A Comprehensive Study on The Fundamental Rights Guaranteed in The Indian Constitution

Published On: 6th April, 2024

Authored By: Nandini.K.T
CMR University, School of Legal Studies


A system of norms guiding social behavior has developed, Since the beginning of human civilization. These norms have defined rights and duties, while those rights no longer have the same exact form as they once did. The liberty and dignity that every human being fundamentally needs to survive in society are embodied in fundamental rights. Human rights are subsets of fundamental rights, and in Indian history, we may find references to human rights in both our ancient literature and societies. The American Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man, the Magna Carta in England (1215), and the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) in Russia are recognized as significant turning points in the modern era for the evolution of the concept of human rights. The rights granted by Articles 12 through 35 of Part III of the Indian Constitution are known as fundamental rights. The name “fundamental rights” refers to the fact that these are among the most crucial resources for preserving personal integrity and dignity, which also helps to advance society at large. Because they are absolute and restrictive, these rights are considered fundamental or elementary. This means that no oppressive government or individual can amend, violate, or interfere with them. Furthermore, because these rights are guaranteed, anyone can file a petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court to have their rights administered or enforced if they are violated. The Fundamental rights are well-established with a two-point system. The first part states that the people’s justiciable rights are those that are enforced by legal processes in opposition to the government’s oppressive activities. According to the second viewpoint, these rights are subject to limitations and restrictions on what the government can do. Therefore, the government is prohibited from taking any action that might infringe fundamental rights, whether it be administrative or legislative in character. This article essentially focuses on the various nuances of the fundamental rights that are guaranteed in Part III of the Indian Constitution, from the origin, the classification, the conflicts, and the criticism and its significance areas of concern along with suggestions to completely aggravate the hardships faced by the citizens of India.


The country’s population endured extreme arbitrariness and brutality during the 200-year colonial era. After India gained independence, the drafters of our constitution included a section on fundamental rights. The days of the independence struggle are not the only period in the history of fundamental rights. As Granville Austin says, “The Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of state policies had their roots deep in the struggle for independence. And they were included in the constitution in the hope and expectation that one day the tree of true liberty will bloom in India.”[1]Prior to their separation by the Constituent Assembly, the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles were drafted as a single set as Article 8 in the draft. The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 with these goals inherent in its charter. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be insufficient in light of the notable Nehru Report of 1928, which significantly influenced India’s demand to have a written constitution that included some fundamental rights. According to the Nehru report, “It is obvious that our first care should be to have our Fundamental Rights guaranteed in a manner which will not permit their withdrawal under any circumstances. Another reason why great importance is attached to a Declaration of Rights is the unfortunate existence of communal differences in the country. To instill a sense of security among people who view one another with mistrust and suspicion, a few precautions must be taken. We cannot ensure that every community has the freedom to practice its religion and community without making these rights one of the basic principles of the Constitution”.[2]

The “Constitution of India Bill,” which was introduced in 1895, defined our first set of fundamental rights. The publication of the book coincided with the rise of Indian nationalism and the louder aspirations of Indians for self-government. It is sometimes known as the Swaraj Act of 1895. Voting rights, privacy, and freedom of expression were all covered. The United States Bill of Rights (endorsed September 17, 1787, embraced December 15, 1791) and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man ( embraced August 26, 1789) are two examples of documented models that influenced this progress in India. The Rowlatt Act of 1919 gave the British government extensive powers, such as the ability to imprison and seize persons indefinitely, conduct warrantless searches and seizures, restrict social gatherings that are open to the public, and have total control over the media and distribution. A public uproar led to nonviolent acts of defiance in all 50 states, as people demanded limits on the authority of the government. Indians who were trying to establish their government and opportunities were impacted by Ireland’s independence and the Irish constitution’s writing. The Nehru Commission, composed of political party leaders in India, suggested amendments to the Indian Constitution in 1928.

Among other things, the commission demanded that India be acknowledged as a sovereign state with universal suffrage and fundamental rights safeguarded. The Indian National Congress, the country’s principal political party, issued resolutions in 1931 pledging to uphold fundamental socio-economic and civic rights, such as the minimum wage and the outlawing of slavery and untouchability. The Constituent Assembly, an unelected political body, was tasked with drafting India’s constitution. December 9, 1946, was the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, which was temporarily presided over by Sachchidanand Sinha. 2013 saw the selection of Dr. Rajendra Prasad to serve as the organization’s president. The leaders of Congress chose individuals from a wide range of political backgrounds to serve in these capacities, even though the members of Congress made up a significant majority and were in charge of establishing the nation’s laws and constitution.


