Part 4: Sovereign and Fundamental Rights

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Article 4.1 Sovereign Rights of the People
Any sovereign appointing a representative to govern on its behalf shall direct that it be kept informed of all important matters, be consulted on matters it desired, would participate in decision-making on matters it wished, and would itself decide when it so chooses. In democracy, these become the sovereign rights of the people to information, consultation, participation and referendum. These are sovereign rights of the people, intrinsic to democracy and exist even if not provided in a constitution. They inhere in the people by virtue of being sovereign.
 
Article 4.11 Right to Information                  Information is Power
Based on the letter `ií this emblem symbolises informed citizens caring for the nation with responsibility

The sovereign people have the right to all public information except that restricted by the society in public interest. The local, state and union governments shall have to furnish categories of information that they would like to restrict in public interest, also indicating the period for which it shall
be thus restricted. The courts shall scrutinise on behalf of the society whether a particular category proposed to be restricted was indeed in public interest and the period reasonable.
 
The local, state and national governments shoul institute Citizen Information Centres (CICs) in important public offices at which information not restricted in public interest shall be available to citizens for a reasonable price. The Local Governments shall also encourage and licence entrepreneurial Citizen Information Centres that procure public information from public offices and make it available to citizens at a competitive price. Information Technology should be used as a powerful tool for creating an informed society. All state run and licensed CICs shall display the logo illustrated alongside as identification.
 
Article 4.12 Right to Consultation
Consultation through public hearings on all urban and regional projects exceeding 10 meters in height or 1,000 sqm in land area shall be mandatory. The public hearings shall be organised for all public and private projects by the concerned local government after collecting the costs involved from the project authorities. They shall be conducted by hearing commissioners identified through an independent process, and organised at identified affected sites. The report of such public hearings shall be made public and taken into consideration by public authorities while deciding the matter.
 
Article 413 Right to Participation
The local, state and national governments shall, in consultation with the Sovereign Rights Commissions, constitute participatory councils on important matters. The recommendations of such councils shall be given due consideration while deciding the matter. The recommendations and the decision taken shall be made public.
 
Article 4.14 Right to Referendum
(a) Referendum is the supreme sovereign right of the people to over rule their representatives, and not a right of the representatives to seek support for their action or to abuse authority. Thus provisions in some constitutions that empower representatives to direct referendums are flawed. Referendums ordered in some countries by dictators to legitimise their rule are illegal.
 
(b) The usual procedure for referendums is that if a specified number of citizenís petition for referendum on any issue, the referendum becomes mandatory. This procedure is cumbersome, and sometimes leads to referendums on flippant issues through abuse by signature campaigns. It can also pose practical problems were illiteracy is high.
 
(c) Contemporary democracy needs at the national and state levels a new institution "Sovereign Rights Commission" with authority to direct referendums, except on issues fundamental to democracy or the integrity of the nation. There can, for example, be no referendum on making the state theocratic or a region seceding. Such an institution shall oversee that the sovereign rights of the people to information, consultation, participation, and referendum are properly instituted and are accessible to the people. Like Gandhi, It will function as a non-corruptible conscience keeper of the state, based on the values of the society as a whole, thus preventing exploitation and promoting righteous conduct.
 
Article 4.2 Fundamental Rights
Note: Four significant insertions, namely, (1) Dharma and universal values of humanism, (2) Personal law through referendum within a community, (3) Religious education at grassroots level, and (4) Religious conversions to be non-exploitative, have been introduced in Article 4.9 dealing with "Right to Freedom of Religion". The provisions of this Part may be further reviewed and refined in the light of observations of the Supreme Court and the perceptions at the beginning of the third millennium.
 
All citizens of India, irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them, shall enjoy certain rights regarded fundamental to democracy. These are right (1) to equality, (2) to freedom, (3) against exploitation, (4) to freedom of religion, (5) of culture and education, and (6) to constitutional remedies. These are described in the Articles that follow.
 
