Today 'human rights' and 'freedom' are very frequent words that we use in our
everyday utilization. But the evolutionary history of human rights did not come
easily in the present day world politics and additionally the arrival of human
rights in India was not a very synchronized phenomenon. The effervescence of
human rights in India can be felt through the practical application of the
'freedom model' enshrined in India Constitution. This whole study has been given
in a detailed account over here.
What is Human Right?
Human beings being rational on their very existence possess certain inalienable
and basic rights which become operative with their birth irrespective of caste,
creed, culture, sex etc. The broad dimension of 'human rights' inculcate all
civil rights and liberties along with the social, economic and cultural rights
based on the primary human requirements and the concept of natural law and
justice. Thus, if president of a sate has the human rights, the domestic help
working at his/her house also deserve the same rights but how much of the rights
of these people are achieved is a matter of question and speculation.
Evolution of Human Rights in India
Although the term 'human rights' got exposure in recent times, its practical
application and discourse have been since ancient age. According to Gita, one
who has no ill will against anybody, who is amicable and compassionate without
being egoistic and self-centered with possession of patience shall achieve
Drawing concurrence with Gita's text and today's understanding of human rights,
we see the similar implied significance of human rights where non-violence,
freedom, right of one being duty of another, qualities of humanity are requisite
components of it. Prophet Mohammed 's affirmation on mutual respect and dignity,
Akbar's code of conduct having equal taxation policy and duties with an attempt
in establishing 'sarva dharma' in India spoke synonymously about 'human rights.'
Similarly, Ashoka's opinion on non-violence, Buddhism, Jainism establishing
basic rights of human have made it crystal clear that 'human rights' is not
something of recent value and can neither be excluded from society. With the
invasion of British, many socio-legal changes were brought up. Indians saw
discrimination and humiliation along with physical and mental atrocities and
thus understood the significance of freedom and basic rights. With the
independence of India, the Constitution of India also known as the Magna Carta
came into force in 1950. The Carta amplified the rights of citizens and their
inalienable freedom in political, social and economic spheres.
Relationship between Human Rights and Freedom Model
Though Human Rights through its etymological meaning is not a new concept and
has been existing in the world since the beginning of human life in the world
itself, the concept of 'Human Rights' as a subject of study and awareness wing
came into the world in recent past. With monarchy, dictatorship, Nazi
propaganda, British colonization, slave culture or caste system, people have
realized the importance of freedom that not only encompasses bodily independence
but also freedom of thought and freedom of every human act without causing any
impediment for others.
Thus, concurrently 'freedom' stands as an ideal zenith which has to be achieved
through the mechanism of Human Rights. The 'freedom' we are talking about has
been incorporated in the Constitution of India through various Articles with the
help of various world Conventions and agreements with the aim of ensuring human
rights to every citizen of the country.
With the advent of British in India, we saw a flood of our own resources to
Britain which was a sheer example of ignorance regarding the notion of equality.
Thus, the Constitution framers saw the importance 'equality before law' which is
provided under Article 14 of the constitution. With equality coming as an
essential ground for governing the state, certain other liberties were also made
important part of the Constitution.
Article 15(1) Prohibition of discrimination, Article 16(1) Equality of
opportunity , Article 19(1)(a) Freedom of speech and expression. With Hitler's
atrocities growing in the world, racism, slavery where a man downgrades other
man, casteism, untouchability, people understood the importance of protest and
voicing their own opinions through structured organizations. Organizations like
Indian National Congress, Azad Hind Fauj, Communist Party of India, incessantly
supported the Indian freedom struggle.
Thus, came another set of Articles in the Constitution which now act as a medium
for attaining the different schools of 'Human Rights.' Some of these articles
are Article 19(1)(c) Freedom of peaceful assembly, Article 19(1)(c) Right to
form associations, Article 19(1)(d) Freedom of movement within the border,
Article 20(1) Protection in respect for conviction for offences, Article 21
Protection of life and personal liberty, Article 23 Protection of slavery and
forced labour. Additionally, freedom of conscience and religion, remedy for
enforcement of right, protection of slavery and forced labour are some of the
components of the freedom model imbibed within the Constitution.
Atrocities against human rights were not only the concepts that were prevalent
in India and in order to abolish these atrocious practices, it was important for
the people to rule over themselves without giving any particular persons the
supreme power that creates hierarchy which also in some way or the other defies
the understanding of 'freedom' and thus defeating 'human rights.'
This awareness propelled the people to strive and fight for state where
governance would become easier and the very existence of state asked for
political sovereignty and the key ingredient of which is 'freedom.'
To work for this 'freedom' where each state can run independently without any
other state causing any social and political barrier for others, it was
important for the states to function together as a global village. Thus,
different conventions and agreements are signed by the states together. One of
them is Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) whose provisions have
inspired the Indian Constituent Assembly in framing the Constitution.
