Bill of rights
The bill of Rights of Part-III the Constitution enumerates the Fundamental Rights of the Indian Citizen. The Constitution of India, like the constitution of the USA, France, Japan and several other liberal democratic countries, Contains detailed Bill of Rights which Grants and guarantees the Fundamental Rights and freedom to the people of India. The Bill of Rights has been described as a Part of the Basic structure of the constitution.
Fundamental Rights constitute the backbone of the nation. These rights are very essential to safeguard the interests of the people. The inclusion of Fundamental Rights in the constitution also enables the people to participate in the political affairs of the state.
Features and Characteristics of Fundamental Rights of India
* Fundamental Rights are not absolute. They are subject to reasonable restrictions. They strike a balance between individual liberty and social Security. But the reasonable restrictions are subject to judicial review.
* All Fundamental Rights can be suspended except the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 20 and 21. Right to freedom is automatically suspended during Emergency.
* Some of the Fundamental rights are for the Indian Citizen only but some of the Fundamental Rights can be enjoyed both citizens and aliens.
* Fundamental Rights can be amended but they cannot be abrogated. The abrogation of Fundamental rights will violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
* Fundamental Rights are both positive and negative. The negative rights prevent the state from doing certain things. Article 15 prevents the state from making discrimination.
* Some Fundamental Rights are available against the state. Some rights are available against individuals.
* The Fundamental Rights are justifiable. A citizen may approach the court of law when his Fundamental Rights are violated.
* Some Fundamental Rights may not be available to personnel serving in the defence forces. They cannot enjoy all the Fundamental Rights.
* The Fundamental Rights are social and political in character. No Economic Rights have been guaranteed to the Citizens of India although without them the other rights are of little or of no significance.
Our Constitution does not permit the legislature and the executive to curb these rights either by law or by an executive order. The Supreme Court or the High Courts can set aside any law that is found to be infringing or abridging the Fundamental Rights.
Some of the Fundamental Rights are also enjoyed by foreigners, for example, the Right to Equality before Law and Right to Freedom of Religion are enjoyed by both i.e. citizens as well as foreigners. The Fundamental Rights though justifiable are not absolute. The Constitution empowers the government to impose certain restrictions on the enjoyment of our rights in the interest of public good.
Laws inconsistent with Fundamental Rights
Article 13 declares that all laws that are inconsistent with or in derogation of any of the Fundamental Rights shall be void. In other words, it expressively provides for the doctrine of judicial review. This power has been conferred on the Supreme Court (Article 32) and the High Courts (Article 226) that can declare a law unconstitutional and invalid on the ground of contravention of any of the Fundamental Rights.
The term law in Article 13 has been given a wide connotation so as to include the following:
(a) Permanent laws enacted by the Parliament or the state legislatures
(b) Temporary laws like ordinances issued by the president or the state governors
(c) Statutory instruments in the nature of delegated legislation (executive legislation) like order, bye-law, rule, regulation or notification; and
(d) Non-legislative sources of law, that is, custom or usage having the force of law.
Thus, not only legislation but any of the above can be challenged in the courts as violating a Fundamental Right and hence, can be declared as void.
Further, Article 13 declares that a constitutional amendment is not a law and hence cannot be challenged. However, the Supreme Court held in the Kesavananda Bharati, case (1973) that a Constitutional amendment can be challenged on the ground that it violates a fundamental right that forms a part of the 'basic structure' of the Constitution and hence, can be declared as void.