(Y)Our Constitutional Rights – The Dummies Version.
For my previously published blog post- the idiots guide on how to file a PIL, I received an interesting feedback couched in the form of a question on my face book messenger. And as i felt the answer would be useful to others too I decided to write it up as a blog post in itself. The question was this “How did I pick Art.21 – the life and liberty one- as the right affected by lack of safe drinking water? How does it work? And do we need to read the entire constitution for this?”.
Well the answers are simple. The entire constitution is far too large to read and understand (and remember) and most of it is filled with meaningless jargon not relevant to ordinary people like you and me. But what is of practical use to us is the part we were taught in our civics classes during our school days. Yep, ladies and gentlemen the part called our Fundamental rights, literally the basic rights which we are entitled to on being born as people of India.
If you don’t recall your civics lessons or you are not able to lay your hands on the neighbor’s kid’s civics textbook, let me give you a brief summary of the important ones. There are only THREE Rules which are useful to the general public and they are
1) Art 14- Equality Rule
2) Art 19 – Freedoms Rule
3) Art 21- Life and Liberty Rule.
How this works is simple. Art 14 guarantees you equality in everything and everywhere. No one can discriminate against you in anything anymore (from school admissions to spouse selection- attention all lovers) if you can quote this rule and demand it as a right guaranteed by the constitution
Art 19 is the Freedoms act which guarantees you freedom of speech, expression, association, blah, blah, etc. This is the Right which you can use to bore others to death by speaking or writing whatever you wish (it’s a free country aint it?). You can even use this rule to justify your decision to settle down in Ahmedabad if you love a Gujarati girl (freedom of residence anywhere inside India), to turn into a professional photographer if your IT job bores you (freedom to practice any profession you like) and lots of minor but useful things like that. You have the freedom to say or do anything by this constitutional right and no one can ask you to shut up.
And the most important is of course Art 21. Originally this law was written to give the public a long and peaceful life. You can use this to defend your life and liberty from the assault of anybody/anything including by the police/govt. If something (or someone) threatens your life or your peace of mind or the quality of your life- just quote this law to them.
Does the EB do frequent power cuts in the night and you are not able to sleep? File a case against the EB using this law to complain that the quality of your nightly beauty sleep and hence the quality of your life in general is being disturbed. So your music fanatic neighbour loves to hear loud kirthanai’s on his gramophone? Well, you can use this right to complain (file a case) against his noise pollution affecting your quality of life.
If you stop at a traffic signal and the exhausts of the vehicles around you makes you cough, you can use this right to file a case against the transport department, the environmental department or whoever else you can think up at that moment – for spoiling the air, being responsible for air pollution and thereby affecting your right to a pleasant life. So this one is an all-in-all alagu raja kind of right which you can use for just about anything affecting your ordinary life.
Now let’s take up a practical example (just for fun) of a MTC bus – the local city transport kind. Overcrowded as it usually is, you are not able to find a seat after you buy a ticket. You go and complain to the conductor who after using some choice abuses against you, tells you to shut up and find a seat by yourself. Now you have a valid violation of your fundamental rights by this act so you can get down from the bus and head straight to the courts to file a Writ petition against the MTC bus Corporation, the Transport Department, the State Government and anyone else you can think of.
In your Writ petition you can say that
1) Under Art 14- your right to equality- to find a seat like the other passengers was violated – even after you paid equal money like all the seated passengers.
2) Under Art 19- your right to freedom of speech – when your complaint was silenced by the conductor- was violated.
3) Under Art 21 – your right to life was affected -traveling standing in a crowded bus is a risky business- if the driver had braked suddenly you might have been thrown forward and been injured dangerously threatening your young and productive life.
4) Also the State transport department was at fault for not making sure that tickets were only issued up to seating capacity and for allowing standing passengers who are at risk on every sudden brake.
5) Also the State Government is at fault for not buying enough buses for the MTC transport corporation- so they don’t have to pack in passengers like fish.
So, do you see how it works? This is how you defend violation of any of your fundamental rights, by making a list of all the rights which have been violated and a list of all the culprits involved in it. Most of these laws are interconnected so don’t hesitate to invoke multiple violations of your rights for the same act. This is just an example of how the law works practically.
There is a belief that the law is complicated, which it is not. And there is also a belief that the law is an ass, (apologies to Dickens) which it often is. So whatever i have written here is strictly from a humor point of view. So don’t take me or this post seriously and spend the rest of your life filing cases and fighting them in the courts. When it comes to the law- discretion is the better part of valour. So think and act wisely and avoid getting caught in any litigation. Just read this blog as a humorous blog and you will not go wrong.
P.S. The author of this blog is a legal veteran with thirty years experience of law (like Abhimanyu -from conception in the womb) – read this previous blog post for the flashback- but also is a satirist, practical joker and humorist for the same period of time. So any legal opinions expressed here should be taken purely as a joke on you.