Fundamental Rights

By- Aaditya Sinha

I don’t know about you but I am a movie buff, and I make a lot of opinions and interpretations from films, and mainly Bollywood films. For the last 2 years, I have observed a change in the Hindi film industry that they are actually making many political and legal movies. If you will follow these filmmakers on social media sites then you will understand that they are actually very much involved in talking about politics in our country, even every film is now persuaded as a political film, we actually try to look everything in the political crystal.

If you are following the film industry or movies or even the social media sites of these people, then you will observe one thing very evidently that despite their political ideologies, they all are talking about “Freedom of speech and expression.” I personally think that this word has become like a very common word, everybody wants to talk about this specific law.

So, being a student of law it is my duty to make everyone understand not only these specific fundamental rights but all the fundamental rights which are there in our beautiful constitution. Fundamental rights are taken from the constitution of the USA, where these rights are known as a bill of rights.

The main purpose of having fundamental rights was to actually minimize the power of the state and to give every citizen a chance to live in a dignified manner. We had initially seven fundamental rights in our constitution but one of the fundamental rights which was “Right to property” was abolished from the constitution in the 44th amendment. Fundamental rights are there in the third part of the constitution between articles 12 and 35.

Article 12: Definition of state

According to article 12 of the Indian constitution, a state includes the government and parliament of India and the legislature of each of the states and all local authorities.

Here the word local is not properly defined and it is interpreted by different case laws decided by the hon’ble high courts and supreme courts of India. 

There is one such case which is the University of Madras v. Shanthabai[1],in this case, the court had to decide whether the university of madras which was formulated under the Madras University act is a state or not. The court decided that in order to call madras university as a state, that university should be “Ejusdem Generis”, Ejusdem Generis means anything which is similar to the rest of the things in that list.

So for example, if I have a sample space where I am writing following names: Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and then we have to add either new york or Oslo, so if we add new york it would be an odd one out because since all the other place which are written belong to Europe, so we will include Oslo because it also comes in Europe. In this case the court said that the University is not similar to government and hence it cannot be termed as a “Local authority”.

Article 13:

This article actually acts as a filter for fundamental rights. There are mainly two important doctrines in this article one is Doctrine of severability and the other one is the doctrine of eclipse.

The doctrine of severability: This doctrine talks about those laws which are now inconsistent to the fundamental rights, in other words, according to this doctrine if some of the section of a specific act is violating today’s article of the constitution then that section of the act will be considered as inconsistent or in a more legal term would be void from that act. There is a very landmark case which is AK Gopalan v. state of madras[2]. In section 14, the preventive detention act was a challenge. According to that act, if anyone who Is detained then he could not have mentioned the details of “Ground of detention

The doctrine of Eclipse: Here those sections which were filtered or say separated in the doctrine of severability or have now got shadowed or got eclipsed by the fundamental rights. Hence, this doctrine is known as the doctrine of the eclipse, since it has shadowed from the fundamental rights. There is also a very important case of Bhikaji v. state of Madhya Pradesh[3].There was an act which was Berar Motor Vehicle Act, 1947. In this act, there was a certain section that empowered the state to actually control all the motor transport. So, these sections were violating article 19 of the Indian constitution. So all these sections were inoperative for a moment and all these sections were actually eclipsed or shadowed.

Article 14, 19, and 21: The Golden Triangle of Indian constitution

These three articles are collectively called as “Golden Triangle of the Indian constitution”. The reason behind this is very simple, yet, very confusing. The reason is actually just a single word but the explanation can be very tedious and long. The word is reasonability. Let’s try to understand all three articles separately and then we will see the common link in all of them

Article 14 talks about the right to equality. Equality can be of two types. One is Equality before the law which is a British concept also known as the negative concept of equality. It was developed by A.V, Dicey who actually gave the concept of Rule of law, but the thing is that this concept of equality is actually flawed, because if we are not dividing the citizen of a country on certain elements how can they be equal. So, the second concept which is “Equal Protection of Law” is known as a positive concept of Equality. For example, if someone is earning 2 lakh per month and others are earning 2 lakh per year then both of them are actually not equal so, in order to make them equal we actually have to separate them and both of them will pay different amount of tax.

Intelligible differentia and Rational Nexus:

These two doctrine talks about how can we actually “reasonably classify”. For example, if there is an exam of a school then we have to intelligibly classify between the students according to their class or say section then we can only ensure that the exam has been a fare one. By intelligible differential, we differentiate them and by rational nexus, we actually rationally classify the laws. So, in simple words “Reasonable Classification” is a term which is used here, and it tells that sometimes in order to give every citizen equal rights we have to give socially backward or economically backward people a chance to compete with them with equal opportunities.

Article 19: Freedom of speech and Expression:

Here also, we talk about giving every citizen a right to speech and expression but this fundamental right is also not absolute. Article 19 (2) and 19 (6) talk about “Reasonable Restriction”. It means that one should not speak anything against the country or any of the statements which can actually affect the sovereignty of our country. So, here also this word “Reasonable” came, which means again the word reasonable has saved us again from making the fundamental rights as an “absolute” right.

Article 21:

This is probably the most interpreted article in the Indian Constitution which talks about “Right to Life”. After the landmark judgment of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[4], we have interpreted the meaning of life, now right to life doesn’t mean that right to live, it has a broader meaning. It means right to marry, right to move, but we also have to understand that these rights are not absolute in nature, for example, one cannot marry to anyone without the consent of the other partner, so the thing is that all these fundamental rights can only sustain if we understand that these are not absolute, and right of one person should not become a problem for another person.

So, we can clearly see that all these three articles, in order to make the fundamental laws broader, more subjective and very less “absolute” uses the word “reasonability” and because of this word our fundamental rights are not absolute one has to look at the situations before making any decision. This word actually makes our constitution less rigid. Hence, these are called “Golden triangle of the Indian constitution”

Sabarimala Verdict: Contradiction between Fundamental rights

Although one can actually write a whole new article on this case, we will talk about this case only in brief. We all know that there was a belief that women who belong to the age where menstrual periods start were not allowed to enter the temple.

In 1990 the Kerala high court gave a verdict in which they banned all the women who belonged to the age of 10 to 50. The court said that the temple can make its own rules according to article 26 of the Indian constitution which clearly says that every citizen has a right o manage their own religious affairs.

However, in 2018, the Supreme Court in their verdict said that it is against article 14,15,17,19 of the Indian constitution. What is meant to be implicated from this case is that although both the verdicts are different, both violate different articles and both follow different articles too. This case according to me is a classic example where we can actually understand that no verdict is actually “right” or “wrong”, the constitution itself requires many more interpretations to it and the verdict has to be made by looking at the situation.

[1] University of Madras v. Shanthabai, AIR 1954 Mad 67.

[2] AK Gopalan v. State of Madras, 1950 AIR 27.

[3] Bhikaji Narain Dhakras And Others v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh, 1955 AIR 781.

[4] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978 AIR 597.


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