India/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.1 Constitution

In the Indian Constitution, Articles 29 and 30 are the ones usually used to define both cultural and educational rights. These Articles deal broadly with cultural rights such as language, script and religion. Article 29(1) of the Constitution speaks of the right of citizens to ‘conserve (any) distinct language, script or culture’. We detail below the specific references:

Cultural and Educational Rights: In Article 29, theserefer to the protection of interests of minorities, and include 29(1) which says that ‘any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same’, and 29(2) which affirms that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste (or) language.

Article 30 refers specifically to the rights of minorities to set up educational institutions. 30(1) explicitly allows minorities – whether based on religion or language – as explicitly possessing the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. 30(2) requires that the Indian state shall not discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority.

The above rights have proved particularly significant in the context of the general accusation, through the 2000s, of several Muslim educational institutions as preaching fundamentalist ideologies.

Apart from Articles 29 and 30, there are several other Constitutional provisions that are seen as having a bearing on culture: including the right to equality (Article 15) and the even more famous right to freedom of speech and expression (Article 19).

Article 15 asserts that ‘no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth... be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to... access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or... the 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 (and also that) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.’

And, Article 19 states that

All citizens shall have the right... to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peaceably and without arms; to form associations or unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India (and) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.’

Additionally, Article 25 states that ‘subject to public order, morality and health... all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.

Although it has an important caveat, namely, that ‘nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law...regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.’

Article 26, elaborating further, asserts that ‘subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right... to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes (and) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.’

Fundamental Duties:

Article 51 A, detailing the fundamental duties of citizens, asserts that such duties include:

(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;

(e) 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;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.

Chapter published: 22-04-2014