Aristotle was quite right when he regarded citizens as an important part of the State. Indeed, without citizens, a State hardly makes any sense. A State comprises both the Government and the governed. But it is among some citizens who form a government in every political system.
Again, unless there are citizens to govern, a government is reduced to a meaningless entity. A citizen is the national of a country to whom the State is obliged to grant a series of civil and political rights and in some political systems, economic rights as well. Moreover, every State expects from its citizens certain services certain defined duties and responsibilities towards the State in return.
What is ‘Right’?
The term ‘Right’ has been derived from the old English word ‘Riht’ which has its origins in the German transcript along with an Indo-European root that roughly meant ‘movement in a straight line’. Rights are any privilege bestowed upon us which entitles us to a particular provision.
The Indian Constitution gives us basic rights known as the Fundamental Rights in the chapter of rights in Part III of the constitution. It was greatly influenced and derived from the occidental Bills of Rights as well as from the French Declaration of Rights on 1789.
What are our rights?
The basic human rights can be broadly classified into two groups:
- Civil & Political
- The right to life and liberty
- Freedom of expression
- Equality before the law
- The right to protection against discrimination
- Social, cultural & economic
- The right to participate in culture
- The right to work
- The right to an adequate standard of living
- The right to education
According to the Constitution’s Fundamental Rights, we are entitled to seven rights:
- Right to Equality – This ensures all kinds of equality including equality before the law, protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, ethnicity, etc. It is provided in the Articles 14 through 18.
- Right to Freedom – This safeguards our freedom of speech, expression, assemble, association, residence, the right to practice any profession, right to life and liberty, etc., as laid down in the articles 19 to 22 of the Indian Constitution.
- Right against exploitation – It bars all sorts of imposed labour, child labour, human trafficking, etc. This is mentioned in the articles 23 through 24.
- Right to freedom of Religion – It includes freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of one’s religion and also freedom from certain other religious instructions in certain educational institutions as per Articles 25 through 28.
- Cultural and Educational Rights – This empowers us to preserve the right of any section of the citizens to conserve their culture, language, script and the right of minority groups to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Articles 29 and Article 30 ensures us our cultural and educational rights.
- Right to Constitutional remedies – This is mentioned under Articles 32 through Article 35 and is instrumental for the implementation of the Fundamental Rights.
- Right to Privacy – Mentioned as an integral part of Article 21, this protects us from unnecessary intervention from the State.
Misuse of Rights
Some people however do not give due respect to these rights given to us and instead misuse them by manipulating facts and exploiting legal loopholes.
- Misuse of the Dowry Act (Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code) – This is one of the most beautiful laws that has ever been created to ensure that women are never exploited and are the ones in power. However in recent times enormous numbers of cases have emerged where this law was misused by shrewd individuals to make false charges for monetary acquisitions.
- Spreading racially volatile segments – many individuals have exploited the freedom of speech and expression for their grotesque theories of provincialism and have caused religious man-slaughter in several instances in the country. Some of those cases are still socially volatile.
- Many institutions run by fringe elements of the society, spread narrow-minded sentiments through their own parallel education system to produce protégés deaf to their conscience, ready to behead anyone who talks against their way of life.
Because of this possibility of misuse of rights, there are certain responsibilities and duties of a citizen too, so that the equilibrium in our society is always restored.
Responsibilities of a good citizen
“With great power comes great responsibility” is perhaps one of the greatest clichés of the world. But clichés do exist for a reason. Just like we are given many rights for the peaceful coexistence and sustenance, we are also required to observe fulfill certain responsibilities and duties.
- To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.
- To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom.
- To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
- To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so.
- To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
- To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.
- To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.
- To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
- To safeguard public property and to abjure violence.
- To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.
This system of balance and check between our rights and responsibilities is what keeps the stone of society rolling towards evolution spiritually as well as a community. It is our duty to make our Nation State an ideal one with all these rights and duties subjected to us.
Callous exercise of one’s rights like casting ballot and paying taxes does not, make up an ideal citizen or State. By means of our rights and duties, we should endeavor for active participation in social and political affairs of the nation.