Right to Freedom in Indian Constitution
The rights to freedom are the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of India. It is the prevalence of these freedoms that make democracy meaningful.
The original constitution as adopted in 1949 guaranteed seven such freedoms. By the 44th amendment, the right to hold and dispose of property has been removed from the list of fundamental freedoms in 1978.
List of Rights to Freedom under Indian Constitution
Art. 19 of the constitution now provides six freedoms, namely :
right to freedom of speech and expression,
right to assemble peaceably and without arms,
right to form associations or unions,
right to move freely throughout the territory of India,
right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India,
right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation trade or business.
Each one of these six freedoms is subject to some restrictions. For rights can never be absolute. Individual rights must be reconciled with the interests of the community. It is logical that equal rights for all must mean limited rights for any. Hence, the state may impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ upon the exercise of any of these rights.
Firstly, the state may impose restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression on eight grounds. These are:
contempt of court,
decency or morality,
security of the state,
friendly relations with other states,
incitement of offence and,
integrity of India.
Secondly, the freedom to assemble is subject to two restrictions. The assembly must be peaceable and the members of assembly must not bear arms. However the Sikhs are allowed to carry ‘Kirpan’ as part of their religious creed. In the U.S.A. right to bear arms is fundamental right. In India, this right is denied in the interest of public order.
Thirdly, the right to form associations or unions does not entitle persons to enter into criminal conspiracy either against individuals, groups or against the state.
Fourthly, the right to move freely or to reside and settle in any part of India, does not cover trespass into homes or restricted areas. State also may restrict this freedom to protect the aboriginal tribes.
Finally, the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business are also subject to reasonable restrictions. Thus professions or, trade or, business must not be harmful to the interest of the community. The state may also prescribe qualifications for particular profession or, technical occupation. The state may itself carry on trade or business to the exclusion of citizens.
Power of Courts to enforce freedom of citizens of India
Every Indian citizen has the power to move the High Court or the Supreme Court for protecting and securing his personal freedom. The Courts are empowered to issue writs in the nature of habeas corpus. The courts can order the presence of detained or imprisoned person and set him free in case there is no legal justification for his detainment or imprisonment.
Rights to Freedom during National Emergency
The rights to freedom under Article 19 of Indian constitution are suspended during the period of National Emergency declared by the President of India.
Further, during the period when the National emergency is in operation, the President is empowered to suspend the right of citizens to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of their personal freedom.
Each one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the constitution of India is hedged by many restrictions. They are not absolute. This led to the criticism that Indian freedom is a myth and not reality for what has been given with one hand has been taken away with the other.
This criticism is unfair. For fundamental rights can nowhere be absolute. For logically, one can be absolutely free only when all others are absolute, slaves Individual freedom to be real must be social and hence must be limited.
There is a difference in the scheme of limitations on fundamental rights in the U.S. constitution and in the constitution of India. In the U.S.A. the restrictions are not mentioned in the constitution itself. This is left to judicial interpretations. In India on the other hand, the restrictions are mentioned in the constitution itself. It is not left to the vagaries of judicial interpretation.
On the whole fundamental rights everywhere are restricted or, limited. As Mr. Justice Mukherji observed in A. K. Gopalan vs. State of Madras case. There cannot be any such thing as absolute or uncontrolled liberty wholly freed from restraints.