These rights are fundamental

Nisha Panicker

It is rightly said that education is essential and important for a healthy democratic society. Therefore, it should include the study of various aspects of democracy essential to society’s development, especially the fundamental rights. The Indian Constitution guarantees essential human rights in the form of fundamental rights under Part III. These rights, apart from guaranteeing basic civil rights and freedom to all, also fulfill the important functions of safeguarding minorities, outlawing discrimination and protecting religious freedom and cultural rights. Fundamental rights can be enforced by the people against the government which may become arbitrary at times. These rights are considered essential because they create a sense of security and confidence as they safeguard basic human dignity and values.

“The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society” is not possible when children are not made responsible in an environment where they experience freedom. This implies that the Preamble to our Indian Constitution, which talks about securing for all its citizens equality, liberty and justice, and the fundamental rights, which put this promise into effect, should be included in the curriculum. Children’s attitudes, ideas and characters are formed at a young age and are heavily influenced by their environment, including the school. Fundamental rights education in school is an effective means to assist children to incorporate certain values into their attitudes and behaviours. Assisting young people to incorporate these values into their daily lives is a concrete way to prevent bullying and discrimination and promote inclusion and respect for diversity. The fundamental rights provide a valuable framework for good inter-personal relations and for making informed and proportionate decisions – from the playground to the government and its policy.

Our curriculum aims to build an understanding and appreciation for fundamental rights through learning about rights and learning through rights. This requires not just imparting knowledge about rights but also applying a human rights-based pedagogy to ensure young people learn in a rights-respecting environment – an environment that respects their rights and promotes the rights of others and the motivation of social action and empowerment of active citizenship to advance respect for the rights of all.

10 Judgements that Changed India is a beautiful story of the Indian judicial system and its evolution since 1950, including discussions of some landmark judgments. The author of the book, Zia Mody, is a legal consultant and a well-known corporate lawyer in India. As the name suggests, the book, 10 Judgements That Changed India is a concise account of the way the Indian judiciary evolved over the course of time. It is important for us to understand how the various liberties and the safe recourse that we enjoy came to exist. The Constitution forms the backbone of Indian democracy and the apex judiciary is the cornerstone of the unflinching faith that the Indian citizen has in getting his or her voice heard. Since independence, the Constitution has been interpreted on numerous occasions by the Honourable Supreme Court of India. The 10 judgments discussed in this book are regarded as the turning points in the Indian legal system, and are somewhere or the other linked with the Constitution. Exploring vital themes such as custodial deaths, reservations and environmental jurisprudence, this book contextualizes the judgments, explains key concepts and maps their impacts. The underlying theme in all the judgments covered in the book is judicial activism. The author successfully convinces the reader about how the Judiciary extended the conventional interpretation of our fundamental rights.

The first chapter of the book “Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973)” is an impactful case that answers the biggest question in our parliamentary history: Is the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution unlimited? The Supreme Court laid down the basic structure doctrine in this case, which states that some of the provisions of the Constitution of India form its basic structure and cannot be amended by the Parliament by exercising its constituent power under Article 368. This chapter covers all the chronological cases which led to the title case. The basic structure doctrine is an Indian judicial principle that the Constitution of India has certain basic features that cannot be altered or destroyed through amendments by the Parliament. Key among these “basic features” are the fundamental rights granted to individuals by the Constitution. The doctrine thus forms the basis of a limited power of the Supreme Court to review and strike down constitutional amendments enacted by the Parliament which conflict with or seek to alter this “basic structure” of the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s position on constitutional amendments laid out in its judgments is that the Parliament can amend the Constitution but cannot destroy its “basic structure”. Likewise the book has other cases like the “Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985)”, “Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011), “Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India”.

All the cases that the author has chosen have a distinct constitutional angle and show us the evolution of the Constitution and its protector, the Supreme Court of India.

Teachers can state these examples to the children while teaching and make them realize the importance and power of the Constitution and above all the position of the citizen and create enlightened citizens of tomorrow who will reach new heights in celebrating the biggest democracy, India.

The author works with the social science department, City Pride School, Nigadi, Pune.

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