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Expanding Scope of Rights

While Fundamental Rights are the source of all rights, our Constitution and law offers a wider range of rights. Over the years the scope of rights has expanded. Sometimes it leads to expansion in the legal rights that the citizen can enjoy. From time to time, the courts gave judgments to expand the scope of rights. Certain rights like right to freedom of press, right to information, and right to education are derived from the Fundamental Rights. Now school education has become a right for Indian citizens. The governments are responsible for providing free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years. Parliament has enacted a law giving the right to information to the citizens.

This Act was made under the Fundamental Right to freedom of thought and expression. We have a right to seek information from government offices. Recently the Supreme Court has expanded the meaning of the right to life to include the right to food. Also, rights are not limited only to Fundamental Rights as enumerated in the Constitution. Constitution provides many more rights, which may not be Fundamental Rights. For example the right to property is not a Fundamental Right but it is a constitutional right. Right to vote in elections is an important constitutional right. Sometimes the expansion takes place in what is called human rights. These are universal moral claims that may or may not have been recognised by law. In that sense these claims are not rights going by the definition that we presented earlier. With the expansion of democracy all over the world, there is greater pressure on governments to accept these claims.


Some international covenants have also contributed to the expansion of rights. Thus the scope of rights has been expanding and new rights are evolving over time. They are result of struggle of the people. New rights emerge as societies develop or as new constitutions are made.

The Constitution of South Africa guarantees its citizens several kinds of new rights:

1. Right to privacy: citizens or their home cannot be searched, their phones cannot be tapped, and their communication cannot be opened.

2. Right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well being

3. Right to have access to adequate housing.

4. Right to have access to health care services, sufficient food and water; no one may be refused emergency medical treatment. Many people think that the right to work, right to health, right to minimum livelihood and right to privacy should be made fundamental rights in India as well.


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