Article 4.3 Right to Equality
Right to equality covers (1) equality before law, (2) prohibition on discrimination, (3) equality of opportunity in public employment, (4) abolition of untouchability and titles; (5) Freedom of Speech, Assembly, etc; and, Protection in respect of conviction for offences
 
Article 4.31 Equality before law
The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
 
Article 4.32 Prohibition on discrimination
The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
 
(1) No citizen shall, on any of the aforesaid grounds, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction, or condition with regard to (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, and places of public entertainment; or (b) use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.

(2) Nothing in this section shall prevent special provisions being made for women and children or for socially or economically backward class of people. The state shall also create an environment wherein persons of any religion are not prevented from entering places of worship of other religions.

Article 4.33 Equality of opportunity in public employment
All citizens shall have equality of opportunity in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. All types of reservations for public employment in existence prior to the commencement of this Constitution shall stand abolished.
 
Note: Under colonial rule, public employment was considered prestigious, and reservation used as a tool to divide the society. Enormously increased under the present centralised polity and controlled economy, public employment is still possibly less than one percent of the population. Reservation in public employment increases wasteful state overheads while hardly benefiting backward communities as a whole.
 
In democracy, public employment should be kept trim and public resources deployed for generating employment opportunities outside the state. Affirmative action in the form of (a) reservation for backward communities in state educational institutions, and scholarships in private institutions, and (2) other things being equal, preference in professional and business contracts to persons of backward communities, is provided in article 5.31.
 
Article 4.34 Abolition of untouchability and titles
No citizen or community can be treated as untouchable or socially ostracised in any way. Subjecting a person to disability arising from untouchability shall be an offence punishable under law.
 
The State shall not confer any title, not being an academic or military distinction.
 
Article 4.35 Freedom of speech, assembly, etc.
Subject to reasonable restrictions imposed through law in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order, decency or morality, all citizens shall have the right to: (1) freedom of speech and expression, (2) peaceful assembly, (3) form associations or unions, (4) freedom of movement, (5) freedom of residence, and (6) freedom to practise any profession, anywhere in India.
 
Article 4.36 Protection in respect of conviction for offences
(1) No person shall be convicted on any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence. He shall also not be subjected to a penalty greater than what might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of commission of the offence.
 
(2) Every person who is arrested or detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate. Further, no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.
 
Nothing in the above clauses shall apply to any person who (1) for the time being is an enemy alien, or (2) is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention.
 
(3) No law pertaining to preventative detention shall be promulgated unless it has been concurred to by the National Human Rights Commission, and shall remain in force only so long as such concurrence is not withdrawn.
 
Article 4.4 Right against Exploitation
Right against exploitation covers (1) Prohibition on traffic in human beings and forced labour, (2) Prohibition on employment of children.
 
Article 4.41 Prohibition on traffic in human beings and forced labour
Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited. Any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable under the law.
 
Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service on payment of fair wages for public purpose. In imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste or class, or any of them.
 
Article 4.42 Prohibition on employment of children
No child below the age of sixteen years shall be employed to work, especially in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment. The state shall create an environment to facilitate through state and private initiative adequate infrastructure to ensure that every child has opportunity to education up to high school.
 
Article 4.5 Right to freedom of religion
Right to freedom of religion covers, (1) Freedom of conscience, and profession, practice and propagation of religion, (2) Freedom to manage religious affairs, (3) Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion; (4) Freedom to attend religious instructions in certain educational institutions; (5) Personal law through referendum within a community; (6) Religious education and festivals at grassroots level; and (7) Religious conversions to be non-exploitative.
 
Article 4.51 Freedom of conscience
(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
 
(2) Nothing in this Article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law: (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other nonreligious activity which may be associated with religious practise; (b) providing for social welfare and reforms, or opening religious institutions to all sections of society.
 
Explanation: Dharma and Universal Values of Humanism
Dharma is an ancient philosophical concept of India. As propounded in various scriptures, its attributes include characteristics such as rationality, sense of duty, justice, peace, truthfulness, compassion, nonviolence, rectitude, humanity, spirituality, tolerance, ethics, service to others, and philanthropy. According to Hindu tradition, sovereignty does not rest in the state, but in dharma. Dharma is thus clearly universal values of humanism and can form the basis of global ethics.
 
