Freedom is the basic characteristic of a true democracy. Our Constitution guarantees to the citizens of India a set of six freedoms described as the "Right to Freedom".
Six Fundamental Freedoms
The Constitution guarantees the following six Fundamental Freedoms:
(i) Freedom of speech and expression.
(ii) Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms.
(iii) Freedom to form associations or unions.
(iv) Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India.
(v) Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.
(vi) Freedom to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
i) Freedom of Speech and Expression
It is an important freedom. This freedom ensures free and frank speech, discussion and exchange of opinions. It includes the freedom of the press. However these freedom like freedom of speech and expression are not absolute. The state is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right in the interest of security of the state, public order, morality etc.
It is an important freedom. This freedom ensures free and frank speech, discussion and exchange of opinions. It includes the freedom of the press. However these freedoms like freedom of speech and expression are not absolute. The state is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right in the interest of security of the state, public order, morality etc.
ii) Protection in Respect of Conviction for an Offence
This Constitutional provision assures protection against arbitrary arrest and excessive punishment to any person who is alleged to have committed an offence. No person shall be punished except for the violation of law which is in force when the crime was committed. An accused cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself/ herself.
No person shall be punished for the same offence more than once.
iii) Protection of Life and Personal Liberty
The constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, which in turn cites specific provisions in which these rights are applied and enforced:
Protection with respect to conviction for offences is guaranteed in the right to life and personal liberty. According to Article 20, no one can be awarded punishment which is more than what the law of the land prescribes at that time.
This legal axiom is based on the principle that no criminal law can be made retrospective, that is, for an act to become an offence, the essential condition is that it should have been an offence legally at the time of committing it. Moreover, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. "Compulsion" in this article refers to what in law is called "Duress" (injury, beating or unlawful imprisonment to make a person do something that he does not want to do). This article is known as a safeguard against self incrimination. The other principle enshrined in this article is known as the principle of double jeopardy, that is, no person can be convicted twice for the same offence, which has been derived from Anglo Saxon law. This principle was first established in the Magna Carta.
Protection of life and personal liberty is also stated under right to life and personal liberty. Article 21 declares that no citizen can be denied his life and liberty except by law. This means that a person's life and personal liberty can only be disputed if that person has committed a crime. However, the right to life does not include the right to die, and hence, suicide or an attempt thereof, is an offence. (Attempted suicide being interpreted as a crime has seen many debates. The Supreme Court of India gave a landmark ruling in 1994.
The court repealed section 309 of the Indian penal code, under which people attempting suicide could face prosecution and prison terms of up to one year. In 1996 however another Supreme Court ruling nullified the earlier one.) "Personal liberty" includes all the freedoms which are not included in Article 19 (that is, the six freedoms). The right to travel abroad is also covered under "personal liberty" in Article 21.
In 2002, through the 86th Amendment Act, Article 21(A) was incorporated. It made the right to primary education part of the right to freedom, stating that the State would provide free and compulsory education to children from six to fourteen years of age. Six years after an amendment was made in the Indian Constitution, the union cabinet cleared the Right to Education Bill in 2008. It is now soon to be tabled in Parliament for approval before it makes a fundamental right of every child to get free and compulsory education.
Rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances are laid down in the right to life and personal liberty. No one can be arrested without being told the grounds for his arrest. If arrested, the person has the right to defend himself by a lawyer of his choice. Also an arrested citizen has to be brought before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours. The rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances are not available to an enemy alien.
They are also not available to persons detained under the Preventive Detention Act. Under preventive detention, the government can imprison a person for a maximum of three months. It means that if the government feels that a person being at liberty can be a threat to the law and order or to the unity and integrity of the nation, it can detain or arrest that person to prevent him from doing this possible harm. After three months such a case is brought before an advisory board for review.
iv) Prevention against Arbitrary arrest and Detention
Our Constitution guarantees certain rights to the arrested person. As per the provision, no person can be arrested and/or be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds for detention. He/ she has the right to consult and be defended by a lawyer of his/her choice. The accused has to be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of arrest.
These safeguards however are not available to foreigners as well as to those citizens detained under Preventive Detention Act.
v) Preventive Detention
When the State feels that a person is likely to commit crime or is a threat to the security of the State, he/she may be detained without trial for a limited period. However, no person can be kept under detention for more than three months until permitted by an Advisory Board consisting of persons who are qualified to be appointed as judges of the High Courts. Such a board is presided over by a sitting judge of a High Court.