Salient Features of the Constitution - Part II

Exact Match
  Nehru Era
  Princely States
  Kashmir Issue
  Linguistic union
  Tamil Nation
  China war
  Indo-Pak war

  Indira Era
  Elections '67
  Congress Split
  Elections '77
  Indira's revival
  Assam Problem
  Rajiv years
  Jan Morcha

  Vajpayee Era
  1991 - 1998
  Pokharan II
  Kargil & after

Home | Salient Features of the Constitution


Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles

The Fundamental Rights are divided into seven parts: the right of equality, the right of freedom, the right against exploitation, the right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, the right to property and the right to constitutional remedies. These rights, which are incorporated in Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution, primarily protect individuals and minority groups from arbitrary state action. But three of the articles protect the individual against the action of other private citizens: Article 17 abolishes untouchability, Article 15(2) says that no citizen shall suffer any disability in the use of shops, restaurants, wells, roads, and other public places on account of his religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth; and Article 23 prohibits forced labour, which, though it was also extracted by the colonial state and the princely states, was more commonly a characteristic of the exploitation by big, semi-feudal landlords. These rights of citizens had to be protected by the state from encroachment by other citizens. Thus, the state had to not only avoid encroaching on the citizen's liberties, it had to ensure that other citizens did not do so either. A citizen whose fundamental right has been infringed or abridged could apply to the Supreme Court or High Court for relief and this right cannot be suspended except in case of declaration of Emergency. The courts have the right to decide whether these rights have indeed been infringed and to employ effective remedies including issuing of writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari.

The Directive Principles have expressly been excluded from the purview of the courts. They are really in the nature of guidelines or instructions issued to future legislatures and executives. While the Constitution clearly intended Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights to be read together and did not envisage a conflict between the two, it is a fact that serious differences of interpretation have arisen many times on this issue.

A Secular State

The constitution declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. Even though the terms secular (and socialist) were added only by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, the spirit embodying the Constitution was secular.

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