Hinduism is not a religion but "dharma", that is, a way of life based on universal values of humanism. Within Hinduism there are various "panths" or religions. "Dharma" has been often wrongly referred to as "religion" and consequently "dharma-nirpeksh" understood as "secularism". This has led to confusion in concepts. "Dharma" is truly "universal values of humanism", "panth" is "religion" and "panth-nirpeksh" means "secularism". The official translation for secular is panth-nirpeksh but the habit of calling it dharma-nirpeksh persists.
 
Faiths such as Hinduism and Bahai represent henotheism, that is, oneness of various manifestations of the only super-consciousness. Most tribal religions are polytheistic in that they believe in many gods. Religions such as Christianity and Islam are monotheistic in that they assert that there is only one god and one group of prophets and treat followers of other faiths as nonbelievers. Thus a Hindu naturally accepts Christ and Mohammed as manifestations of god but Christians and Muslims have difficulty in accepting other faiths and, at best, "tolerate" them. Secularism to mean religious tolerance is a Western concept. It conveys that other faiths are inferior and need to be tolerated. It also sanctifies conversion of those perceived to be "nonbeliever".
 
Social reformers such as Christ and Mohammed themselves never claimed that they were the only representatives of god. Self-seeking priesthood in most religions with intent to establish its hegemony distorted the universal values preached by all faiths, and divided
society. Hindu priesthood converted castes based on profession to castes based on birth, placed itself on the top, made a section of society untouchable, and introduced exploitative rituals and customs. The Muslim priesthood sanctified four wives and till today abuses religious dictats called fatwas. Both, Muslim and Christian priesthood use fair and foul means to convert others to their faith.
 
In the epic poem Gita revered by many western scholars, the godhead Krishna says that whenever injustice and exploitation becomes unbearable, I will come again and again. He came as Christ, Mohammed, Sikh gurus and other social reformers, and in the twentieth century as Gandhi. Most of them were not accepted in their lifetime. Today, the survival of society depends upon their preaching.
 
"Dharma" based on universal values of humanism asserts secularism with total acceptance of all faiths whereas the western concept of secularism is of mere tolerance . Faiths such as Hinduism and Bahai are thus truly secular. The third millennium should strive for such true secularism based on universal values of humanism.
 
Article 4.52 Freedom to manage religious affairs
Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to (a) establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) administer such property in accordance with law.
 
Article 4.53 Freedom not to pay taxes for promoting any particular religion
No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.
 
Article 4.54 Freedom not to attend religious instructions
(1) No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds.
 
(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to an educational institution that is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution.
 
(3) No persons attending any educational institution recognised by the state or receiving aid out of state funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institutions unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto.
 
Article 4.55 Religious education and festivals at grassroots level
In grassroots governance, that is village and urban neighbourhood governments, the grassroots assembly consisting of all adult men and women constitutes the supreme authority. There is thus a confluence of community and governance. If therefore the grassroots parliament, in open assembly, resolves that in the village or neighbourhood school certain classes in religion and spirituality shall be held, certain religious festivals will be arranged, and that participation in them will be optional, it shall not be treated as a violation of secularism.
 
In case of a dispute, it shall be referred to the council of stakeholders at the subdistrict and finally at the district level whose decision shall be final. The state and national governments shall have no jurisdiction over social issues.
 
Article 4.56 Personal laws through in-community referendum
The personal laws of any community are not a religious but a social matter and should be based on contemporary perceptions of society. However, since sentiments are associated with such laws, they should be sanctified not by priesthood but validated through referendum within each community. Contemporary thinking is that women should have equal inheritance rights as men, a person can have only one spouse, and divorce by consent or decree should be permissible. These are opposed by high priests of some communities. In such cases, personal law based on contemporary thinking versus customary personal law should be referred for decision through referendum within the community, and the verdict of the referendum declared the personal law. Well meaning senior citizens and most women will clearly vote in favour of contemporary values.
 

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