Fundamental Rights – Meaning, History, Classification & Reasonable Restrictions in Indian Constitution

fundamental rights indian constitution

Fundamental Rights are given in Part 3 of Indian Constitution and are heart of the Constitution of India. This post explains the Fundamental Rights meaning, history and classification of Fundamental Rights.

While you are reading this post conveniently with no restrictions and how you express yourself in front of the society, Fundamental Rights are in play.

Fundamental Rights play a key role in maintaining these conditions. It is because of Fundamental Rights you can live with dignity and exercise basic human rights.

You are thinking that how is it possible? I’ll not give any direct answer to this question, but when you’ll read the whole post, you’ll get the answer automatically.

Before we move on to the classification of Fundamental Rights, we must know thoroughly about what Fundamental Rights actually mean in the real world? We’ll dig deep into this from different perspectives.

If I would have to explain Fundamental Rights in one line, then it would be, ‘Fundamental Rights are those basic rights which are essential for the very existence of human beings and have utmost importance in the life of every person.

Let’s first look at how the concept of Fundamental Rights originated?

The oldest documentary proof existed from 1215 A.D. which is known as MAGNA CARTA. These were given to English people when they demanded some basic human rights from King George.

Similarly, in 1689, the Bill of Rights was written which contained English people’s basic rights and liberties.

And after almost a century, in 1789, France’s Declaration of Rights of Man and the citizens were introduced, which were said to be natural and inalienable rights for human existence.

Because of these developments, America was the first country which gave Constitutional Status to Bill of Rights in 1791.

Which means when Indian Constitution was being framed, we already had a good example of incorporating the Bill of Rights into the Constitution of a country.

This immensely inspired Indian Constitution during the 1940s and added an entire chapter of Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution, which is covered in Part 3 of the Indian Constitution. The way in which Fundamental Rights in Indian Constitution are elaborated is the most extensive form in the world. It can’t be observed in any other country’s constitution.

The Fundamental Rights express the progressive thoughts of our Constitution frames. The ways by which our country can achieve a free society are clearly seen in Part 3 of the Indian Constitution, i.e. Fundamental Rights.

Let’s see why these fundamental rights are so important and become a building block of the human existence.

See, in any country, even the best democracy can’t exist with no head because functioning and governance are some key roles played by the head of government of any State (country here).

So, when the head is present in any country, it has some exclusive powers which are not present with any normal citizen. The head can misuse these powers to make or change laws according to its wishes, even if citizen’s liberties are decreasing or some rights are snatched from them.

In such a situation, there must be some barrier to protect a citizen’s basic rights from the tyranny of head of the state. These Fundamental Rights are nothing but these barriers only which safeguards citizen’s rights and liberties.

In a historic judgement, Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India, Justice P.N. Bhagwati said these Fundamental Rights represent basic values by which people can protect their dignity and create such a situation by which their personality can develop to the full extent. These Fundamental Rights pose a negative obligation to the State.

These Fundamental Rights indicate to the State/government that ‘you can’t snatch our basic rights and liberties. The primary objective of Fundamental Rights is to establish the Rule of Law.

This in no way means that people have unlimited rights or liberties. Absolute Individual Rights do not exist in any modern State. There should always be a balance between Individual Rights and Social Need. If people are provided with unlimited liberties, then the aim of liberty itself would not be fulfilled and the establishment of organized society would then be impossible.

This thing, for example, happened in America when Bill of Rights was given Constitutional status with no restrictions. It was soon realized that to maintain social order and to reduce corruption and crime, some restrictions are necessary.

Everyone learns from their mistakes, but in this case, we learn from others’ mistakes. While drafting the Constitution, we kept in mind about these mistakes and tried to attain a balance between the Fundamental Rights and Social Order.

This balance can be seen in Indian Constitution. Here, a term comes known as ‘REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS’. These Reasonable Restrictions allow the government to limit certain Fundamental Rights but only to maintain social order.

Examples of some Reasonable Restrictions given in Constitution of India:

  1. During the National Emergency (Article 352), according to Article 358, Fundamental Rights to Freedom given under Article 19 are automatically suspended.
  2. During the National Emergency (Article 352), according to Article 359, President can impose reasonable restrictions and suspend the Right to Constitutional Remedies given under Article 32.

One important thing to note here is that the Fundamental Rights can only be used against State or governing body and can’t be enforced against any Private Individual.

Let’s now look at the basic classification of Fundamental Rights as given in Indian Constitution:

Right to EqualityArticle 14 to Article 18  
Right to FreedomArticle 19 to Article 22  
Right Against ExploitationArticle 23 & Article 24  
Right to Freedom of ReligionArticle 25 to Article 28  
Cultural & Educational RightsArticle 29 & Article 30  
Right to Constitutional RemediesArticle 32  
Table: Provisions of Fundamental Rights in Indian Constitution

If you noticed, it does not mention Article 31 in the above table. The reason is 44th Constitutional Amendment Act repealed that Article 31 in 1978 during the government of Morarji Desai.

Check out our work on >>> Indian Constitution

The video version(Hindi) of this post is available on our YouTube channel >>> Fundamental Rights: Meaning, History & Reasonable Restrictions

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