The preamble of the Indian constitution reads as, ’WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’ and grand themes like JUSTICE, LIBERTY AND EQUALITY of status are highlighted with the utmost care. Further the 'DIGNITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL' has been asserted. The tone of the preamble sets the ethical and legal framework to create an atmosphere in the country where human rights are realized and one can live a dignified life. However, the reality is appalling. Justice is elusive to the majority of the downtrodden and untouchables (inaccessible, long delays, with corruption, and politically influenced justice system). Liberty (freedom of expression) of NGOs, civil society, and human rights defenders are at stake. And Equality, for the poor and hungry masses of the country is a cruel joke. Putting all these three grand themes together ultimately brings dignity to a human being. On the other hand, denying these rights to citizens render the promises of the Constitution meaningless.


Technically, the quality of being fair and reasonable is Justice. Justice also includes a proper, harmonious relationship between State and citizen. However, in contemporary India, for a human rights victim, who often happen to be from lower and minority classes, to receive timely justice is a distant dream. Nevertheless, positive aspects of the justice system, include public interest litigation and fast track courts, which have given voices to many voiceless. Still, the majority of victims still cannot get their grievances addressed on time. Justice is marred by the prevailing corruption, police-politics nexus and is beyond the reach of poor victims. Police, who play an important role in the justice system, are often found to be hampering the course of law by manipulating or distorting evidence. In a crude sense, it can be said that law/justice can be bought and sold through the means of bribes and political influences.

Social Justice

A socially just society is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, understands and values human rights, and recognizes the dignity of every human being. Social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. The Constitution of the International Labour Organization affirms that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” Furthermore, the Vienna Declaration (1993) and Program of Action treat social justice as a purpose of the human rights education.

Social justice in the Indian context is of the utmost importance. A society based on a caste and class system, which perpetuates discrimination, cannot be called a fully civilized society. How on earth could a system justify degrading, dehumanizing and isolating another on the basis of their birth be called civilized and fair? Certainly, till date, social justice for the Indian downtrodden has been a distant dream. Due to prevailing social injustice in Indian society, the lower class is on the brink of the war, society is in chaos, the hungry and poor are now seeking justice through violent means. In the name of development, the government is grabbing their land and they are socially ostracized in every walks of life. Economically disadvantaged, without any dignified treatment and equal economic distribution the downtrodden cannot get real justice. For them, there is no hope. The government machinery supports the rich and powerful, thus socially and economically backwards people are losing faith in the system and are leaning towards Naxalism. Meanwhile, people in conflict zones, who are prosecuted under the terror law due to their alleged involvement in terrorist activities, must get their grievances redressed on time. Justice done on time could save innocent people from being punished. In addition, a fair and effective justice could establish faith of the minorities in the Constitution and in the rule of the law.

Now the question arises, what happened to the promised ’Justice’ by the Constitution? Obviously the essence of justice failed to reach to its intended group. The 'system’ is working painfully slow to fix the mess and it seems impossible to change the mind-set of the caste-believer in the next three generations. Then the repercussions will either that the downtrodden will revolt against the degrading democratic system or the cast system must be abolished. Fair and speedy justice is the need of our time and the government have moral and legal obligation to provide effective and timely to justice to needy.


Liberty is the freedom to act and the absent of coercion. It is the essence of a democratic ‘society and the soul of modern governance. In contemporary India, liberty, of either people or organizations, is now being curtailed restricted in the name of national security. The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in India in 2014 has brought immense trouble for human rights activist, human rights defenders and to those critical to government policies. This is reflected in the cancellation of thousands of NGO licenses and increased restrictions on NGOs, receiving foreign donations. Free expression is restricted; there is an increased hostility towards human rights defenders and human rights movement is going through a situation of crisis in India.