Appointing on February 27, 1947, the broader Advisory Committee established five subcommittees, including the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights. The 10-member group, which included Hansa Mehta, B.R. Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, and M.R. Masani was chaired by J.B. Kripalani. After gathering and debating the several drafts and notes on fundamental rights written by eminent legal scholars such as B.N. Rau and K.T. Shah, the Sub-Committee produced a final Report that was presented to the Advisory Committee as a whole on April 16, 1947. The 45 articles of the report covered every facet of fundamental rights, including the rights to equality, freedom, education, and constitutional remedies. Notably, it also suggested dividing rights into categories that are legally enforceable and unenforceable. The latter were to serve as the cornerstones of social policy, intended to direct the government. After adopting these suggestions, the Advisory Committee divided them into an interim and a supplemental report, which it then sent to the Constituent Assembly on April 29, 1947, and August 30, 1947, respectively. In the final text of the Constitution, these were to serve as the foundation for both non-enforceable Directive Principles and enforceable Fundamental Rights.

There were three meetings of the Subcommittee on Fundamental Rights. J.B. Kripalani was elected as the chairman during the inaugural meeting on February 27, 1947, and the general procedure and order of business were set. The second meeting was set for March 24, mostly to give members time to work on their very own concepts and go over others’ proposals. The committee convened a second meeting from March 24 to March 31 and held a thorough discussion of the numerous drafts and remarks that its members had presented. The subcommittee reached a decision on April 3 about the several fundamental rights clauses that were included in the draft report. Members were given access to the draft report and an explanation note to provide comments and recommendations. The subcommittee examined the draft report during its third sitting, which was held from April 14 to April 16, and changed a few provisions to take the ideas and criticisms into consideration. The subcommittee sent the Advisory Committee its final report on April 16.

Crucial documents drafted by the end of the Sub-Committee meeting on fundamental rights are:

  • Alladi Krushnaswami Ayyar’s Note on Fundamental Rights, March 14, 1947
  • Note by Munshi and Proposed Articles on Fundamental Rights, March 17, 1947
  • Draft of Fundamental Rights by Harnam Singh, 18 March 1947
  • Ambedkar’s Memorandum and Draft Articles on the Rights of States and Minorities on 24 March 1947
  • Draft Report of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights on 3 April 1947
  • Report of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights on 16 April 1947


Fundamental rights are commonly referred to as basic human rights; but, in India, they are enshrined in the Constitution and are recognized as particular rights for the populace. When these rights are integrated into a society, its members are able to recognize the value of each other, cooperate, and modify their behavior accordingly, resulting in the maintenance of harmonious relationships.  Because the Constitution also guarantees their enforcement, these rights have educational as well as legal significance, and individuals are encouraged to uphold, respect, and obey the law. They preserve the nation’s unity and integrity while also upholding each person’s equality and dignity. The fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution are fundamental because they are essential for the protection of the dignity and freedom of individuals. They are also justiciable, meaning that they can be enforced in courts of law.

The fundamental rights are significant in the Indian Constitution for a number of reasons. First, they protect the individual from arbitrary government action. The government cannot deprive an individual of his or her fundamental rights without due process of law. Second, fundamental rights promote equality and justice for all. They prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Third, fundamental rights uphold the rule of law. The government is bound by the Constitution and cannot enact laws that violate fundamental rights. In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[3], the Supreme Court held that the right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21 includes the right to privacy. The case arose when Maneka Gandhi’s passport was impounded by the government without any reason being given. She challenged the government’s action in the Supreme Court, arguing that it violated her fundamental rights. This ruling has been used to protect a wide range of rights, such as the right to abortion, the right to medical confidentiality, and the right to be free from surveillance. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment, held that the right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 includes the right to travel freely within and outside India. The Court also held that the government cannot deprive an individual of his or her fundamental rights without due process of law. The Maneka Gandhi case has had a profound impact on the development of fundamental rights in India. It has established that the right to life and liberty is a broad and fundamental right that cannot be easily restricted by the government. It has also established that the government is bound by the rule of law and cannot act arbitrarily. This case acted as a testament to the Supreme Court’s commitment to protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens.

