The constitution defines our national goals of democracy, socialism and secularism, guarantees equality, liberty, justice, etc., to the citizens. It confers on us our fundamental rights and duties and also contains the directive principles for the government. It tells us about the intensions of our great leaders who drafted and gave us our Constitution.
The farming of our constitution
Indians had been demanding complete independence since 1929. Eventually, in 1945, Mr. Clement Atlee, who was sympathetic towards the Indians, became the Prime Minister of England. He sent the Cabinet Mission to India to solve the political problem (whether to divide the country or to leave it united) and to devise means of granting her independence. It recommended that there should be a Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution of India. The Constituent Assembly of India met under the temporary chairmanship of Sachidananda Sinha, as he was then the eldest member of the Assembly, and elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its permanent chairman.
The Constituent Assembly consisted of members who were elected by the members of the provincial legislatures and not by the people directly. Its members represented all the parties through most of the members were from the Congress. For this reason, the Muslim League put hurdles in its functioning and boycotted it from its very inception.
The Assembly, however, started its work on 9 December 1946, in the Central Hall of the Parliament House.
Our Constitution provides for a democratic from of government. It means that all the citizens of our country have the right to decide matters relating to the governing of the state. The Government is, in the real sense, of the people, for the people and by the people.
All people above the age of 18 years have the right to elect their government. The people elect their representatives who from the government. It is through these representatives, who have the backing of the majority of the people; decisions are taken in political matters. This is called political democracy.
India is the world’s largest democracy. In a democracy, all people have certain rights and freedom. But political democracy only, i.e. right to elect the government, is not enough. There is need for social democracy too. In a democracy, all the citizens are to be treated equally. Each one is given equal opportunity, irrespective of his caste, creed, religion and sex.
Political democracy without social democracy has no meaning. Unless we provide equal justice and equal opportunities to all we shall not be able to enjoy the fruits of freedom. We must have political as well as social democracy.
The fundamental rights are regarded as the soul of our Constitution. The Constitution guarantees equal rights and privileges to all the citizens. These fundamental rights are necessary because they did not only provide security and equality to all citizens, but also ensure the all-round development of the individual and thus the development of the nation.
The Constitution of India bestows six fundamental rights upon its citizens. They put a check on the absoluteness and the despotic nature of the government. These rights are justifiable and cannot be denied to any citizen. The court ensures their observance by the State. They safeguard the citizens from the excess of the Executive and the Legislature.
Right to Equality:
Our society has been divided over various issues from the very early ages. The caste system for long divided the society. People belonging to the lower caste were not given the same privileges and opportunities as those of the upper caste. Then the British created a class of zamindars and feudal lords who were very harsh on the common people. The titles conferred by the British made them distinct from the others.
Therefore, the right of equality given to us our Constitution is extremely important. It establishes equality before law. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality of all persons before the law. Article 15 prohibits any discrimination on grounds of caste, race, sex and religion. It abolishes untouchability. It states that all citizens can use public employment.
All titles such as ‘Sir’, Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadur, have been abolished by the Constitution to remove class distinctions and maintain equality. Article 18 prohibits the state from conferring such titles. It can only confer military or academic awards. No citizen of India is permitted to accept any title even from any foreign state, especially if he is employed in a government job, without the permission and consent of the President of India.
Right to Freedom:
In a democratic country like ours, safeguarding the freedom of an individual is very essential. Six freedoms have been granted to the citizens both individually and collectively. They are:
a. Freedom of speech and expression;
b. Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms;
c. Freedom to form associations or unions;
d. Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India;
e. Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country; and
f. Freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
But there are certain restrictions or limitations on these freedoms. For instance, the right to freedom of speech does not mean that we can say anything to anyone. Our freedom to speech does not entitle us to make statements that are not in the interest of the security of the nation or sours ours relations with other countries.
Similarly, the right to freedom of movement is also subject to certain restrictions as is the right to reside in any part of the country. The state can put restrictions on the buying of property in certain secluded regions keeping in view the security of the country.
Right against Exploitation:
This right protects the people from any sort of exploitation by the society. Children below the age of 14 years are not allowed to be employed in a factory or mine or in any other hazardous job. This provision in the Constitution prevents women and children, in particular, from being ill treated. It also prohibits forced labor.
Light to Freedom of Religion:
India is a secular state. All people are entitled to the freedom of religion. They are free to profess, practice and propagate their religion. Although a majority of the population of India consists of Hindus, all the other religions such as Sikhism, Christianity and Islam are given equal respect. The State treats all religions alike. The only restriction on this right is that nothing should be done which can incite religious passions and create communal tensions.
Cultural and Educational Rights:
India is a land of diversities. The Constitution grants the right to all groups, sects and minorities to safeguard and conserve the same. They are free to run their educational institutions and teach their children accordingly. However, they cannot deny admission to any candidate who is desirous of joining such schools and colleges.
Right to Constitutional Remedies:
This right entitles every citizen, who feels that his rights are being encroached upon, to move the Supreme Court, High Court or any other court. The court has the power to review whether a person’s rights have been denied. The Supreme Court is the custodian of our fundamental rights. In fact, without these rights, the other rights would be quite meaningless.
The Constitution confers on us fundamental rights, but every right carries a duty with it. If we have certain rights, we also have certain duties towards our country. According to the 42nd Amendment in the Constitution, the fundamental duties are as follows:
1. To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem;
2. To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
3. To uphold and protect this sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
4. To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
5. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistics and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
6. To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
7. To protect and improve he natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures;
8. To develop a scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
9. To safeguard public property and to abjure violence; and
10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.