Fundamental rights are the basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution makers to the citizens of India. Among such rights, personal liberty is of vital importance. Articles 19 to 22 of the Constitution of India deals with different aspects of this basic right. The American Constitution also provides absolute freedom to its citizens in the First Ten Amendments. The Supreme Court of America has invented the doctrine of ‘police power’. Under such power, the State can restrict the liberty of the people. Our constitution framers have well understood that in order to enable citizens to effectively exercise the power of liberty; liberty has to be limited. In the very popular case of A K Gopalan vs State of Madras (AIR 1951 SC 21), the Supreme Court of India has observed that as a rational being, man desires to do many things, but in a civil society, his desires have to be regulated.
The freedoms guaranteed under Article 19(1) of the Constitution consists of six different rights. They are the natural rights inherent in the status of a citizen. However, the freedoms guaranteed under Article 19 are subjected to reasonable restrictions. The rights are not absolute, rather qualified. The citizens cannot enjoy the rights absolutely. The Constitution of India imposes reasonable restrictions under Articles 19(2) to 19(6) for the freedoms given under Article 19(1). But, the reasonable restrictions are subject to be twin test that has to be satisfied as such:-
- The restrictions must be only and for the purposes as provided under Articles 19(2) to 19(6).
- The restrictions imposed must be reasonable.
The restrictions as given under the said Articles are the only grounds where the State can impose restrictions on an individual to control the freedoms.
The test of reasonable restriction
The State can impose only reasonable restriction upon the freedoms. But, the State can exercise such power within its boundary. It cannot arbitrarily exercise the power. The Supreme Court of India has chalked out the following guidelines for determining the reasonableness of restrictions as follows:-
- The phrase ‘reasonable restrictions’ implies that the restrictions imposed should not be tyrannical in nature.
- The word ‘reasonable’ implies intelligent care and deliberation.
- The phrase seeks to strike a balance between the individual rights guaranteed by Article 19 and social control permitted by Articles 19(2) to 19(6).
- The State has the power to. Impose restrictions, subject to the condition that such power can be exercised via ‘law’ and through any executive instructions or orders.
- It is the exclusive power of the Courts of the country to determine the ‘reasonable restrictions’ imposed by the State is valid or not. Sometimes, a law may be valid, but the restrictions imposed by it might not be valid. The Courts shall determine the constitutional validity of the restrictions. It has also the power to struck down the law if it transgress the provisions of the Constitution.
- The Courts should take into account both the substantive and procedural law while determining the constitutional validity of the restrictions.
- But the State can impose absolute restrictions in certain cases. For example, the State can forbid the carrying of the profession of prostitution. Such restrictions are totally valid.
- The reasonableness has to be determined in an objective manner and from the standpoint of the interests of the general public. It should be from the viewpoint of the persons upon whom the restrictions are imposed.
- Each case has to be judged on its own merits. The standard varies with the nature of the infringed, the underlying purpose of the restrictions imposed, the extent and the urgency of the evil sought to be curbed.
Thus, it can be summarily concluded that if the citizens are given unfettered right to exercise freedom, it would create anarchy and chaos in the society. It has to be restricted to some extent so that peace and tranquility can be maintained in the society.