Expanding horizons of Fundamental Rights

Expanding horizons of Fundamental Rights

The constitution of India is the most significant document which is fundamental to the governance of the state. Fundamental Rights constitute a salient feature of Indian constitution. These are the basic rights of the individual which are contained in Part III of the constitution and these rights ensure an effective guarantee against any antidemocratic action of the state.

Originally the Indian constitution described seven fundamental rights. But after the 44th Constitutional Amendment of 1979, their number has come down to six. Right to property under Article 31 has been deleted from the list of fundamental rights.

Some of the fundamental rights are added later through amendments and court’s decisions.

The ambit of Article 21 have expanded over the years through judicial precedents. According to article 21, a person can be deprived of his life and personal liberty according to a procedure established by law. To have a proper understanding of article 21, we are required to travel a journey from A K Gopalan (1950 SC) case to Maneka Gandhi (1978 SC) case, which reflect two opposite dimensions and scope of this article.

The court in Gopalan case said Article 19 should be invoked only when a law is directly attempted to control a right mentioned in Article 19. Therefore, the judicial approach taken is that the preventive detention laws should be valid and within the requirements of article 21, so long as it confirms with article 22, it would be sufficient and is not required to meet requirement of article 19.

In Maneka Gandhi case, Personal liberty has been given an expansive meaning. It was held that articles 21, 14 & 19 are not mutually exclusive.  In the words of justice VR Krishna Iyer, “no article in the constitution relating to fundamental rights is an island in itself. They are group of Islands connected with each other, i.e. not separate Islands”. On personal liberty, Justice Iyer said, “the spirit of the man is at root of article 21. Personal liberty makes the worth of human person and travel makes Liberty worthwhile.”


Right to education

The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the fundamental rights in 2002 under the Eighty-Sixth Amendment of 2002. However this right was brought in to implementation after eight years in 2010. Article 21A – On 2 April 2010, India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6–14 age group, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present. This act provides for appointment of teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.

Right to Live with Dignity

Supreme Court has given a broad and liberal interpretation to the term life as used in Article 21.

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs. Union of India (1984 SC), Justice Bhagwati reiterated his view and held that it is the fundamental right of every person in this country to live with human dignity which is free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity is enshrined under article 21 drives its life breath from the DPSP.

Right to Die

Right to life includes right to lead dignified life. The question arises hair that does it also confer I write not to live if a person chooses to end his life?

In Common Cause Regd. Society Vs. Union of India (2018), a five-judge Constitution Bench, judgment delivered by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, gave legal sanction to passive euthanasia, permitting ‘living will’ by patients on withdrawing medical support if they slip into irreversible state of coma. The SC held that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right.

Right To Privacy

The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgement, pronounced Right To Privacy as an absolute right under Article 21. Fundamental rights are granted to all the citizens of India, regardless of sex, age, caste, creed etc.




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