Furthermore, in the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala[4]The Supreme Court held that the fundamental rights are the basic structure of the Constitution and cannot be amended by Parliament. This ruling has protected fundamental rights from being arbitrarily diluted by the government. The Supreme Court of India rendered a historic ruling in the Kesavananda Bharati case on April 24, 1973. The leader of a Hindu religious mutt in Kerala, Sri Kesavananda Bharati, filed a complaint contesting the constitutionality of the 24th, 25th, and 29th Amendments to the Indian Constitution, which aimed to limit the judiciary’s authority and people’s fundamental rights. The Kesavananda Bharati case is significant because it established the theory of the Indian Constitution’s essential framework. According to the basic structure doctrine, the Parliament cannot change or abolish the Constitution through a constitutional amendment since it contains essential elements such as the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary. Some other significant case laws related to fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution:

  • K. Gopalan v. State of Madras[5]: This case established the doctrine of judicial review, which gives the Supreme Court the power to strike down laws that violate fundamental rights. The case established the standard for future disputes involving the interpretation and application of Indian constitution provisions by Indian courts. It is noteworthy in addition for being one of the earliest cases in India to use the natural justice concepts. The notion that the Indian constitution is a living text that can be read in light of shifting times and circumstances is another reason the case is significant.


  • Golaknath v. State of Punjab[6]: This case held that the fundamental rights are fundamental to the structure of the Constitution and cannot be amended by Parliament. The Apex Court of India decided that they do not have the authority to limit or restrict any fundamental right that has been guaranteed to the citizens of India under Part III of the constitution of India.


  • Minerva Mills v. Union of India[7]: This case overruled the Golaknath decision and held that fundamental rights can be amended by Parliament, but not in a way that violates the basic structure of the Constitution. The court declared that the constitution places restrictions on the parliament’s ability to change the document. Therefore, the parliament is unable to use its limited authority to bestow upon itself unrestricted authority. Furthermore, a majority of the court decided that the parliament does not have the authority to destroy when it amends.

These case laws have played a vital role in shaping the fundamental rights jurisprudence in India. They have expanded the scope of fundamental rights and made them more effective in protecting the rights of individuals. The fundamental rights are a cornerstone of the Indian Constitution and a testament to the country’s commitment to democracy and human rights. They play a vital role in protecting the dignity and freedom of all individuals. They protect the dignity and freedom of all individuals. For example, the right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21 prevents the government from arbitrarily depriving individuals of their lives or personal liberty. The right to equality enshrined in Article 14 prohibits the government from discriminating against individuals based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19 allows individuals to express their views and opinions freely, even if they are critical of the government. In addition to that, they promote equality and justice for all. For example, the right to equality enshrined in Article 14 ensures that all individuals are treated equally before the law and have equal access to opportunities. The right to education enshrined in Article 21A guarantees all children the right to free and compulsory elementary education. The right to work enshrined in Article 21 ensures that all individuals have the right to work and earn a living. Furthermore, They uphold the rule of law and prevent the government from arbitrariness. For example, the doctrine of judicial review, which is based on fundamental rights, gives the Supreme Court the power to strike down laws that violate fundamental rights. This prevents the government from enacting arbitrary laws that infringe on the rights of individuals. In various instances, The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has used the right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21 to protect a wide range of rights, including the right to a clean environment, the right to health, and the right to education. The Supreme Court has also used the right to equality enshrined in Article 14 to strike down laws that discriminate against women, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups. The Supreme Court has also used the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19 to protect the right of individuals to criticize the government and to express their views freely, even if they are unpopular or controversial. Since modern constitutional democracies cannot function without fundamental rights—also known as individual or basic rights—they are ingrained with the idea that no regular legislation or provision can violate or abrogate them. These fundamental rights are necessary not only for the growth of societies and the improvement of the populace but also for shielding the populace from government excesses and violations since governments are thought to be the worst human rights violators.


The role of the Court has been described as a “balancing wheel between the rights.”[8] Its techniques for resolving rights problems have been diverse. Most of the time, the Court has prioritized one right or value above another by doing a broad principle-level right-to-right balancing. Some of the conflicting rights that came up before the Hon’ble Courts are:

  • Right to Speech v. Right to reputation

Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India is a prime illustration of the Court’s vague and imprecise process of balancing rights.[9] Under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the petitioner in this case contested the validity of the criminal defamation legislation on the grounds that it chills free speech. The Court maintained the criminal defamation laws in India on the grounds that the unenumerated and judicially recognized “right to dignity” under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution must be balanced with the right to freedom of speech under the same document. These values are known as “fraternity” and the “right to reputation.”The accused’s right to free expression was placed against the values of constitutional fraternity and the complainant’s reputation, while the Court portrayed the constitutional dispute as a larger struggle between these opposing fundamental rights and ideals. It gave the values of brotherhood and dignity precedence above the right to free expression. The moral justification for the prioritization was that individual liberty is advanced by these shared principles, which are intrinsically tied to the interests of constitutional fraternity.[10]

