Rights embodied in the Indian Constitution are guaranteed to all citizens. These civil liberties take precedence over any other law of the land. They include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights such as habeas corpus.
In addition, the Fundamental Rights for Indians are aimed at overturning the inequities of past social practices. They abolish “untouchability”; prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth; and forbid traffic in human beings and forced labour. They go beyond conventional civil liberties in protecting cultural and educational rights of minorities by ensuring that minorities may preserve their distinctive languages and establish and administer their own education institutions.

Originally, the right to property was also included in the Fundamental Rights. However, the Forty-fourth Amendment, passed in 1978, revised the status of property rights by stating: “No person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law”. Freedom of speech and expression, generally interpreted to include freedom of the Press, can be limited “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.

The provision of Part III of our Constitution, which enumerates the Fundamental Rights, are more elaborate than those of any other existing written Constitutions of the world and cover a wide range of topics and is the most important part of the Constitution. It contains 29 Articles and embodies the Fundamental Rights and is classified under seven groups as follows:
1.        Right to Equality (Articles 14 to 18)
2.        Right to Particular freedoms (Art.19-22)
3.        Right against Exploitation (Art. 23-24)
4.        Right to freedom of religion (Art.25-28)
5.        Cultural and educational rights (Art.29-31)
6.        Right to Constitutional remedies (Art.32 to 35)
7.        Right to property - has been eliminated by the 44th amendment Act, thus only six freedom now remain, in Article 19 (1)
(*) - Articles 17, 18, 24, 27, 29, 30, 31 &35 have not been discussed, as they are technical in nature and require slightly more profound understanding.
Right to Equality
14. Equality before law
The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
16. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State. Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office.
Right to Freedom
19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
All citizens shall have the right:
1. To freedom of speech and expression;
2. To assemble peaceably and without arms;
3.  To form associations or unions;
4.  To move freely throughout the territory of India;
5.  To reside and settle in any part of the territory of India
6.  To practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
20. Protection in respect of conviction for offences
No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the Act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
21. Protection of life and personal liberty
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
22. Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases
No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice. Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.
Right against Exploitation
23. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour
Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them.
Right to Freedom of Religion
25. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.
26. Freedom to manage religious affairs
Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right:
1.     To establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
2.     To manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
3.     To own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
4.     To administer such property in accordance with law.
28. Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions

No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds. This shall not apply to an educational institution, which is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust, which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution. No person attending any educational institution recognized by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto.
Right to Constitutional Remedies
32. Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this part
1. The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed.
2. The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the above rights. However the rights guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution.
33. Power of Parliament to modify the rights conferred by this Part in their application to Forces, etc.
Parliament may, by law, determine to what extent any of the rights conferred by this Part shall, in their application to
1. The members of the Armed Forces; or
2. The members of the Forces charged with the maintenance of public order; or
3. Persons employed in any bureau or other organisation established by the State for purposes of intelligence or counter intelligence; or
4. Persons employed in, or in connection with, the telecommunication systems set up for the purposes of any Force, bureau or organization referred to in clauses (a) to (c), be restricted or abrogated so as to ensure the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them.
34. Restriction on rights conferred by this Part while martial law is in force in any area
Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Part, Parliament may by law indemnify any person in the service of the Union or of a State or any other person in respect of any act done by him in connection with the maintenance or restoration of order in any area within the territory of India, where martial law was in force or validate any sentence passed, punishment inflicted, forfeiture ordered or other act done under martial law in such area.
· Fundamental Duties
The Fundamental Duties scripted in the Constitution of India are different from the Fundamental rights. This is because Fundamental Rights are considered as the basic rights to be enjoyed by the citizens of the nation while the Duties are conferred upon people to be followed by them accordingly. The Fundamental Duties of the citizens of India mentioned in Article 51A of the Indian Constitution are as follows:
· To respect and incorporate the ideals which were the very base of our national struggle for freedom
· To follow the Constitution and respect its institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem
· To spread the message of peace and brotherhood amongst all the Indian citizens irrespective of linguistic, religious and regional or sectional diversities
· To discontinue practices pertaining to the impairment of the dignity of women
· To protect and promote the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India
· To protect public property and to avoid violence
· To respect and preserve the rich heritage of Indian culture
· To contribute towards making improvements in all spheres of individual and collective functions to take the nation to new heights of achievement
· To develop the spirit of inquiry and reform, a scientific temper and sense of humanism
· To provide defense and national service when called upon to the country during hours of crisis
· To preserve the natural environment of India like the forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have a compassionate outlook towards the living creatures
Directive Principles of State Policy :

Next to Fundamental rights the Directive Principles of State Policy are given in the
Constitution. Our Constitution makers realised the need for improving the condition of the poor, illiterate, the socially and educationally backward masses. Part IV of the Constitution explains the Directive Principles of State Policy. These principles are not enforceable by any court. But they are fundamental for the governance of the
country. The Government is duty bound to apply these principles while
making laws. They aim at promoting the Social Welfare of the people.
The Directive Principles of State Policy direct the Government to
(1) secure all its citizens an adequate means of livlihood,
(2) make all material resources beneficial to the common good,
(3) prevent concentration of wealth,
(4) ensure both men and women get equal pay for equal work,
(5) prevent child labour,
(6) make provision for free legal aid to the poor,
(7) organise village panchayats,
(8) secure the right to work, education and public assistance to the unemployed, aged, sick and disabled,
(9) provide maternity relief to working women,
(10) promote cottage industries,
(11) secure uniform civil code,
(12) provide free and compulsory education for children of 14 years ofage,
(13) promote the education and economic condition of the scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections,
(14) raise the standard of living and improve public health,
(15) organise agriculture and animal husbandry,
(16) protect and improve the environment,
(17) safeguard forests and wildlife,
(18) protect monuments of historical interest,
(19) separate judiciary from executive and
(20) promote international peace and security