Hitesh Bharat Lunawat
Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination. Democracy contrasts with forms of government where power is either held by one person, as in a monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy.
Every nation of the world today either desires to be a democracy or claims to be one. Today, it is a magic word. If truly interpreted it means freedom, justice and equality for all classes of people. Democracy assumes human beings to be basically good, rational and capable of self-restraint.
In other words, democracy ensures human rights. Broadly speaking, human rights include right to life, liberty, property and security of an individual which have been guaranteed in our Constitution. Democracy confers certain rights on the people. But unfortunately these rights are abused in the name of resisting oppression. The rights that those systems of governments bestow on everyone need to be balanced by certain duties and limits. Rights give status to each human being irrespective of his or her talents or the lack of them.
They imply that each human being counts purely by virtue of the fact that he or she is human and that he or she is entitled to be treated in a particular way. Rights which are largely based on the fundamental objective of social good provide protection from oppression. It ensures protection to every section of society including the neglected and weaker sections against oppression and harassment by the powerful-individual or government. These rights hold that individual entitlements are of such overriding importance that they eclipse all other considerations.
Indeed, it is very difficult to ensure that individual rights will not be violated in a society. However, it is necessary to institute a norm that rights are of such primary importance that whosoever violates, should have good reasons for this, i.e. in the larger interests of society. They should be liable to prove this.
No doubt this is the unique characteristics of democracy that everyone has the freedom to dissent. But there is certain limit to the expression of dissent, if crossed; it may prove dangerous to social fabric and the unity and integrity of the country, as well. In fact, the success of democracy requires certain conditions which include tolerance, compromise, mutual regard for everyone’s rights and freedoms. It requires rational conduct, good character, an intelligent understanding of public affairs, independent judgment, preferences of public interest.
People need to think and work in the broader perspective, sacrificing their own self. They are expected to realize their responsibilities towards community and society. Preference to self-interest leads to the emergence of some negative qualities which may be dangerous to the both society and country itself. Such action hurt the cause of democracy and very often paves the way for dictatorship. Democracy in real sense means perfect equality between one man and another and in all spheres of human activity.
With its liberal democratic institutions and parliamentary system of government, India stands in good position in case of human rights. Indian Constitution incorporates a vast range of political, social, economic, cultural and religious rights of citizens. For ensuring the rights of all citizens, our Constitution allows for some special provisions for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker and backward sections of society through the policy of reservation and other means.
Democracy depends on the following conditions:
1. Co-existence of ideas and of parties
2.The right to free discussion
3. Universal adult suffrage
4. Periodic elections
Democracy in India
Indian is the largest democracy in the world. The Constitution of Indian was enforced on 26 January, 1950. It ushered in the age of democracy. India became a democratic republic infused with the spirit of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The Preamble, the Directive Principles of State Policy and the Fundamental Rights reflect the Indian ideology as well as the caste, creed, religion, property, or sex has the right to cast their vote. After an election, the majority party or coalition forms the government and its leader becomes the Prime Minister.
It is one of the world's oldest civilizations yet, a very young nation. Elections to its Parliament are held once every 5 years. Currently, Prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is the head of the government, enjoying a majority in the Parliament, while President Pranab Mukherjee, is the head of state. India is a constitutional republic governed under the world's longest written constitution, federally consisting of 28 states and seven centrally administered union territories, with New Delhi as the nation's capital.
Political parties are the vehicles of ideas. Parties act as the bridge between social thought and political decision in democracy. The Indian politics system is a multiparty system. However, gradually politics has become a game of opportunism and corruption. Most political parties are only interested in coming to power. Every party adopts different caste politics. Some try to influence the people thought caste politics. Some try to raise the religious sentiments of the people. The Indian ideology today is replaced by caste and religion.
We enjoy every right in theory, but not in practice. Real democracy will come into being only when the masses are awakened and take part in the economic and political life of the country. There is inequality in every sphere- social, economic and political. Illiteracy is the main cause of inequality. The illiterate masses get easily lured by money during such an event. Also some of our legislators have criminal records against them. The people who make the laws themselves break them.
