1. The chapter of Fundamental Rights is the most cherished component of our Constitution.
2. Fundamental rights are deemed essential to protect the rights and liberties of the people against the encroachment of the power delegated by them to their government.
3. It is contained in Part III of our Constitution
4. The framers of our Constitution took inspiration to incorporate a full chapter consisting of a long list of fundamental rights from United States of America.
5. The goal of fundamental rights is to protect rights and freedom of people and most importantly, to serve as a reminder to a government in power that the liberties granted by the Constitution to the people are respected.
6. However all the fundamental rights are not absolute but have in built restrictions and exceptions.
7. Above all, it should be borne in mind that fundamental rights are claimed against the State and its instrumentalities.
8. The term “State”, as defined under Article 12 include,
i. The Government and Parliament of India
ii. The Government and State Legislature
iii. All local authorities
iv. Other Authorities under the control of the Government of India.
9. The term State includes executive well as the legislative organs.
i. Local authorities include authorities like Panchayats, Municipalities, etc.
ii. The term other authorities include any body, statutory or non statutory, which is an instrumentality of the government.
iii. This term has in fact been a subject to number of judicial interpretations.
iv. Examples of the term other ‘authorities’ include Electricity Board, Life Insurance Corporation, Indian Statistical Institute, CSIR, etc.
10. Some fundamental rights are given only to citizens, while others are available to both citizens and non-citizens.
Classification of Fundamental Rights
The fundamental rights embodied in Arts. 14 to 35 can be grouped under
(i) Right to Equality (Art. 14-18)
(ii) Right to Freedom (Art. 19-22)
(iii) Right against Exploitation (Art. 23&24)
(iv) Right to Freedom of Religion (Art. 25-28)
(v) Cultural and Educational Rights ( Art. 29&30)
(vi) Right to Constitution Remedies (Art. 32)
I. RIGHT TO EQUALITY:
a. Equality before law (Art. 14)
Art. 14 provides that the State shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
NOTES UNDER Article 14:
This right is available to both citizen & non-citizens.
Equality before the law implies the absence of any special privilege in favour of individuals.
Equal protection of the law means equality of treatment in equal circumstances.
However, the above rule of equality is not an absolute rule and has a number of exceptions to it.
For example: Art. 361 gives immunity to the President of India and the State Governors against criminal proceedings, arrests, etc.
IMPORTANT CASE LAWS UNDER ART. 14
Case Law: Ajay Hasia Vs Khalid Mujib
In this case, the Regional Engineering College made personal interview, a part of the admission procedure for granting admission to professional course. In fact about 33 1/3 of total marks was allotted for the oral interview. The court struck down this rule, which prescribed a high percentage of marks for the interview as arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Art. 14. Further the court prescribed that allocation of more than 15% of marks for interviews as unreasonable.
Case Law: Air India Vs Nargesh Meerza
The Air India and India Airlines, had two repugnant clauses in their service regulations governing their employees.
(a) An airhostess would retire, upon attaining 35 years of age or on marriage within first 4 years of service or on first pregnancy.
(b) However, the Managing Director had the discretion to extend the age of retirement by one year at a time beyond the age of retirement upto 45 years, provided an airhostess is medically fit.
Both the above mentioned clauses were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional as the conditions laid out were arbitrary and unreasonable, clearly Violative of Art. 14.
Case Law: Indian Council of Legal Aid & Advice Vs Bar Council of India
In this case, the validity of new rule 9 in the Bar Council rules came up for judicial scrutiny. The rule barred the entry of persons who have completed 45 years of age on the date of application for enrolment as an advocate. The Supreme Court struck down the rule holding that whatever be the laudable motive of the Bar Council, in framing such a rule, it was unreasonable, discriminatory and violative of Art. 14 on two scores. Bar Council is empowered to frame rules applicable only for post enrolment stage. On one hand, bar council permits enrolment of those who had completed their legal education early, but put up their practice on hold temporarily, however it debars those who make fresh enrolment, after retirement from services, which is discriminatory.
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