Liberty is the most cherished idea of man. Liberty is the product of rights. Prof. Laski points out, “There cannot be any liberty without rights because without rights men are the subject of laws unrelated to the needs of personality.”
Rights are the creation of the state and the state in practice is represented by the government. A government is, after all, a human agency and those who are given powers are liable to misuse them. They may encroach upon the rights of the people.
But rights arc regarded by all as a precious possession and people do not tolerate any inroads on their liberty. The question, therefore, arises as to how rights are to be protected. The following methods have been suggested as essential safeguards of rights and liberty :
1. Constitutional Guarantee of Rights:
Fundamental rights of the people in every state are guaranteed by the constitution which ensures to citizens the enjoyment of their rights free from any interference. The constitution of the U.S.A. was the first of its kind to declare a list of fundamental rights for its people.
France was the second to embody a similar list in her constitution. The Constitution of Ireland (1921), the Stalin Constitution of the U.S.S.R. (1921) and the Constitution of India (1950) all contain lists of fundamental rights for their peoples.
In the U.K. fundamental rights are recognized in the various enactments of the Parliament, customs, conventions, traditions, and judicial decisions. Whenever any encroachment on the liberty of the citizens is made by the government an appeal can be made to the constitution.
The constitution thus becomes a custodian of the liberty of the people. But the declaration of rights of citizens by the constitution does not necessarily guarantee the enjoyment of rights. The state should provide for conditions for their fulfillment and safeguards against their infringement.
2. Independence of the Judiciary:
The rights of the people can be safe only in the hands of an impartial and independent judiciary. The judges must not be subservient to the executive or the legislature.
The tenure of their office on their promotion should not depend upon the whims of the executive or the legislature. Only an independent and impartial judiciary can act as a bulwark of individual liberty against the encroachment of other individuals as also by the government.
3. Eternal Vigilance:
According to Laski, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” The citizens should be conscious and jealous guardians of their rights. Any encroachment on their rights must be protested against and if necessary, even resisted. In the words of Laski.
“Liberty is never real unless the government is called to account when it invades the rights of the people.” The people must be prepared to safeguard their rights at all costs. Indifference or apathy on the part of the people may result in the loss of liberty and the development of an autocratic government.
4. Rule of Law:
It is claimed by the English writers that liberty can be safeguarded only under the rule of law. Rule of law implies equality of everybody, rich or poor, high or low, before the law. It further implies that no person can be detained arbitrarily by the government without a proper trial in a duly established court of law.
A person arrested or detained arbitrarily can apply to court of law for a writ of Habeas Corpus. The court will try the case and if there are not sufficient legal grounds for the detention of the accused it will issue orders for his release. Thus the rule of law is an effective instrument of individual liberty.
5. Separation of Powers:
According to Montesquieu and Blackstone, separation of powers is an effective safeguard for individual liberty. Combination of executive, legislative or judicial powers in the same person or set of persons might result in the abuse of powers and loss of individual liberty.
In the interests of individual liberty, three powers of government should be vested in three separate and distinct organs each independent of the other. But a rigid separation of powers is neither desirable nor practicable. Besides individual liberty does not depend upon a mere mechanical separation of powers.
Democracy is considered to be the only form of government in which people can have the opportunity to protect their rights. In democracy political powers lie in the hands of the people. They can make or unmake a government.
7. Absence of Special Privileges:
Liberty is the equal possession of all and it can be effectively enjoyed by the general masses. It is only when equal opportunities are made open to all that a man can be really free.
In a society where class privileges and social and economic differences exist, there can be hardly any freedom for those placed in a position of inferiority.
8. Decentralization of Power:
Democracy does not mean only a parliament or the constitution. Democracy is not only a form of government, it is a way of life. There should be as many local bodies as possible with real effective powers. Liberty cannot be trusted to a few hundred representatives in the parliament.
The people should take part in affairs of state at every level. As Laski puts it,”the more widespread distribution of power in the state, the more decentralized its character, the more likely men are to be zealous for freedom. Maximum satisfaction is at least partly a function of maximum consultation.”
Points to Remember
Liberty is the cherished ideal of man. Liberty is the product of rights. The following methods have been suggested as safeguards of liberty.
1. Guarantee of Constitution:
Fundamental rights of the people in every stale are guaranteed by the constitution which ensures to the citizens the enjoyment of their rights free from any interference.
But the declaration of rights by the constitution does not necessarily guarantee the enjoyment of rights.
2. Independence of the Judiciary:
The rights of the people can be safeguarded only by an impartial and independent judiciary.
3. Rule of Law:
It implies the equality of everybody, rich or poor, high or low in the eyes of law.
4. Separation of Powers:
According to Montesquieu and Black- stone, the combination of executive, legislative and judicial powers in a person or set of persons might result in the loss of individual liberty.
But a rigid separation of powers is neither desirable nor practicable.
It is the only form of government in which people can have the opportunity to protect their rights.
6. Absence of Special Privileges:
Liberty is the common and equal possession of all and it cannot be enjoyed by all the people, when certain people enjoy some special privileges.