Even after more than sixty years of Independence, one fourth of the populations today goes to bed with an empty stomach, live below the poverty line without access to safe and clean drinking water, sanitation or proper health facilities. Governments have come and gone, politics have been framed and implemented, crores of rupees have been spent, yet many people are still struggling for existence.
Casteism today is more pronounced that it even was. Untouchability remains abolished only in theory with frequent newspapers reports of Dalits being denied entry to temples or other public places. Violence has been taken a serious turn in country, Bandhs, strikes and terrorist activities have become a common affair. Every sphere of national life is corrupted. Our democracy is capitalistic. Here, the rich exploit the poor who have no voice or share in the democratic structure. For a successful democracy, all these need to be checked.
But India, as a democratic country, has progressed in many aspects. It has archived self-sufficiency in food grains as a result of the green revolution. People vote for change whenever a government fails to come up to the expectations of the people. India has been a successful democratic country only because the people are law-abiding, self-disciplined and has the sense of social and moral responsibilities.
For a democracy to be fully successful, the electorate should be literate and politically conscious. They should be fully aware of their rights and privileges. The illiterate masses of India should be given education so that they can sensibly vote for the right leaders. The U.S.A, Britain, Germany and Japan are successful democratic countries and gave progressed in every sphere because the masses are literate.
There should be quality in every sphere of life. The politicians should also respect the true spirit of democracy. They should refrain from corruption caste and communal politics. The citizens should elect leaders with good moral values and integrity. People should be guided to choose their representatives. They should not be influenced by anyone in this respect. Individuals should learn tolerance and compromise and understand that freedom in not unbridled but dependent on not harming another individual's well being.
Democracy demands from the common man a certain level of ability and character, like rational conducts, an intelligent understanding of public affair, in depended justice and unselfish devotion to public interest. People should not allow communalism, separatism, casteism, terrorism, etc to raise their heads. They are a threat to democracy. The government, the NGOs and the people together should work collectively for the economic development of the nation. Changes should come through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. The talented youth of today should be politically educated so that they can become effective leaders of tomorrow.
Fundamental Rights in India
It is a charter of rights contained in the Constitution of India. It guarantees civil liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace and harmony as citizens of India. These include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, and peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs such as habeas corpus.
Fundamental rights for Indians have also been aimed at overturning the inequalities of pre-independence social practices. Specifically, they have also been used to abolish untouchability and thus prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. They also forbid trafficking of human beings and forced labor. They also protect cultural and educational rights of ethnic and religious minorities by allowing them to preserve their languages and also establish and administer their own education institutions.
All people, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex, have been given the right to move the Supreme Court and the High Courts for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. It is not necessary that the aggrieved party has to be the one to do so. Poverty stricken people may not have the means to do so and therefore, in the public interest, anyone can commence litigation in the court on their behalf. This is known as "Public interest litigation". In some cases, High Court judges have acted on their own on the basis of newspaper reports.
These fundamental rights help not only in protection but also the prevention of gross violations of human rights. They emphasize on the fundamental unity of India by guaranteeing to all citizens the access and use of the same facilities, irrespective of background. Some fundamental rights apply for persons of any nationality whereas others are available only to the citizens of India. The right to life and personal liberty is available to all people and so is the right to freedom of religion. On the other hand, freedoms of speech and expression and freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country are reserved to citizens alone, including non-resident Indian citizens. The right to equality in matters of public employment cannot be conferred to overseas citizens of India.
Fundamental rights primarily protect individuals from any arbitrary state actions, but some rights are enforceable against individuals. For instance, the Constitution abolishes untouchability and also prohibits beggar. These provisions act as a check both on state action as well as the action of private individuals. However, these rights are not absolute or uncontrolled and are subject to reasonable restrictions as necessary for the protection of general welfare. They can also be selectively curtailed. The Supreme Court has ruled that all provisions of the Constitution, including fundamental rights can be amended. However, the Parliament cannot alter the basic structure of the constitution. Features such as secularism and democracy fall under this category. Since the fundamental rights can only be altered by a constitutional amendment, their inclusion is a check not only on the executive branch, but also on the Parliament and state legislatures.
