The chapter on Fundamental Rights is one of the significant part of the constitution of India. A declaration of Fundamental Rights in the Indian constitution is contribution to the constitutional History of India.
More of the previous movement of India Acts carried such a thing as Fundamental Rights. The “British Government, as a matter of fact, did not deem it desirable to incorporate any fundamental rights in a statutory Act.
The constitution of Canada, Australia and South Africa do not contain any declaration of fundamental rights. The Indian constitution by incorporating a chapter on Fundamental Rights occupies a front place in line of democratic constitutions.
The most important features of this declaration are the following :
(1) Most elaborate in world:
The chapter on Fundamental Rights in the constitution is the most elaborate and detailed one.
It not only enumerates the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the Indian citizen is a comprehensive and detailed treatment of each right and no article included in this chapter is without any elaborate set of limitations and reservations.
(2) Integral Part of the Constitutions:
Fundamental Rights are an integral part of the constitution and hence cannot be altered or taken away by ordinary legislation. These rights are fundamental in the sense that any law passed by any legislature in the country would be declared hurt and void if it is derogatory to the rights guaranteed by the constitution.
(3) Negative and Positive Rights:
Fundamental Rights as embodied in our constitution can be divided into two broad categories; namely those which impose certain restrictions of negative character on the state without confirming special privileges on the citizens.
There are positive rights which confer privileges on the people, e.g.; Article 18 desires the state not to confer any special titles on the citizens. Similarly Article 17 abolishes untouchability. These can easily be categorised in the former category. Right to liberty, equality or freedom to express or worship come under the second category.
(4) All rights are justiciables:
Another feature of these rights is that these are justiciable. This means that if any of these rights is violated, the individual affected is entitled to move the Supreme Court or High Court for the protection and enforcement of his rights.
The Supreme Court may declare a law passed by Parliament or a state legislature in India or the orders issued by any executive authority as rull and void of these are found to be inconsistent with the rights granted by the constitution. The judiciary is thus the jealous guardian of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the constitution.
(5) Restrictive nature of rights:
The Indian constitution does not formulate fundamental rights in absolute terms. Every right is permitted under certain limitations and reasonable restriction can be imposed at any time in the larger interests of the community. In some cases, restrictions can be imposed by the constitution itself.
Article 19, for example, guarantees to all citizens freedom of speech and expression. But while exercising this right, they are not to utter anything which may affect the security of the state, public order or friendly relations with foreign states.
Similarly, Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens but the state has been empowered to make reservations in appointments in favour of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
(6) Suspension of Rights:
During the operation of an emergency, the President may suspend to all or any of the fundamental rights and may also suspend the right of the people to move the High Courts and Supreme Court for the enforcement of the fundamental rights.
(7) Citizens alone enjoy fundamental rights:
Another important feature of our fundamental rights is that some of them are only guaranteed to the citizens of India while the rights relating to protection of life, freedom of religion, right against exploitation are guaranteed to every person whether citizen or alien.
This means that our constitution draws a distinction between citizens and aliens in the matter of enjoyment of fundamental rights.
(8) No natural or unenumerated rights:
The chapter and fundamental rights is not based on the theory of natural rights. ‘Natural’ rights are said to belong to man by ‘nature’. It is claimed that man possessed these rights before state itself came existence ‘Natural’ rights accordingly, do not are their validity to their enumeration in a constitution.
In this respect a significant difference may be noticed between the American constitution and the constitution of India. The Indian constitution has left no scope for such unenumerated rights.
(9) Fundamental Rights are amendable:
The fundamental rights can be amended but they cannot be abrogated because that will violate the basic structure of the constitution.
The most striking feature of the provisions of Part III of our constitution, writes D. D. Basu, is that “they expressly seek to strike a balance between a written guarantee of individual rights and the collective interests of the community”.