Other international covenants in this regard are International Covenant on
Political and Civil Rights, 1966 (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which have proved exemplary for the
formation and amendment of our Constitution.
Society being constantly changing, the idea of ideal society and definition of
freedom also changes. Hence the concept of freedom is abstract giving the
structure of 'human rights,' a flexible foundation. Thus, the scope of Directive
Principles of State Policy (DPSP) was adopted in Part IV of our Constitution
which may not be fundamental in today's circumstances but acts as 'objectives'
which the state should strive to focus on and in doing so, the medium of Human
Rights is required thus fulfilling the basic requirements of humans.
Some of these articles are Article 41 right to work, Article 39(d) Equal pay for
equal work, Article 43 Right to wage and descent standard of living, Article 42
Right to humane conditions of work and maternity leave , article 39(f) Right of
prevention against exploitation , Article 29(1) & 30 protection of interests of
With the DPSP being objectives, Fundamental Rights given under Part III of the
Constitution are concrete structures which the state shall necessarily establish
for its citizens to retain its identity as a free state. Thus, we can say that
although Constitution in itself is a prima facie expression of freedom model in
India where fundamental rights are today's concrete roads and DPSPs are the
concrete freedom destination of today's freedom model that functions to achieve
human rights. Therefore, it will not be wrong to say that though human rights
and freedom model are two distinct notions but are indeed the two wheels of the
same car that must sun together for the very existence of 'human beings.'
The abstract concept of 'freedom' and 'human rights'
'Freedom' itself being a very vast concept, revolves around multiple
interpretations. Thus, what human right is for some might not be the same for
other. There cannot be one static 'freedom model' for every citizen to establish
their human rights. Legislations, judicial decisions or even the Constitution
per se cannot define the concept of 'freedom' and 'human rights' for every
individual in the state.
Relevant Case Laws
Indian courts through their remarkable judicial decisions have also introduced
many necessary human rights into the society. The Supreme Court in a relevant
case has held that the natural or common law rights unless provided in the
Constitution are not recognized by the state in whole.
Hence, judiciary has always played a crucial role in interpreting the scopes of
fundamental rights and directive principles. With the introduction of the terms
like 'theory of emanation' and power of 'locus standi,' Indian judiciary has
significantly brought revolution in the concept of 'human rights.'
Some Of The Judicial Decisions In The Spectrum Of Human Rights Are Enumerated
- In National Legal Services Authority (vs) Union of India (AIR
2014 SC 1863), while dealing with the expression � 'person' given in Article
14 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court observed that the term 'person'
covers every sex including male, female, transgender not falling under male
or female. Every person is entitled to equality before law and equal
protection of law.
- In Naz Foundation (vs) Government of NCT of Delhi, (160 Delhi Law
times 277) , the Delhi High Court declared that section 377 of The Indian
Penal Code that criminalized unnatural sexual intercourse thus penalizing
homosexuality was unconstitutional and violated few fundamental rights like
Article 14 , 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- In Union of India (vs) Association for Democratic Reforms,
(2002 AIR 2112), the Supreme Court observed that misinformation or one �
sided information creates uninformed citizenry thus constructing a farce
democracy. Freedom to hold opinions on receiving information is a requisite
component of the freedom of speech and expression.
Although India has shown a positive attitude towards citizen's freedom, there
have been recent cases portraying crackdown of human rights. In 2016, several
university students were accused of sedition for expressing their political
views, in the same year UN published a report showing Indian statistics on caste
Further, the suicidal murder of Rohit Vemula , a 25 year old Dalit student
attracted attention of Indian students to speak against the infringement of the
basic human rights and freedom to live with dignity and respect. The recent
controversy about Karnataka's Hijab case is although near about settled yet many
consider it as an example of state's whim to snatch citizen's human right. The
Rajasthan state government's misconduct in handling the rampant cases on auction
and selling of girls again shows the defeating notions of human rights in India.
Therefore, this speaks about the dual character of India's attempt in
establishing human rights. This requires primary awareness amongst people to
know their rights or introduce more instances of their freedom with the passage
of time. Similarly political representatives must represent their citizen's
endeavors from the government and the executive system. With the help of
internal introspection and global comparisons, it will be easier for a state to
work towards freedom of citizens in establishing human rights. Hence it can be
rightly said that
"To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."- Nelson
- Dr. J.N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India 488(Central Law Agency,
Allahabad, 57th edn.,2020)
- Dr. H.O. Agarwal, International Law &Human Rights (Central Law
Publications, Allahabad, 23rd edn.,2021)
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Abantika Kar
Authentication No: MY312808839866-8-0523
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