The fundamental rights recognized by the Indian constitution are:
1. Right to equality
It is the principal foundation of all other rights and liberties, and guarantees the following:
• Equality before law: Article 14 of the constitution guarantees that all citizens shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State cannot discriminate any of the Indian citizens on the basis of their caste, creed, color, sex, gender, religion or place of birth.
• Social equality and equal access to public areas: Article 15 of the constitution states that no person shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, color and language. Every person shall have equal access to public places like public parks, museums, wells, bathing ghats and temples etc. However, the State may make any special provision for women and children. Special provisions may be made for the advancements of any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes.
• Equality in matters of public employment: Article 16 of the constitution lies down that the State cannot discriminate against anyone in the matters of employment. All citizens can apply for government jobs. There are some exceptions. The Parliament may enact a law stating that certain jobs can only be filled by applicants who are domiciled in the area. This may be meant for posts that require knowledge of the locality and language of the area. The State may also reserve posts for members of backward classes, scheduled castes or scheduled tribes which are not adequately represented in the services under the State to bring up the weaker sections of the society.
• Abolition of untouchability: Article 17 of the constitution abolishes the practice of untouchability. Practice of untouchability is an offence and anyone doing so is punishable by law.
• Abolition of Titles: Article 18 of the constitution prohibits the State from conferring any titles. Citizens of India cannot accept titles from a foreign State. The British government had created an aristocratic class known as Rai Bahadurs and Khan Bahadurs in India – these titles were also abolished. However, Military and academic distinctions can be conferred on the citizens of India. The awards of Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan cannot be used by the recipient as a title and do not, accordingly, come within the constitutional prohibition.
2. Right to freedom
It is a cluster of following main laws.
• Freedom of speech and expression, which enable an individual to participate in public activities. Reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public order, security of State, decency or morality.
• Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms, on which the State can impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order and the sovereignty and integrity of India.
• Freedom to form associations or unions on which the State can impose reasonable restrictions on this freedom in the interest of public order, morality and the sovereignty and integrity of India.
• Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India though reasonable restrictions can be imposed on this right in the interest of the general public, for example, restrictions may be imposed on movement and travelling, so as to control epidemics.
3. Right against exploitation
The right against exploitation, given in Articles 23 and 24, provides for two provisions, namely the abolition of trafficking in human beings and Begar (forced labor), and abolition of employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like factories and mines. Child labor is considered a gross violation of the spirit and provisions of the constitution. Begar, practiced in the past by landlords, has been declared a crime and is punishable by law. Trafficking in humans for the purpose of slave trade or prostitution is also prohibited by law. An exception is made in employment without payment for compulsory services for public purposes. Compulsory military conscription is covered by this provision.
4. Right to freedom of religion
Right to freedom of religion, covered in Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28, provides religious freedom to all citizens of India. The objective of this right is to sustain the principle of secularism in India. According to the Constitution, all religions are equal before the State and no religion shall be given preference over the other. Citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice.
5. Right to life
The constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, which in turn cites specific provisions in which these rights are applied and enforced:
• Protection with respect to conviction for offences is guaranteed in the right to life and personal liberty. According to Article 20, no one can be awarded punishment which is more than what the law of the land prescribes at that time. This legal axiom is based on the principle that no criminal law can be made retrospective, that is, for an act to become an offence, the essential condition is that it should have been an offence legally at the time of committing it. Moreover, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. "Compulsion" in this article refers to what in law is called "Duress" (injury, beating or unlawful imprisonment to make a person do something that he does not want to do).
• Protection of life and personal liberty is also stated under right to life and personal liberty. Article 21 declares that no citizen can be denied his life and liberty except by law. This means that a person's life and personal liberty can only be disputed if that person has committed a crime. However, the right to life does not include the right to die, and hence, suicide or an attempt thereof, is an offence.
• Rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances are laid down in the right to life and personal liberty. No one can be arrested without being told the grounds for his arrest. If arrested, the person has the right to defend himself by a lawyer of his choice. Also an arrested citizen has to be brought before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours.
6. Cultural and educational rights
As India is a country of many languages, religions, and cultures, the Constitution provides special measures, in Articles 29 and 30, to protect the rights of the minorities. Any community which has a language and a script of its own has the right to conserve and develop it. No citizen can be discriminated against for admission in State or State aided institutions.
All minorities, religious or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions to preserve and develop their own culture. In granting aid to institutions, the State cannot discriminate against any institution on the basis of the fact that it is administered by a minority institution. But the right to administer does not mean that the State cannot interfere in case of maladministration.
7. Right to constitutional remedies
Right to constitutional remedies empowers the citizens to move a court of law in case of any denial of the fundamental rights. For instance, in case of imprisonment, the citizen can ask the court to see if it is according to the provisions of the law of the country. If the court finds that it is not, the person will have to be freed. This procedure of asking the courts to preserve or safeguard the citizens' fundamental rights can be done in various ways. The courts can issue various kinds of writs. These writs are habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari. When a national or state emergency is declared, this right is suspended by the central government.
8. Right to property
The Constitution originally provided for the right to property under Articles 19 and 31. Article 19 guaranteed to all citizens the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property. Article 31 provided that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law." It also provided that compensation would be paid to a person whose property has been taken for public purposes.
The liberalization of the economy and the government's initiative to set up special economic zones has led to many protests by farmers and has led to calls for the reinstatement of the fundamental right to private property.
9. Right to education
Article 21A, India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6–14 age groups, the Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present.
A state of national emergency has an adverse effect on these rights. Under such a state, the rights conferred by Article 19 (freedoms of speech, assembly and movement, etc.) remain suspended. Hence, in such a situation, the legislature may make laws which go against the rights given in Article 19. Also, the President may by order suspend the right to move court for the enforcement of other rights as well.
When the Constitution came into force in 1950, no Fundamental Duties were enshrined in the Constitution of India. By the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India in 1976, 10 Fundamental Duties have been added to our Constitution. These duties are important and necessary for the vital interest of our country.
The duty of every citizen of India:
1. To abide by the Constitution and respect the National Flag and the National Anthem
2. To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom
3. To protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India
4. To defend the country
5. To promote the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India
6. To preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture
7. To protect and improve the natural environment
8. To develop the scientific temper and spirit of inquiry
9. To safeguard public property
10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity
Fundamental Duties are like some noble advice of which some are civic duties and others are moral duties. They are not legally binding upon the citizens and even the courts cannot enforce them. So, Fundamental Duties are not enforceable by the courts of our country. No one can be punished if he/she does not perform his/her duties. Though there is no legal force behind these duties, yet they are integral part to the Constitution of India. These duties have moral impact and educative value upon the citizens. Therefore people obey these duties on moral obligation for welfare of the people. After all inclusion of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution is considered necessary towards progress, peace and prosperity of the country.
Though there is no provision in the Constitution for direct enforcement of any of these duties nor for any sanction to prevent their violation, yet some Fundamental Duties are enforceable by the courts of the country. Duties like abide by the Constitution, respect the National Flag and the National Anthem, to defend the country and render National service when called upon to do so and safeguard public property etc. fall in this category and the courts can enforce them if it find reasonable relation with laws of the country. But there are some inherent draw backs of these Fundamental Duties. Actually Fundamental Duties are not binding upon the citizen. Duties inscribed in the Constitution are not exhaustive, while some duties are ambiguous. So, common people could not understand them. Yet these duties are important for National interest of our country. These duties have sanctity of its own. Besides these duties have moral and educative value upon citizen of our country. People fells that for proper enjoyment of rights, duties must be performed in a well manner. Because rights and duties are related to each other. Every right implies a corresponding duty towards individual and social welfare. Rights cannot be separated from duties and vice-versa. Therefore, both rights and duties are important for the prosperity of the country in a similar manner.