Religious-nationalist forces are aggressively contesting and are trying to limit liberal spaces for those working to bring social change and promote human rights. Anyone questioning the Hindutva hegemonic idea of religion and nationalism is risked being labelled as an “anti-national.” Religion and politics are now seemingly deeply entwined more than ever. Religious Nationalist forces are afraid of the egalitarian discourse of human rights, as this could challenge their cultural production of myths and legends, once meant to enslave the minds of fellow countrymen known as Dalits. To control human rights thinking, on the one hand, those in power make sure no room is left for alternative interpretations of History thus dissent and criticism are silenced; on the other hand, to ensure religious-nationalist version of history and religion prevails, pseudo-academics with Hindutva ideology being placed at the helm of strategic academic positions.

One more crucial point, the human rights defenders’ liberty is at the stake. They are being attacked, killed, ill-treated, are disappearing, are threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained, falsely charged, put under surveillance, their offices raided and files stolen, because of their legitimate work in upholding human rights and fundamental freedom. The plight of human rights defenders particularly those working for the rights of the marginalized people, such as Adivasi, Dalits, religious and sexual minorities, are miserable. They are living under the constant threat of fear and intimidation. Police quite often fabricate false cases against activist and academics working for the human right of the tribals.

Apparently the promised notion of ‘liberty’ is on decline. Liberty is being restricted on the pretext of national security. The Right to dissent is being disregarded by the government to appease religious-nationalist Hindu groups. Thus, space for dissent is constantly becoming narrowed. Without enough liberty and security of the person, civil society is unable to perform its duties to make government accountable. On the government side, national and state human rights commission have much more to do to ensure to safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders throughout the country, and law enforcement authorities who often are the perpetrator need to be held accountable. They have reportedly also shown collusion and/or complaisance with abuses committed by private actors against human rights defenders. State governments across the nation are introducing legal innovations and undertaking strategic manoeuvres to control the activities of NGOs. This is likely to shrink and constrict the space for Indian civil society in the near future if things remain unchecked.

Equality and the Dignity of the Individual

Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities. In fact, equality and dignity of an individual are interrelated, indivisible and interdependent. The permeable of the Indian Constitution asserts that every citizen will be provided equal opportunity and will be treated in a fair manner and so one can live with dignity. However, even after 69th Independence of the Indian republic, the notion of equality of has been elusive. 16.2 percent of the Scheduled Castes, 8.2 percent of the Scheduled Tribes, and nineteen percent of the minorities are more or less feels alienated and receives unfair treatment. So far government policies failed to safeguard their constitutional rights. People from lower Castes are still in some places are denied entry into temples. They cannot reside with mainstream populations and unable to drink the water from the same public well or hand pump. They are often the victims of police torture and extra judicial killings. Such cases have been reported in Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa. Many cases of the concerned violations have been documented by the Varanasi based NGO the ‘People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights.

In order for the government to fulfill its Constitutional and International human rights obligations and to provide the disadvantaged population to a dignified life, its need to create a rights friendly environment, where everyone can be treated in a fair and equal manner. The Right to Equality is fundamental to democratic order and to rule of the law. There cannot be rule of the law in the nation until “all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards”. It requires, as well measures to ensure to adherence to the principle of the supremacy of the law, equality before of law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, participation in decision making…(Report of the Secretary General, S/2004/606).

In a nutshell, it can be said that the implementation of the notion of justice, liberty and equality and dignity at the ground level still remains to be seen. So far Indian government has failed to uphold the substance of the Constitution. Rampant and constant human rights violations by the State and private actors have put a question mark on India’s obligation to its human rights. There could not be significant improvement to the situation of the neglected masses without an honest effort for the State. Otherwise, the soul of the Constitution of JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and DIGNITY remains merely an inspirational dream.

Ironically, majority of the current politicians are lack the vision required for a society where human rights can flourish. Sadly, some politicians are thriving on cheap communal political theatrics pushing the human rights agenda away. In addition, the majority of public intellectuals succumb to self-censorship and have been less vocal on human rights issues thus critical debate on human rights issues are limited in public spheres. Threats, intimidations and the possibility of violence by fringe religious-nationalist groups are a significant factor discouraging human rights discourse in Indian society. Today, the national concern of establishing democratic functioning, social justice, poverty alleviation, and ensuring human rights is being replaced with questions of religious identity and nationalism.