DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS Notes
Violation of Citizens’ rights by the USA
- About 600 people were secretly picked up by the US forces from all over the world and put in a prison in Guantanamo Bay, an area near Cuba controlled by America’s Navy.
- The American government said that they were enemies of the US and linked to the attack on New York on 11 September 2001.
- Families of prisoners, media or even UN representatives were not allowed to meet them. The US army arrested them, interrogated them and decided to keep them there. There was no trial before any magistrate in the US
- Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, collected information on the condition of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and reported that the prisoners were being tortured in ways that violated the US laws.
- Prisoners were not released even after they were officially declared not guilty. An independent inquiry by the UN-supported these findings. The UN Secretary-General said the prison in Guantanamo Bay should be closed down. The US government refused to accept these pleas.
Violation of Citizens’ Rights in Saudi Arabia
- The country is ruled by a hereditary king and the people have no role in electing or changing their rulers.
- The king selects the legislature as well as the executive. He appoints the judges and can change any of their decisions.
- Citizens cannot form political parties or any political organizations. Media cannot report anything that the monarch does not like.
- There is no freedom of religion. Every citizen is required to be Muslim. Non-Muslim residents can follow their religion in private, but not in public.
- Women are subjected to many public restrictions. The testimony of one man is considered equal to that of two women.
Violation of Citizens’ Rights in Yugoslavia (Kosovo)
- Kosovo was a province of Yugoslavia before its split. In this province, the population was overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian Muslims. But in the entire country, Serbs(Christians) were in majority.
- A narrow-minded Serb nationalist Milosevic had won the election. His government was very hostile to the Kosovo Albanians. He wanted the Serbs to dominate the country. Many Serb leaders thought that Ethnic minorities like Albanians should either leave the country or accept the dominance of the Serbs.
- 74-year-old Batista Hoxha was sitting in her kitchen with her 77- year–old husband Izzet, staying warm by the stove. She knew, five or six soldiers had burst through the front door and were demanding her children.
- They shot Izzet three times in the chest. When her husband dying, the soldiers pulled the wedding ring off and even before she comes out of the house they burnt her house.
- This was typical of what happened to thousands of Albanians in that period. This was one of the worst instances of killings based on ethnic prejudices in recent times. Finally, Milosevic lost power and was tried by an International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.
What are rights?
Rights are reasonable claims of persons recognized by society and sanctioned by law.
Why do we need rights in a democracy? (OR) Rights are necessary for the very sustenance of a democracy.
- In a democracy, every citizen has to have the right to vote and the right to be elected to government.
- For democratic elections to take place it is necessary that citizens should have the right to express their opinion, form political parties and take part in political activities.
- Rights protect minorities from the oppression of the majority. They ensure that the majority cannot do whatever it likes. Rights are guarantees which can be used when things go wrong.
- The government should protect the citizens’ rights. But sometimes elected governments may not protect or may even attack the rights of their own citizens.
- That is why some rights need to be placed higher than the government so that the government cannot violate these. In most democracies, the basic rights of the citizen are written down in the constitution.
What is Right to Equality? How does it apply in providing equality, liberty, and justice to Indians?
- Right to equality means that the laws apply in the same manner to all, regardless of a person’s status. This is called the rule of law. Rule of law is the foundation of any democracy.
- It means that no person is above the law. There cannot be any distinction between a political leader, government official and an ordinary citizen.
- The government shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, caste, ethnicity, sex or place of birth.
- Every citizen shall have access to public places like shops, restaurants, hotels, and cinema halls. Similarly, there shall be no restriction with regard to the use of wells, tanks, bathing Ghats, roads, playgrounds, and places of public resorts maintained by the government or dedicated to the use of general public.
- The same principle applies to public jobs. All citizens have equality of opportunity in matters relating to employment or appointment to any position in the government. No citizen shall be discriminated against or made ineligible for employment on the grounds mentioned above.
- The Constitution mentions one extreme form of social discrimination, the practice of untouchability, and clearly directs the government to put an end to it. The practice of untouchability has been forbidden in any form.
What is Right to Freedom? What are the kinds of freedom given to the Indians?
Right to Freedom means the absence of interference in our affairs by others – be it other individuals
or the government.
- Indian Constitution gives the right to Freedom of speech and expression
- Right to Freedom to assemble in a peaceful manner
- Right to Freedom to form associations and unions
- Right to Freedom to move freely throughout the country
- Right to Freedom to reside in any part of the country
- Right to Freedom to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
- Citizens have the freedom to hold meetings, processions, rallies and demonstrations on any issue.
- Your freedoms should not cause public nuisance or disorder. You are free to do everything which injures no one else
Rules to be followed by the government or police officer when arrest or detain any citizen
- A person who is arrested and detained in custody will have to be informed of the reasons for such arrest and detention.
