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The Fundamentals of Fundamental Rights

The Indian Constitution, the lengthiest one in the world, was drafted with the intent to protect the rights and liberties of the citizens of India. Part III stands as a bulwark of individual liberties, enshrining the Fundamental Rights that form the foundations of a democratic society. Crafted to protect citizens from violation of rights caused by state excesses, these rights are intrinsic to the ethos of justice, equality, and freedom.

1. Right to Equality:

The Constitution's preamble heralds equality as a cardinal principle, and the Right to Equality under Articles 14 to 18 embodies this ethos. Article 14 ensures equality before the law, Article 15 prohibits discrimination, and Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in public employment. Further, Article 17 abolishes untouchability, and Article 18 prohibits titles of nobility (such as maharaja etc.).

2. Right to Freedom:

Articles 19 to 22 encapsulate the Right to Freedom. Article 19 delineates six freedoms, including speech, assembly, association, movement, residence, and profession. However, reasonable restrictions safeguard public interests.

Article 20 protects against self-incrimination and double jeopardy (which means that one individual cannot be charged for the same offence twice).

Article 21 ensures the right to life and personal liberty. This Article has been interpreted extensively by competent judicial authorities and has come to include several rights including right to a wholesome environment, right to sleep, right to fair employment, right to food etc.

Articles 21A and 22 provide the right to education and protection against arrest without due process, respectively.

3. Right Against Exploitation:

Articles 23 and 24 articulate the Right Against Exploitation. Article 23 prohibits human trafficking, forced labor, and begar, ensuring that no individual is subjected to these deplorable conditions. Article 24 reinforces this by prohibiting child labor in hazardous occupations.

4. Right to Freedom of Religion:

Articles 25 to 28 encompass the Right to Freedom of Religion. Subject to public order, health, and morality, individuals are granted the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate their religion (Article 25), while Article 26 guarantees the right to manage religious affairs. Article 27 ensures freedom from payment of taxes for promoting any religion, and Article 28 safeguards against religious instruction in educational institutions funded by the state.

5. Cultural and Educational Rights:

Articles 29 and 30 encapsulate Cultural and Educational Rights. Article 29 protects the interests of minorities, ensuring the right to conserve their distinct language, script, or culture. Article 30 provides minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions.

6. Right to Constitutional Remedies:

The cornerstone of the Fundamental Rights, Article 32, confers the Right to Constitutional Remedies. The "right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of rights" empowers citizens to seek redressal for infringement of their Fundamental Rights directly from the highest court. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the forefather of the Indian Constitution dubbed this right as the heart and soul of the Indian Constitution.

In weaving this intricate tapestry of Fundamental Rights, the framers of the Indian Constitution envisioned a society where individual liberties are inviolable. These rights serve not merely as legal provisions but as the moral compass guiding the nation toward justice, liberty, and equality. As the guardians of democracy, Fundamental Rights echo a resounding commitment to the principles that define the soul of India's constitutional identity.

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