Lessons from the Law
The rights of individuals have long been an issue in South Asia. In 250 BC, in response to the Kalinga war between Asoka’s empire and Kalinga Empire, the great Buddhist emperor banned torture. In 12th & 13th centuries, the Kandyan Kings of what is now Sri Lanka abolished capital parliament in their realm.
The constitution of India 1950 is the supreme law of the land in India. It establishes the basic frame work of the Government, delineating the division of power between the Central & State Government, & establishes the functions of various governmental organs, including the judicial system.
The part III of the constitution guarantees an array of fundamental rights. Individuals can enforce these rights in courts when they are violated by the action or inaction of a government authority or official, but not when they are violated by other private individuals or companies. However certain fundamental rights are enforceable against private individuals as well. Article 14, Right to Equality, is the basic Fundamental right enshrined in the constitution. The core of the Article 14 is ‘Equality before law’. Every person in India regardless of his or her socials, political, or economic position is equally subject to the jurisdiction of the courts, ‘Equal protection of laws’ is the twin sister of ‘Equality before law’. It means that every person should enjoy the protection of the law without adverse discrimination or special treatment. ‘The more simple way to put it is, the law will provide like treatment for people in similar circumstances’.
Article 19, Right to freedom, is one more prominent fundamental right. It provides various freedoms. Freedom of speech expression, assembly, association, movement, residence & profession. However none of these rights is absolute. Each may be curtailed by law in the interest of the general public, security of the state & public order.
Article 20 guarantees certain protections against conviction for offences. It says that a person can only be convicted of an offence if the act charged against him or her was an offence centes the law on the date of the commission of act. It further provides that person shall be punished for the same offence more than once. It also provides protection against self- incrimination, protecting an accused person from being compelled to be a witness against him or herself.
Article 21 is one of the most important constitutional provisions. It confers on every person right to life & personal liberty, & the Supreme Court has interpreted Article 21 to be very broad in scope. Article 21 has been interpreted to guarantee right including rights of prisoners, the right to legal aid, the right to speedy trial & the right to claim compensation for the violation of the rights in Article 21.
Article 22, deals with protection against arrest & detention, & is important for its direct & immediate bearing on the rights of the accused & detainees in Indian law. It provides that a person who is arrested be informed, as soon as may be, of the charges against him or her & provided with the right to obtain counsel. Furthermore, it provides every person who has been arrested with the right to be produced before the nearest magistrate within twenty four hours of arrest. Article 23 lays down prohibition of traffic in human beings & forced labour.
The last but not least, Article 32, provides ‘Right to constitution remedies’. Article 32 confers the right to take proceedings in the Supreme Court for enforcement of fundamental rights. It empowers the Supreme Court to issue direction orders or writs, including the writ of habeas corpus. Article 226, empowers the High Courts to make such orders for the enforcement of fundamental rights.