  • Right to press v. Right to a fair trial

One conflict between fundamental rights that came up before the Apex Court of India was whether the parties’ right to a fair trial was violated by the press’s publishing of their private correspondence on a securities deal. The Court was faced with a conflict between the right to a fair trial under Article 21 of the Constitution and the freedom of the press, which is guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. However, the Court did not grant any right primacy, either based on principles or not. It was decided that the two rights carried “equal weight.”Postponement orders are a neutralizing tool that the Court developed to reconcile the dispute between these rights. A three-step test was established by the Court for the application of “postponement orders”: (i) These orders may only be issued when there is a “real and substantial risk of prejudice to fairness of the trial or the proper administration of justice”; (ii) When “reasonable alternative methods or measures, such as change of venue or postponement of the trial, will not prevent the said risk”; and (iii) When “the salutary effects of such orders outweigh the deleterious effects to the free expression of those affected by the prior restraint.”[11]


Although fundamental rights are intended to protect the individual from arbitrary state action. However, Fundamental Rights in India have been subject to a number of criticisms, including:

  • Excessive limitations

Reasonable limitations may apply to fundamental rights, which are not unqualified rights.

However, critics argue that the limitations on Fundamental Rights in India are too broad and excessive. For instance, the right to freedom of speech and expression is protected by Article 19(1) of the Constitution. However, this right is subject to reasonable restrictions in the interests of public order, morality, and national security. Critics argue that these restrictions are so broad that they can be used to stifle dissent and criticism of the government.

  • Lack of social and economic rights

The Fundamental Rights in India are primarily concerned with civil and political rights. However, critics argue that the Constitution should also include social and economic rights, such as the right to work, the right to education, and the right to healthcare. They argue that these rights are essential for the full enjoyment of civil and political rights.

  • Suspension during emergencies

When a state of emergency is declared, the Indian President may suspend the Fundamental Rights. The President may, in accordance with Article 359, suspend the Fundamental Rights in an emergency (both internal and external). During the Emergency or for a lesser duration, the fundamental rights are suspended. The fundamental rights outlined in Article 19 are automatically suspended in times of emergency. The Fundamental Rights in India can be suspended during a national emergency. This means that the government can take away the basic rights of its citizens during a time of crisis. Critics argue that this provision is too broad and can be used to suppress dissent and consolidate power.


Some suggestions to aggravate a few possible loopholes in the fundamental rights that might affect are:

  • Narrowing the scope of limitations on Fundamental Rights. The limitations on Fundamental Rights should be narrowly defined and should only be imposed when absolutely necessary. For example, the limitations on the right to freedom of speech and expression should be limited to cases where speech poses a clear and imminent danger to public order, morality, or national security.
  • Including social and economic rights in the Constitution. The Constitution should be amended to include social and economic rights, such as the right to work, the right to education, and the right to healthcare. These rights are essential for the full enjoyment of civil and political rights.
  • Clarifying the language of Fundamental Rights. The language of some of the Fundamental Rights in India is vague and ambiguous. This can make it difficult for the courts to interpret and enforce these rights. The Constitution should be amended to clarify the language of these right


Due to the extensive application of fundamental rights, all Indian citizens benefit from them equally, regardless of their ethnicity, place of birth, religion, caste, sex, culture, status, or identity. These rights are intended to make the life of an individual worthwhile. They also guarantee that individuals of all backgrounds, including minorities and members of underprivileged classes and castes, live with equality, dignity, and freedom from all forms of oppression. With few reviews by the authorities concerned and the suggestions of the law commissions, fundamental rights could help completely avoid the violations and hardships individuals face.


[1] Granville Austin, op.cit. p.SO.

[2] Nehru Report in Austin, op.cit. p.53. Accessed on 17 October 2023.

[3] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978) 2 SCC 248.

[4] Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, (1973) 4 SCC 225.

[5] Gopalan v. State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 27

[6] Golaknath v. State Of Punjab 1967 AIR 1643

[7] Minerva Mills v. Union of India AIR 1980 SC 1789

[8] I.C. Golaknath v. State of Punjab, AIR 1967 SC 1643

[9] Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India, (2016) 7 SCC 221

[10] In Re Noise Pollution and Restricting Use of Loudspeakers, AIR 2005 SC 3136

[11] Kaushal Kishor Versus State Of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. NO. 34629 OF 2017

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