- A person who is arrested and detained shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of arrest.
- Such a person has the right to consult a lawyer or engage a lawyer for his defense.
- Such a person not be tortured or beaten.
- Such a person to be allowed to meet his family members and relatives.
Right against Exploitation (What are three specific evils which are declared illegal in the constitution?)
- Constitution makers thought it was necessary to write down certain clear provisions to prevent exploitation of the weaker sections of the society. The Constitution mentions three specific evils and declares these illegal.
- First, the Constitution prohibits ‘traffic in human beings’. Traffic here means selling and buying of human beings, usually women, for immoral purposes.
- Second, our Constitution also prohibits forced labor or begar in any form. ‘Begar’ is a practice where the worker is forced to render service to the ‘master’ free of charge or at a nominal remuneration.
- Constitution also prohibits child labor. No one can employ a child below the age of fourteen to work in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous work, such as railways and ports.
- Using this as a basis many laws have been made to prohibit children from working in industries such as beedi making, firecrackers and matches, printing, and dying.
How is Right to Freedom of Religion practiced in India?
- Secularism is based on the idea that the state is concerned only with the relation between human beings and God. A secular state is one that does not establish any one religion as official religion.
- Every person has a right to profess, practice and propagates the religion he or she believes in. Every religious group or sect is free to manage its religious affairs. A right to propagate one’s religion, however, does not mean that a person has right to compel another person to convert into his religion by means of force, fraud, inducement or allurement.
- Freedom to practice religion does not mean that a person can do whatever he wants in the name of religion. For example, one cannot sacrifice animals or human beings as offerings to supernatural forces or gods. Religious practices which treat women as inferior are not allowed.
- Discrimination against people on the basis of religion is not allowed. Thus the government cannot compel any person to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institution.
- There shall be no religious instruction in the government educational institutions. In educational institutions managed by private bodies, no person shall be compelled to take part in any religious instruction or to attend any religious worship.
What are the guarantees given under the Cultural and Educational Rights?
- The language, culture, and religion of minorities that needs special protection. Otherwise, they may get neglected or undermined by the majority. That is why the Constitution specifies the cultural and educational rights of the minorities.
- Any section of citizens with a distinct language or culture has a right to conserve it.
- Admission to any educational institution maintained by the government or receiving government aid cannot be denied to any citizen on the ground of religion or language.
- All minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- Here minority does not mean only religious minority at the national level. In some places people speaking a particular language are in majority; people speaking a different language are in a minority.
How can we secure the fundamental rights? (Right to Constitutional Remedies)
- The fundamental rights in the Constitution are important because they are enforceable. We have a right to seek the enforcement of the above-mentioned rights. This is called the right to Constitutional Remedies.
- This is a Fundamental Right. This right makes other rights effective. It is possible that sometimes our rights may be violated by fellow citizens, private bodies or by the government. When any of our rights are violated we can seek remedy through courts.
- If it is a Fundamental Right we can directly approach the Supreme Court or the High Court of a state. That is why Dr. Ambedkar called the Right to Constitutional Remedies, ‘the heart and soul’ of our Constitution.
- Courts also enforce the Fundamental Rights of private individuals and bodies. The Supreme Court and High Courts have the power to issue directions, orders or writs for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights.
- Fundamental Right, if it is of social or public interest. It is called Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Under the PIL any citizen or group of citizens can approach the Supreme Court or a High Court for the protection of public interest against a particular law or action of the government.
EXPANDING SCOPE OF RIGHTS (Constitutional Rights)
- While Fundamental Rights are the source of all rights, our Constitution and law offer a wider range of rights. Over the years the scope of rights has expanded. From time to time, the courts gave judgments to expand the scope of rights.
- Now school education has become a right for Indian citizens. The governments are responsible for providing free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years.
- Parliament has enacted a law giving the right to information to the citizens. We have a right to seek information from government offices.
- Recently the Supreme Court has expanded the meaning of the right to life to include the right to food.
- The right to property and right to vote in elections are important constitutional rights.
Constitution of South Africa guarantees its citizens several kinds of new rights:
- Right to privacy, so that citizens or their home cannot be searched, their phones cannot be tapped, their communication cannot be opened.
- Right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.
- Right to have access to adequate housing.
- Right to have access to health care services, sufficient food, and water; no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.
Human right activists all over the world seek a set of rights as a standard of human rights. These include:
- Right to work: the opportunity for everyone to earn a livelihood by working.
- Right to safe and healthy working conditions, fair wages that can provide the decent standard of living for the workers and their families
- Right to adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing, and housing.
- Right to social security and insurance.
- Right to health: medical care during illness, special care for women during childbirth and prevention of epidemics
- Right to education: free and compulsory primary education, equal access to higher education.