Rights & Bills Of Rights

What Are Rights?

  • Rights by definition are are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement.
  • Constitution ensures a democratic system in which all persons enjoy certain rights equally.

What Is The Need & Importance Of Rights?

Let us consider two cases

  1. In 1982 during the construction work for Asian Games the government engaged a few contractors. These contractors employed a large number of very poor construction workers from different parts of the country to build the flyovers and stadiums. These workers were kept in poor working conditions and were paid less than the minimum wages decided by the government. A team of social scientists studied their poor condition and petitioned the Supreme Court. They argued that employing a person to work for less than the minimum prescribed wage amounts to begar or forced labour, which is a violation of the Fundamental Right against exploitation. The court accepted this plea and directed the government to ensure that thousands of workers get the prescribed wages for their work.
  2. Machal Lalung was 23 when he was arrested. A resident of Chuburi village of Morigaon district of Assam, Machal was charged of causing grievous injuries. He was found mentally too unstable to stand trial and was sent as under trial to Lok Priya Gopinath Bordoloi Mental Hospital in Tejpur for treatment. Machal was treated successfully and doctors wrote twice to jail authorities in 1967 and 1996 that he was fit to stand trial. But no one paid any attention. Machal Lalung remained in “judicial custody.’’ Machal Lalung was released in July 2005. He was 77 then. He spent 54 years under custody during which his case never came up for hearing. He was freed when a team appointed by the National Human Rights Commission intervened after an inspection of under-trials in the State. Machal’s entire life was wasted because a proper trial against him never took place. Our Constitution gives every citizen the Right to ‘Life and Liberty’: this means that every citizen must also have the right to fair and speedy trial.

Both cases shows the need and importance of rights, viz.,

  • what happens when rights granted by the Constitution are not available in practice.
  • the importance of having rights and of the actual implementation of these rights.

What Is A Bill Of Rights?

A democracy must ensure that individuals have certain rights and that the government will always recognize these rights. Therefore it is often a practice in most democratic countries to list the rights of the citizens in the constitution itself. Such a list of rights mentioned and protected by the constitution is called the ‘Bill of Rights’.

A bill of rights :

  • prohibits government from acting against the rights of the individuals, and
  • ensures a remedy in case there is violation of these rights.

From whom does a constitution protect the rights of the individual? The rights of a person may be threatened by another person or private organisation. In such a situation, the individual would need the protection of the government. So, it is necessary that the government is bound to protect the rights of the individual. On the other hand, the organs of the government (the legislature, executive, bureaucracy or even the judiciary), in the course of their functioning, may violate the rights of the person.

Bill If Rights In The South African Constitution

The South African Constitution was inaugurated in December 1996.

Its creation and promulgation took place at a time when South Africa still faced the threat of a civil war after the dissolution of the Apartheid government.

The South African Constitution says that its “Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa”. It forbids discrimination on the grounds of “race, gender, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”. It grants perhaps the most extensive range of rights to the citizens. A special constitutional court enforces the rights enshrined in the constitution.

Some of the Rights included in the constitution of South Africa include:

  • Right to Dignity
  • Right to Privacy
  • Right to fair labour practices
  • Right to healthy environment and right to protection of environment
  • Right to adequate housing
  • Right to health care, food, water and social security
  • Children’s rights
  • Right to basic and higher education
  • Right of cultural, religious and linguistic communities
  • Right to information


Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Constitution At Work


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