The Constitution of India is contained in 448 Articles, 12 Schedules, 105 Amendments, and 117,369 words which guide, protect, and empower the rights of every individual. A legal right is defined as any action of a person which is permitted by law and its debasement is punishable by law. These rights are equally available to every citizen without any discrimination but there are very few of them which are known to the general public. It is evident that the Indian Constitution is the largest written constitution in the world and is difficult to remember; therefore, some of the important rights and laws that every Indian should know are discussed in this article.
According to Article 21 of the Constitution of India, every individual has the right to life and allows them to enjoy other rights and freedoms. It states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” The right to life is considered the most fundamental of all rights as well as is universally recognized and protected. With the help of this right, every individual including Indian citizens or foreigners is ensured that they have inherent dignity. Also, acts such as genocide, murder, and other unlawful ways to take one’s life are prohibited. Along with this, the right to life obligates the government and authorities to take necessary measures to prevent and investigate acts of violence. Despite this, there are certain scenarios where the right to life is restricted including self-defence, capital punishment, war and armed conflict, medical interventions, and lawful use of force by state authorities.
Under Article 14, the Constitution of India guarantees the right to equality. It states that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.” This means that every citizen is to be treated equally and without discrimination based on their race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or any other status. Right to Equality also ensures that every individual has equal opportunity to protect their human rights. Along with this, the right to equality also has certain exceptions where special provisions are made for women, children, OBCs, SCs, and STs. Also, Article 361 of the Indian Constitution is an exception for the same as it determined the ‘Protection of President and Governors and Rajpramukhs’. As per the sub-Section (1) of this Article, “The President, or the Governor or Rajpramukh of a State, shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties.”
Under the Right To Information Act (RTI Act), every Indian citizen has the right to seek information such as government activities, policies, actions, and decisions from any public authority. The Constitution of India also provides provisions for Indian citizens to seek any information from the public authorities as they have the ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’ as per Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The provisions of the RTI Act promote transparency, accountability, and good governance. As per this Act, it is the duty of public authorities to revert back to any request made by Indian citizens at the earliest or within thirty days. In case, the request made involves a petitioner’s life and liberty then the authorities need to give the requested information within 48 hours. If public officials deliberately obstruct, delay, or provide misleading or incorrect information can be punished under the provisions of the RTI Act.
As per Article 21(A) of the Constitution of India, inserted after the 86th Constitutional Amendment, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of 6 to 15 years in such manner as the state, may by law determine.” Indian Parliament passed the Right to Education Act on August 4, 2009, which aimed to provide education to every child in India irrespective of their gender, caste, socioeconomic status, etc. It is important for every individual to know about this law as it is essential for personal development, economic growth, social inclusion, and the promotion of democratic values and human rights.
This law allows an individual to file an FIR in the police station and no police officer is permitted to decline to file the same. Section 166 of the Indian Penal Code illustrates punishment to “public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person,” which means that a police officer refusing to lodge the FIR can be punished for a term that may extend to one year, or with fine, or both.
It generally refers to the moral and legal responsibility of adult children to provide financial and emotional support to their aging or dependent parents (father or mother, whether biological, adoptive, or stepfather or stepmother, whether senior citizen or not). Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that parents have the right to demand support or claim maintenance from their adult children. If such a right is violated, parents can approach the court with sufficient proof.
It is a fundamental principle that promotes gender equality and non-discrimination in the workplace. This Act ensures that individuals who perform substantially similar work, regardless of their gender, post, or any other factor, should receive equal compensation. According to the Equal Remuneration Act, every individual at work either men or women, should be paid the same if performing the same job within the same organization or workspace. If an employer violates the law, the employer has the right to file a complaint against him with the relevant labor authorities.
According to Section 46 (4) of the CrPC, “no woman shall be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, and where such exceptional circumstances exist, the woman police officer shall, by making a written report, obtain the prior permission of the Judicial Magistrate of the first class within whose local jurisdiction the offence is committed or the arrest is to be made.” This means that a woman cannot be arrested before 6 AM and after 6 PM.
The Maternity Benefit Act was passed in 1961 to protect the employment of women during their maternity by providing them maternity benefits including full paid absence for a time period to take care of the child. This rule is applicable to employees of both the public and private sectors. As per this Act, an employer cannot fire a pregnant woman which is against the women’s rights and is punishable with a maximum of three years imprisonment.
It is to be noted that the cheque bounce is an infringement where a defaulter is subjected to imprisonment extending to two years or a fine of up to double the amount of the cheque, or both as per Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. If this right is violated then the victim can serve legal notice on the party responsible and can pursue criminal charges against him if the responsible party does not pay within 15 days of the legal notice.
For all those who cannot afford to opt for the legal services of lawyers, the Constitution of India provides free legal aid services to them under Section 39A. It ensures that every individual either with low- or high-income and underprivileged or privileged members of society receives justice.
It refers to the entitlement of consumers to seek reimbursement for goods or services that do not meet certain standards or expectations. As per the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, every consumer has the right to ask for a complete refund in case he/she is not satisfied with their purchase. A statement saying 'No exchanges or refunds' on a bill or invoice is illegal. Consumers can complain against the defaulters for lack of service or cheating.
As per the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a divorce petition can be filed either by a husband or a wife on the basis of physical or mental harassment, insanity, adultery, impotence, incurable illness, leaving the house unaccompanied, ‘has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years’ and has converted to another religion other than Hindu.
This law provides different provisions for Hindu women to adopt a child. As per the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, any single mother can adopt any child either girl or boy but a single man cannot adopt a girl child.
This law protects women suffering from domestic violence including those who are in Line-In relationships. As the judicial precedents recognized Live-In relationships to be legal in India, this law also provides protection to victims of such relationships.
No shopkeeper has the right to charge more than the printed or advertised price of the good but a customer has the right to bargain for a lower price.
A tax collection officer has the authority to arrest in case of violation of tax laws but after sending a notice to the violator. Along with this, the Tax Commissioner is the only one who will decide the time period for which the tax violator will stay in custody.
A basic understanding of the law is essential for every individual that empowers them to defend their rights. A person can only ask for justice if he/she knows about right and wrong in the law; therefore, it is the need of the hour to familiarize every individual with important rights and laws. Government institutions and individuals have a responsibility to uphold and promote rights by enacting and implementing laws, policies, and practices that ensure equal treatment and non-discrimination for all.